The NFC North championship seemed to be waiting for the Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field.
One play away. Fourth-and-8. Final minute.
Cornerback Tim Jennings felt his excitement rising, a 28-27 Bears lead over the Packers about to become a playoff-clinching final score.
On the previous snap, Jennings had broken up Aaron Rodgers' pass to Jordy Nelson.
The Bears defense, on a pressure-packed stage, was standing strong enough, ready to secure the division title.
Finally, they had the Packers down to their last breath, down to their final play, at the Bears' 48.
"There was so much going through my head right then," Jennings said. "We were right there."
So how was it that Jennings and his teammates were standing in a stunned locker room less than 25 minutes later describing their heartbreak, lamenting a painful 33-28 loss and feeling totally jarred by a breakdown on the season's most critical play.
That one play, fourth-and-8 from the 48? Unsuccessful blitz. Blown coverage.
Touchdown pass, Rodgers to Randall Cobb with 38 seconds left.
"You go from being absolutely ecstatic," rookie cornerback Isaiah Frey said, "to the lowest point of sadness you can get. It sucks."
Added Jennings: "Most definitely, this one's going to sting for a while. This was win or go home, man."
Rather than afford Rodgers time to make a play, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker dialed up a blitz with Frey plus linebackers Lance Briggs and James Anderson.
Frey didn't get the jump he wanted, caught in traffic at the line. Briggs and Anderson failed to get through too.
And Packers fullback John Kuhn darted left just in time to upend Julius Peppers coming hot off the edge at Rodgers.
The Packers quarterback alertly looped past Peppers, scrambling left. The Bears had hoped their pressure would force Rodgers to get rid of the ball quickly.
But there also was an expectation the secondary would do its part in preventing the big play.
Instead, safety Chris Conte got caught in no man's land underneath and Cobb suddenly was behind the entire defense, running free, destroying the Bears' season.
"We just lost coverage," Bears coach Marc Trestman said, "with our eyes in the backfield."
Rodgers' pass felt as if it hung in the air forever, each Bear defender feeling the shot to the gut as it sailed uncontested.