On the NFL
10:50 PM CST, December 16, 2012
Less than two minutes remained in the first half when the Bears took over on their on their 37-yard line, tied at 7-7.
Then there was Jay Cutler, shaking his head, hands up in there air, look of exasperation on his face after throwing an interception that appeared to be aimed at no one wearing navy blue.
And shortly afterward, there was Aaron Rodgers, slapping hands and congratulating teammates after he calmly, smoothly drilled a pass to James Jones for the go-ahead touchdown.
Story of their seasons.
Story of their teams.
Story of their careers.
Yes, the loss to the Packers on Sunday probably killed the playoffs for the Bears. But it did more than that.
It made it so very clear, if it wasn't clear already, that the gap that exists between the teams may never be bridged by Cutler.
Rodgers is just too good.
Cutler might want to keep Sunday's game tape out of the negotiations for a new contract if he wants to be paid like an elite quarterback.
Rodgers will have plenty of evidence that he is elite when he steps to the bargaining table for a contract extension with the Packers.
Whenever the Packers offense was in a critical situation, Rodgers stepped up.
Whenever the Bears offense was in a critical situation, Adam Podlesh was soon to be called upon.
To be fair, a lot of the offensive problems were out of Cutler's control.
Officials were hard on the Bears offense. Alshon Jeffery played like a rookie. The Packers played some inspired defense and prevented Brandon Marshall from backing up his tough talk.
The running game disappeared like a turtle's head on the goal line. And the offensive line, put together with twist ties and masking tape, often did not give Cutler enough time to even swallow hard before getting hit.
The game swung on that interception, for which Cutler took the blame publicly, even though it appeared Devin Hester may have not been where Cutler thought he would be.
"You know, it came out of my hands," Cutler said. "I'm responsible. Those things can't happen. That's how you lose ballgames against good teams like that."
It did not surprise Packers safety Charles Woodson, who did not return from his collarbone injury but was not needed.
"We feel like if we're patient, we'll get him," Woodson said of Cutler. "That was a huge play in the game."
And golly, Cutler failed to convert a single third down. He tried to throw seven times on third down. He threw two incompletions, two completions that did not make first downs, was sacked twice and once took off and ran but was stopped short.
Rodgers, meanwhile, converted eight third-down opportunities when he dropped back to pass, including throwing a touchdown pass on third-and-4 in the second quarter.
"Third down is the money down," Rodgers said. "You have to be able to make some plays, especially when the pocket breaks down."
That 29-yard touchdown pass to Jones on third down was huge for the Packers because the Bears had just taken a 7-0 lead on the previous possession.
"That was really important," Rodgers said. "Keep the crowd at bay a little bit. Chicago fans are excellent sports fans and they know when to cheer and when to get loud. We've played here and it's been very difficult to hear."
Rodgers was good on fourth downs, too, completing an 8-yard pass to Jermichael Finley on fourth-and-2, and completing a 12-yard pass to Randall Cobb on fourth-and-6 that led to a third-quarter touchdown.
Rodgers' best play of the day may have been another third-quarter touchdown throw to Jones, this one squeezed in on Jones' back hip, in the exact spot where Charles Tillman could not defend it. Tweezers never placed anything more perfectly.
Rodgers dealt with pressure better than his Bears counterpart. Cutler lost an average of 7 yards per sack. Rodgers lost an average of 4.3, had a few smart throwaways and was deft at moving in the pocket to extend plays.
"I was thinking about moving around a little more," he said. "Just being aware of where I was in the pocket and stepping up when I had to, keeping plays alive."
Cutler was left to take responsibility for the passing game's ineptness and give credit to the quarterback of the 2012 NFC North Division champions.
"They did a good job and hit pass plays when they needed to," Cutler said. "He's an MVP player."
Can they ever say that about Cutler as long as Rodgers is around?
That's a problem for the Bears.
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