Bears nose tackle Marcus Harrison slumped by his locker, pulled his baseball cap down almost over his eyes, then mumbled under his breath when asked about Packers running back Ryan Grant's 62-yard touchdown sprint Sunday.
"Their bread-and-butter play that they run and we practiced over and over, and I wasn't disciplined on it," Harrison said. "I was out of my gap. On that lead-weak ... y'all want to blame somebody, blame it on me."
There was enough blame to pass around as the Bears allowed Green Bay to escape Soldier Field with a 21-14 victory.
It was the first time the Bears (5-8) have been swept by their bitter rival under Lovie Smith, and the loss officially eliminated them from the playoff race for the third consecutive season.
The loss overshadowed a strong overall performance by the defense and the emergence of unheralded receiver Devin Aromashodu, who caught a career-high eight passes for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Jay Cutler, who completed 23 of 36 passes for 209 yards, pointed the finger at himself for throwing two interceptions that led to 10 Green Bay (9-4) points.
Rookie receiver Johnny Knox, who adjusted his body to score on a 19-yard touchdown reception, absorbed some blame for Cutler's second interception: a momentum-changing, fourth-quarter theft courtesy of Packers safety Nick Collins. The ball was underthrown.
"It's frustrating when you and your quarterback are not on the same page," Knox said. "You want to build that confidence in each other. Sometimes, it's not always going to be there."
Fans were left to wonder if the coaching staff was on the same page late in the game, when the Bears called a timeout then challenged what was ruled an incomplete pass from Cutler to Greg Olsen. Smith did not immediately challenge the play before calling the timeout. And since the ruling on the field stood, the Bears were charged with another timeout with 4 minutes, 51 seconds left and the Packers clinging to the seven-point lead.
"For the first timeout, things just weren't right and we needed to call a timeout to take care of some things," Smith said. "That is separate. After that, I had to make a decision on the situation about whether it was worth us challenging and possibly getting a first down. I made the decision. In the end, the timeout didn't really hurt us."
True, the Bears did have one last shot to tie the score and send the game into overtime, but Corey Graham's holding penalty on Earl Bennett's punt return -- one of a season-high 13 penalties by the Bears -- pinned the Bears at their own 9 for the final drive with no timeouts remaining.
Cutler's final fling on fourth down fell incomplete as the Bears moved all of 1 yard, thanks to a false start on Olin Kreutz.
"It seems like every time we got something going, something bad happened," Cutler said. "This is something that has happened all year to us."
The Bears dug an early hole, going down 13-0 following Grant's first touchdown and two Mason Crosby field goals. It would have been a lot worse had the officials not taken away a touchdown reception by Packers receiver Greg Jennings, who clearly possessed the ball before losing it in the back of the end zone.
Knox's touchdown put the Bears within striking distance at halftime. Then nose tackle Anthony Adams swiped an Aaron Rodgers fumble out of the air, setting up Aromashodu's crafty, back-shoulder, 10-yard touchdown catch in front of Charles Woodson.
The Bears couldn't hold the 14-13 lead they held going into the fourth quarter. Collins' interception set the Packers up first-and-10 from the Bears' 11. Grant scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run. But his first-quarter touchdown on Green Bay's first offensive play made it an uphill battle for the Bears most of the day. Grant finished with 137 rushing yards.
On that play, Hunter Hillenmeyer got sealed off by fullback John Kuhn, safety Kevin Payne took a bad angle and weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs extended one arm but couldn't grasp Grant.
"I felt like the safety (Payne) kind of outleveraged himself," Grant said. "Lance is one of the most complete linebackers in this league, but sometimes we felt like leverage-wise, because he takes on blocks so hard, he'll kind of bury himself."
Kind of like the Bears have done the entire season.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times