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The Bears came to Soldier Field Monday night disguised as a decidedly mediocre team, destined to watch the playoffs from the discomfort of their own living rooms.
In their frightening Halloween night performance, they turned the ball over five times. Their most despised rival, the Green Bay Packers, rolled to a 33-6 must victory on a dark and stormy night.
Coach Dave Wannstedt said he would not decide on his starting quarterback for Sunday's game until the Bears practice again Wednesday. Erik Kramer started Monday night and threw two first-half interceptions before being yanked in favor of Steve Walsh for the second half.
"I was kind of surprised," said Kramer of Wannstedt's halftime decision. "You just have to deal with it as it comes. I feel I'm still this team's starting quarterback, whether it's next week or whenever."
"We'll look at the films and see (which quarterback) gives us the best chance to beat Tampa Bay (Sunday)," Wannstedt said.
The Bears performed true to Monday night form in treacherous, rain-swept conditions. The Bears are now 12-25 in front of a national Monday night television audience. They have lost their last four home games on Monday nights, and their last seven overall.
The Packers improved to 4-4 on a raw night on which winds gusted up to 36 m.p.h. and temperatures dipped into the upper 30s. There were 19,563 no-shows; only 47,381 fans braved the elements.
The Bears are tied for second in the NFC Central with the Packers and Lions at 4-4. Minnesota leads at 6-2. The Bears are only 1-3 in division games. The Packers are 3-1 in the NFC Central in an important tiebreaker.
"I told the team that we're right in the middle of the pack, and we lost some ground; there's no question about that," Wannstedt said. "We're going to have to regroup and find a way to win a bunch of games."
Dressed in replicas of their 1920s uniforms, the Bears have not learned to win ugly. Their 28th-ranked run defense obliged the Packers' 26th-ranked run offense. Unheralded fullback Edgar Bennett ran for 105 yards on 26 carries. Green Bay totaled 223 yards on the ground.
Walsh, who is 3-0 as a starter, completed 16 of 25 passes for 140 yards in the second half, including a 5-yard TD pass to Jeff Graham. He was intercepted once. Kramer was 5 of 10 for 34 yards in the first half. He was sacked twice.
"I threw an interception, and we fumbled one time," Walsh said. "We scored late in a hurry-up situation . . . something we've done all year. I'm not really pleased with the way I performed."
But when pressed to respond to questions about becoming the starter, Walsh said: "No question, you'd like to start. The things that happened when Erik was in there weren't totally his fault."
The Bears drove to the Packers' 25 midway through the first quarter and had the wind at their back. But on fourth and 1, the Bears opted to go for it instead of trying to kick a 42-yard field goal. Fullback Raymont Harris was stopped for no gain, and the Packers took over on downs.
Packers rookie punter Craig Hentrich from Notre Dame got off four straight 27-yarders while kicking into the stiff, swirling wind.
With the wind, Bears punter Chris Gardocki launched boots of 56 and 57 yards in the first quarter.
The Bears mounted another drive to the Green Bay 30 as the first quarter wound down. On a third and 1, Kramer's pass intended for Graham was intercepted by linebacker Bryce Paup and returned 30 yards to the Bears' 45. Earlier in the first quarter, Paup sacked Kramer for a 10-yard loss.
"We'd been watching films, because we knew that when they went to three receivers on one side, they like to come back to the one-receiver side," Paup said. "I was just hoping that they would throw it back, and he threw it back, and I got a hand on it."
Paup was involved in an aborted Bears handoff attempt with 11:24 left in the second quarter. Paup tackled Lewis Tillman as he attempted to take a handoff from Kramer. The ball was fumbled and recovered by Fred Strickland of the Packers at the Bears' 12.
Two plays later, Bennett ran 3 yards for a touchdown.
Following a 19-yard Gardocki punt against the wind, the Packers drove for another score. Quarterback Brett Favre (6 of 15 for 82 yards and one TD) rolled out to his right, directed the blockers in front of him and rambled into the end zone on a 36-yard run. The run was the longest in Favre's NFL career, and Green Bay took a 14-0 lead with 4:46 left in the half.
Walsh started the second half and promptly completed his first three passes. But the Bears' drive fizzled at the 46, and Gardocki's 9-yard punt against the wind set up Green Bay near midfield.
The Packers drove to the Bears' 13, aided by a 22-yard Favre run. But Chris Jacke's 30-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Albert Fontenot with 6:40 left in the third quarter. It was the first blocked field-goal attempt in Jacke's career.
The Bears turned the ball right back over to the Packers when Robert Green had the ball stripped from him at the end of an 8-yard run. Green Bay cornerback Doug Evans came up with the ball at the Bears' 36 at 5:12 of the third quarter.
Bennett scored his second TD from a yard out with 2:25 left in the quarter. He added his third TD with 12:56 left in the fourth quarter.