Call it a Thanksgiving night of highs and lows for the Packers faithful.
At halftime on a rainy, sloppy holiday night at Lambeau Field, screaming, drenched Packers fans watched in delight as their legendary quarterback, Brett Favre, the man they once booed when he returned to this very field in a Vikings uniform in 2009, had his retired number unveiled during a touching and heartfelt ceremony.
Two quarters later, with 25 seconds left in the game and Green Bay down 17–13 to the Bears, those same drenched, screaming fans watched as their current star quarterback, and possible future legend, scrambled and threw the ball toward Davante Adams in the end zone. He couldn’t hold on—a common trend of the evening—and the Packers fell to their fourth loss in five games.
To be clear, this shouldn’t necessarily re-start all of the “Panic About The Packers!” talk. It was an ugly, slippery game that included multiple fumbles and a very rare Aaron Rodgers interception at Lambeau (not to mention a brief Rodgers injury scare that seemed to impact his play a bit directly afterward, though not enough to stop him from driving the Packers down the field and putting them in a position to almost win). Still, Packers fans can’t be too inspired by the Green and Gold’s play as of late. Eddie Lacy broke off a few promising runs early in the game, but he just can’t seem to protect the ball. A bigger problem was that Dom Capers’s defense just seemed outmatched by Chicago offensive coordinator Adam Gase. The Packers’ D couldn’t stop the Bears from moving the ball after a slow first quarter, continually giving up plays to keep drives alive and subsequently keeping the ball away from Rodgers.
Packers fans will likely revert to freak-out mode about their current team very quickly. And to be sure, there are some reasons to worry a bit. Adams, in particular, had a dreadful night. He was targeted 11 times and hauled in only two receptions for 14 yards, including dropping what would have been the game-winner. It's easy to focus on those things now. But in the long run, when the initial sting wears off, this one won’t be remembered for any particular fumble or drop that took place on the field. It’ll be remembered for what happened at halftime, as Packers fans—and Bart Starr, in a particularly emotional moment—embraced Favre and showed him, as they did earlier in July in his first return, just how grateful they truly are. Not a bad way to celebrate Thanksgiving.
A couple of other quick thoughts:
• Let the chaos begin!: Don’t look now … but the 5–6 Bears are seriously in wild-card contention: Who would’ve thought this would be the case a few weeks ago, when it was looking like Chicago was en route to the first pick in the 2016 NFL draft? You have to assume at this point that the Packers or Vikings will nab an NFC wild-card spot, barring a pretty big collapse. But the second spot? It’s easy to assume it’ll be the Seahawks, but Seattle, at least for now, has the same number of wins as the Bears. Madness!
Sure, based on recent history, it doesn’t seem easy to place a ton of faith in Jay Cutler & Co., but Gase’s offense is a different beast. Cutler certainly wasn’t great on Thursday night, but he was efficient, finishing 19 of 31 for 200 yards, and after a slow start in the first quarter, he made plays when he needed to. That’s not to say he was perfect—he got himself into an almost disastrous situation with the fumble that slipped out of his hands with about 4:30 left in the fourth quarter—but for the most part, he was able to deliver. And the Bears’ defense was able to hold the Packers to a mere 13 points. They may not be a playoff team, but they’re certainly a team that can, and will, compete until the end.
• Fox’s Conservative Call: The Bears won, so this won’t be talked about as much, but it’s worth wondering if the Bears should have gone for it on 4th-and-1 at the Packers’ 46 instead of punting it with 2:53 left in the fourth quarter. You never want to give a quarterback of Rodgers’s caliber the ball in great field position, but if the Bears had gotten one yard, they could have attempted to put the game to rest much sooner. Instead, they had to settle for a ball that went through Adams’s hands in their own end zone. If he had held on, this would have been a major talking point in the morning.