(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
There are few joys more delicious than beating the hated Chicago Bears...except maybe beating them at home and crushing their playoff hopes.
The Green Bay Packers were an outstretched arm from accomplishing this feat. Having played some good football with magnificent interceptions and great catches, the Packers hopes of ruining the Bears season and sweeping their 2008 series against each other was blocked by the Chicago field goal defense on an apparent chip-shot for Packers kicker Mason Crosby.
Dazed by two second-half interceptions by Charles Woodson and Nick Collins, the Packers appeared to be in the drivers seat late in the game. But then the Bears running game found some of the blatant holes in the Packers defense that everyone else has found late in the game this year. They exploited it to tie the game.
Then Green Bay got a big break with a stupid Bears horse-collaring penalty on the kick return and drove down to the Bears 38-yard line where once again the Packers ended coming up short—this time by getting Crosby's field goal blocked.
So close, but yet so far away has turned out to be the theme of this season. This has manifested itself in many ways, but the inability to score late in the fourth quarter while at the same time being unable to stop the opponent in that time frame summarizes a hopeful and disappointing season. The only way it could get worse would be to lose to the win-less and hapless Detroit Lions next weekend.
It is one thing to have a terrible team and a 5-10 record; it is another thing to have a thrilling offense, loads of talent and more promise than payoff.
However, despite the record, this year's team leaves Packer fans with an arm-load of hope instead of the empty futility from teams from the 1980's; this team is different. Disappointed? Yes. Bitter? Unbelievably, no.
This year's team put out an exciting product. Aaron Rodgers stayed healthy and proved himself to be a worthy successor to Brett Favre, Ryan Grant put out some gresat efforts, the Packers receivers showed that they are the best revceiving corps in the NFL, and Charles Woodson played about as well as a defensive back can play and might have had as fine of a season as any DB has had—ever.
And though this author has slammed general manager Ted Thompson repeatedly this season, the likelihood of his departure from his role with the Packers is small. And if he concentrates his resources on getting a solid defensive line, the Packers have every reason to expect to be fierce contenders next year.
So though this season did not go where the Cheesehead nation thought it would, the Packers are only a few short steps away from being a great team. Only this time we won't have to wait 29 years, but only about six meaningless months.
(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)