The Bears were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday when they lost to the Packers 21-13 in Green Bay. Here are three things that stood out in the game:
(1) The inability to establish a running game once again kept the Bears from sustaining drives and creating a rhythm on offense.
The Bears entered the contest at Lambeau Field ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing and were ineffective on the ground, especially early. After producing his second and third best outings of the season with 75 yards on 16 carries in a win over the Lions and 86 yards on 20 attempts in a victory over the Cowboys, rookie running back David Montgomery was limited to 39 yards on 14 carries by a Packers run defense that ranked 25th in the league.
The Bears ran for 96 yards on 27 attempts, with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky gaining 29 yards on four carries and running back Tarik Cohen adding 28 yards on eight attempts. But the Bears did not produce a run of more than nine yards for the second time in as many games against the Packers this year and the fifth time in 14 contests this season.
Green Bay's run defense has permitted an average of 71 yards in two games against the Bears and 127.6 yards in its 12 other contests this season.
"The consistency is where we're at and that's going to be, for myself, just something that I take personally," said coach Matt Nagy. "I understand how important it is to run the football ... We do know we need to be better there."
(2) The Bears defense did a decent job against star quarterback Aaron Rodgers but once again failed to generate any game-changing plays.
Rodgers completed 16 of 33 passes Sunday—marking the first time in 24 career starts against the Bears that he failed to connect on at least 50 percent of his throws. He also passed for just 203 yards—matching his exact total from the Packers' 10-3 season-opening win over the Bears at Soldier Field.
What hurt the Bears most was their inability to take the ball away; the defense failed to generate a takeaway for the second straight game, the fifth time this season and the second time in as many contests against Green Bay this year. After leading the NFL with 36 takeaways and 27 interceptions last season, the Bears have produced 16 takeaways and eight picks this year.
The Bears excelled at playing complementary football last season, turning 18 of their 36 takeaways into 13 touchdowns and five field goals for a total of 107 points. This year they've converted 10 of their 16 takeaways into six TDs and four field goals for a total of 54 points.
Forcing no turnovers Sunday in Green Bay, the Bears started all 13 of their possessions in their own territory. With just one takeaway in their last three games, only one of the Bears' 35 drives has started on their opponent's side of the field—and that was after Anthony Miller recovered an onside kick with :07 remaining to clinch a win over the Cowboys Dec. 5 at Soldier Field.
(3) Akiem Hicks displayed a warrior mentality, leaving and returning to the game on multiple occasions while dealing with a painful elbow injury.
The veteran defensive tackle picked himself up off the canvas after writhing in pain more times than Rocky Balboa. Hicks aggravated the elbow injury that had forced him to miss eight games a couple times Sunday. But each time he went into the injury tent momentarily and then returned to the field.
Hicks, who played with a brace on his elbow, recorded four tackles and two quarterback hits. "I will say this in regards to how he played yesterday," Nagy said Monday, "he was unbelievable. I thought he played lights out. Even all the stuff, fighting through the aggravations of the injury throughout the game, the way he played and the plays he made yesterday, that was fun. We missed that. That was fun to watch."
Hicks didn't wait long to make an impact. On Green Bay's first two plays, he pressured Rodgers into an incomplete pass and then tackled running back Aaron Jones after a 4-yard run. On the second play of the Packers' second possession, Hicks stopped Jones for a 1-yard gain.