The Bears opened the John Fox era in promising fashion Sunday at Soldier Field, taking a 13-10 halftime lead over the four-time defending NFC North champion Packers.
But reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers ultimately performed like a reigning NFL MVP, throwing his second and third touchdowns of the game on Green Bay's first two possessions of the second half, lifting the Packers to a 31-23 win.
"Green Bay is a pretty good football team," Fox said. "We were going to have to be near-flawless to beat them and we didn't quite reach that. But I think there were a lot of positive things that we'll be able to build on as a football team moving forward."
The Bears controlled the ball and the clock early as Kyle Long rushed for 105 of his game-high 141 yards in the first half. The Bears held an 18:20-11:40 edge in time of possession at the half, thanks mostly to their ground game and success on third down.
Even after Rodgers gave the Packers a 17-13 lead with a 1-yard touchdown pass to James Jones on the opening possession of the second half, the Bears responded by cutting the deficit to 17-16 on Robbie Gould's third field goal of the game without a miss, a 44-yarder.
But Rodgers answered, engineering a 16-play, 78-yard drive capped by a 5-yard TD pass to Randall Cobb, widening Green Bay's lead to 24-16 early in the fourth quarter.
Rodgers completed 18 of 23 passes for 189 yards and a 140.5 passer rating. He has now won 10 straight games he has started and finished against the Bears dating back to 2010.
"He's a pro," said nickel back Sherrick McManis. "He's been in these situations many times. He executes at the right time and gets the job done. He had a good game and I feel like we can definitely execute better next time."
The Bears offense, which had scored on four of its first five possessions of the game, failed to take advantage of two golden opportunities in the fourth quarter.
After Jay Cutler's 50-yard pass to Marquess Wilson on third-and-seven resulted in a first down at the Green Bay 16, the Bears turned the ball over on downs after Cutler threw three straight incomplete passes from the 2. On fourth-and-goal, Cutler was pressured by safety Sean Richardson and overthrew Eddie Royal in the back of the end zone.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, Cutler's pass intended for Martellus Bennett was intercepted by Clay Matthews at the Green Bay 20. Matthews lined up to the right and ranged all the way over to the left side of the field to pick off the pass.
"He was backside," Cutler said. "We started front side of the read. Marty popped. [Matthews] is a good player. He kind of just floated in there. As soon as I let it go, I knew we were in trouble. It was a good play by him."
The game's only turnover overshadowed an otherwise efficient performance by Cutler, who completed 18 of 36 passes for 225 yards with 1 TD, 1 interception and a 67.5 passer rating.
A pass interference penalty against Kyle Fuller gave the Packers a first down at the Chicago 2 and Eddie Lacy thundered into the end zone on the next play to make it 31-16 with 1:55 remaining.
The Bears answered as Cutler capped a quick six-play, 72-yard drive with a 24-yard TD pass to Bennett. But Green Bay's Davante Adams recovered the subsequent onside kick with :34 left to ice the victory.
The Bears have now lost four straight and 10 of 11 overall to the Packers, including six straight and 19 of 23 at home since 1994.
"We were close," said left guard Matt Slauson. "We were in it the entire game. Unfortunately the second half we started shooting ourselves in the foot. Penalties at really big times really killed us. We have to do a better job. We need to look at the film. There will be a lot to fix. But I'm optimistic. We did a lot of really nice things. Matt ran extremely hard and Jay was as poised as I've ever seen him. So we are close."
While the Bears played better than many expected, Fox doesn't believe in moral victories.
"You're only in this to win it," Fox said. "There's no consolation prize, no second place. So you're never happy [with a loss]. But this is a process and this is the first time that myself and this staff have watched this team play a real game. Hopefully we'll learn from it and get better from it."