GREEN BAY -- The Bears lost a game. They lost ground in the NFC North. They may have lost some key players. They lost their officiating challenges. And they lost an air of confidence, if not a slice of hope.
Other than that, the Bears' 21-15 loss to the Packers was a perfect way to start the season for the visitors.
The Packers won it with two plays in the fourth quarter. One exposed the vulnerability in the Bears' secondary. The other exposed the danger of an overconfident quarterback.
Trailing 15-13, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit Greg Jennings on a 50-yard touchdown pass with 1 minute 11 seconds remaining. Bears safety Al Afalava bit on play action on the play, and Jennings streaked by Nathan Vasher.
Then on the Bears' first play on their next possession, Packers cornerback Al Harris intercepted Jay Cutler. Harris brought it back 29 yards to seal the victory.
By that time, the Bears were playing without four injured starters. First one down was linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, who left the game on the first series with a knee injury. Before the first half was history, Brian Urlacher was. He dislocated his right wrist and is likely to have surgery early this week.
In the second half, tight end Desmond Clark (back) and guard Frank Omiyale (ankle) were being treated by medical personnel. The extent of those injuries was unknown.
Cutler was supposed to be the Packers' worst nightmare; instead, he was their best friend. He did everything but wave a green and gold towel, leap into the stands and join the 70,000-plus in a rousing chorus of "Bang the Drum All Day."
He ended the day with four interceptions and a 43.2 passer rating, completing 47 percent of his throws, compared with a 92.0 passer rating and a completion percentage of 61 for Rodgers.
When Cutler was picked off for the first time as a Bear, it was one of the most well-deserved interceptions in the history of football. Cutler should have been intercepted on his previous two passes, and kept trying until he did.
On second-and-5, Cutler went for Earl Bennett, but Bennett didn't come back for the ball and Packers corner Tramon Williams had a chance at an interception. Then on third-and-5, Cutler went back for Bennett, and it appeared Bennett and Cutler had a miscommunication because Bennett turned one way and Cutler threw the other. Williams dropped what could have been another pick.
An illegal-contact penalty gave another chance to the Bears -- or the Packers, as it turned out. Cutler threw deep for Clark, but not deep enough. Safety Nick Collins caught it and returned it 31 yards.
On Cutler's second interception, he was victimized by the telescopic reach of Packers defensive end Johnny Jolly. Cutler was trying to dump off an outlet pass to Matt Forte over the middle and Jolly reached to his left and brought in the ball with one hand.
His third interception may have been his ugliest. Throwing across his body over the middle of the field Cutler threw short for Johnny Knox. Williams was there again, and he brought the pick back to the Bears' 1. On the next play, Ryan Grant scored.
utler was significantly better in the second half, but not good enough. The offensive highlight of the game was a 36-yard touchdown pass from Cutler to Devin Hester.
Cutler didn't get much help. Forte averaged 2.2 yards per carry and had 55 rushing yards against the Packers' stout defense.
Coach Lovie Smith even had his struggles, throwing the red flag to review officials' calls twice and losing both challenges.
Bears coaches also may take the blame for a regrettable decision to try a fake punt on fourth and 11 from their own 26. The direct snap to Garrett Wolfe gained only four yards, giving the Packers the ball on the Bears 30 with 12:39 remaining in the game. WBBM-AM 780 reported long snapper Patrick Mannelly decided to call for the play when he saw a certain pre-snap look.
You could blame the sloppiness on jitters, on "unscouted looks" that caught both sides off guard, or on the fact that you can throw out all logic in this rivalry.
But this is not what anyone expected. If there is a silver lining, it is that things can't get worse.
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