First, trailing 7-3 midway through the first quarter, linebacker Jamari Lattimore blocked an Adam Podlesh punt that the Packers recovered at the Chicago 32. On the very next play, Starks sprinted through a gigantic hole for a 32-yard touchdown and a 10-7 lead.
Then, after Lacy broke free for a 56-yard run and followed it with a 1-yard touchdown to tie the game at 17-17 early in the third quarter, McCarthy brazenly called for an onside kick and Lattimore was there to recover it. After what should have been an interception turned into a 17-yard gain when Wallace’s pass sailed through linebacker James Anderson’s hands and into the waiting mitts of wide receiver James Jones, the Packers had first-and-goal at the Chicago 6.
But a 1-yard run by Starks and back-to-back Wallace incompletions forced the Packers to settle for a 23-ayrd Crosby field goal to make it 20-17. The Packers wouldn’t score again.
“Seneca, he needs to perform better and he'll definitely do that with a week of practice,” said McCarthy, whose team plays host to Philadelphia next Sunday at Lambeau Field. “We're on a short week. We're on a six-day week. We’ve got the Eagles coming in: new staff, uncommon opponent.
“We need to do a better job in the passing game. I think it was obvious tonight that third down was something that held us back. I thought we ran the ball well, particularly when they were loading up against the run. Hey, (it’s a) disappointing loss, no doubt. We fully expected to win the game. Had some opportunities, and we have no excuses. We didn’t play well enough; they beat us.”
The final blow came in the fourth quarter, after the Packers punted with 9:48 to play. The Bears took over on their own 11-yard line and proceeded to drain an excruciating 8 minutes 58 seconds off the clock, converting a fourth-and-1 (on a 4-yard Matt Forte run), a third-and-6 (on an 11-yard Brandon Marshall catch) and a third-and-5 (on an 8-yard Forte run). By the time Robbie Gould’s 27-yard field goal sailed through the north uprights, the Packers had 50 seconds and no timeouts left.
“It’s up to us as a defense to step up. We lost our best man, now (was) a great opportunity for us to shine and come out and show the world what kind of ball we can play, and we didn’t,” veteran defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. “That’s the bottom line – we didn’t handle business.”
Whether the Packers can handle their business for as long as Rodgers is sidelined – however long that turns out to be – is hard to say. During his first year as the starter, Rodgers suffered a dislocated right (throwing) shoulder at Tampa Bay on Sept. 28, 2008 and played the next week against Atlanta. He never missed a game that season; in fact, the only games he’s missed in his career as the starter are a 2010 game at New England after suffering a concussion the previous week, and the meaningless 2011 regular-season finale against Detroit.
“It’s tough, obviously,” veteran guard Josh Sitton said. “He’s the best player on this football team. He’s probably the best player in the NFL. So it’s tough, no doubt. Like I said, we’ve just got to keep grinding. We’ve been in these positions before, we’ve just got to keep playing, no excuses.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.