GREEN BAY—They were numb afterward, and the windchill had nothing to do with it.
This was a dead group of players, anesthetized, undeniably finished with four games left to go and having a hard time convincing even themselves anymore that threatening to win means anything at all.
Want to know where the Bears lost the game Sunday?
It wasn't rookie Roosevelt Williams' inability to get into the end zone on a fumble recovery at the end of the first halfthough James Williams mentioned that the rookie does run a 4.3 40or R.W. McQuarters inability to throw a key block for him, though McQuarters' teammates refused to cover for him.
It was the fumble on first-and-goal on the quarterback exchange in the third quarter. But even worse, it was afterward, when instead of forcing the Packers to punt and getting the ball back with good field position the way a good team with the lead would have done, the Bears' defense enabled the Packers to go on a 90-yard drive that put them ahead for good.
"Just make a tackle," said Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache, never one to understate the obvious. "I don't think you needed a real huge play, all you've got to do is tackle a guy on first down, so you have second-and-8 or second-and-9, then you go through your progressions and try to get to a third down and make a play."
Instead, Packers rookie Tony Fisher ran for 9 yards on the first play and the Packers wound up with six first downs on the drive.
"That was probably one of the most discouraging things, when you give them second and short," Blache said. "They're so far head of you, they can do anything they wantthey can take shots at you downfield, they can run boots, they can do anything because they have another down to come back and recover from it."
They just have to get better, linebacker Brian Urlacher says, but it is too late for that this season. At 3-9, it's doubtful they can even play spoiler with any effectiveness at this point, though they insist they still have some motivation.
"We'll keep on fighting," James Williams said. "We have four games left, we have a Monday nighter, and no one wants to be embarrassed [on 'Monday Night Football']. We have a lot of work to put in, but one thing about the guys, they keep their heads into it and we'll play these four just as hard as we've played the last 12."
Playing hard is not the problem for a team so depleted by injuries and pain that it still has to insert its third-string quarterback in the game to throw deep passes at the end.
"It's never the same guy so you can't just point at one guy and say, 'Hey, there's the problem,'" Jim Miller said. "I think we know where we want to go. We obviously don't want to be where we're at right now. This is a good football team. Excuses are for losers, and this team, I don't think we make excuses. We own up to our mistakes, and we collectively haven't done it as a unit in all three phases."
This game was as big as it gets for the Bears, running out of conventional motivation but still left with the most basic of all in job survival.
"Now you fight for pride," Phillip Daniels said. "Every man in here is fighting to show this organization you want to be here, and I just think every man has to take it upon himself to do that and end this season on a strong note."
If they need any help, James Williams has certainly tread this path before. "It's my job, man," he said with a shrug. "It's what I do for a living. You don't play, you don't eat."