For a Son of Chicago, a Nostalgic Dish of Crow

A fan walked toward Soldier Field parading the head of a Cheesehead on a 10-foot pole. Another fan homed in on a mixed couple: a man wearing a Bears jersey while his girlfriend was wearing an Aaron Rodgers jersey.

“All the women in Chicago,” the fan yelled, “and you find a Packers fan.”

This was the Green Bay Packers against the hometown Bears.

Chicago is home, and there was a stretch of seasons between 1960 and 1967 when my sun rose and set with the Chicago Bears.

Unfortunately for the Bears of my era, the Packers were a dream-crushing nightmare. Most of the games against the Packers unfolded like Sunday’s, with Green Bay beating the Bears, 21-14, behind a perfectly balanced offense, a smothering defense and Chicago ineptitude.

Instead of Bart Starr , the Packers quarterback of the 1960s, converting third down upon third down to Boyd Dowler and Max McGee, it was Rodgers hitting Greg Jennings and Donald Driver for repeated clutch plays.

Rodgers led the Packers to their fifth Super Bowl appearance.

Some feelings die hard. Watching Green Bay celebrating on the Bears’ field brought flashbacks.

So much excitement and anticipation surrounded the game. This was the N.F.L.’s oldest rivalry, yet the Packers and the Bears had faced each other only once in the postseason.

Beyond that, the Bears had become invisible men, turned Cinderella, turned conference champions.

“It’s a disappointing way to end the season; it’s not the way I wanted to end it,” linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “But you know, no one expected us to be here, we know that. We expected to win this game.”

After being counted out and overlooked as a force in the conference, the Bears surged after their bye week and created visions of sugar plums, winning five consecutive games and seven of their last nine.

Jay Cutler, the Bears’ perennial mystery man, was heralded, finally, as a mature quarterback. After a spectacular game against Seattle — granted it was the — critics and Bears fans hoped against hope that Cutler would have another breakout game.

Instead, Cutler reacted the way scouting reports said he would in the face of ferocious pressure: he wilted.

This is yet another longstanding Bears tradition — erratic play at quarterback.

Rodgers, meanwhile, continued to be the ’s hottest quarterback. He ran for a touchdown and sliced up the Bears’ defense for 244 yards passing. It is possible to have been a New Yorker for so long you forget what it felt like to be from Chicago. You forget how deeply the passions and resentment between Chicago and run.

It was the 182nd game between the Bears and the Packers. This is less a rivalry than a longstanding relationship between franchises and fans who inherited a mutual disdain for each other.

Bears-Packers is less personal than institutional. Well, maybe a little personal.

During that seven-year period of my youth in Chicago, Green Bay beat every team I cared about and did it each time on a major stage.

Beginning with a spanking of the Bears at the end of the 1960 season, Green Bay annihilated Chicago twice in 1961, twice more in 1962. George Halas, the legendary Papa Bear, lost 13 of his 18 meetings with Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay teams. Three of those losses were shutouts, including a 49-0 blowout during the 1962 season.

When the Bears won the N.F.L. championship in 1963, the greatest part of that glorious season was their two victories over Green Bay.

The Packers knocked out the in two successive N.F.L. championships, the first in Dallas in 1966, then in that legendary Ice Bowl game in Green Bay in 1967. They took apart the , whom I had adopted, in I. The Packers routed my other adopted A.F.L. team, the , in Super Bowl II. Over the years, the Bears and the Packers had changing fortunes. Both franchises were up and mostly down in the 1980s — though the Bears won the Super Bowl in the 1985 season.

Beginning with the 1992 season, Green Bay had 13 nonlosing seasons in a row, 2 Super Bowl appearances and a championship.


By then, my days as a fan had long ended. For all practical purposes, my final season as a fan was 1969, when upset Baltimore in Super Bowl III a triumph — we thought — of youth over the establishment.

That year, a college teammate of mine was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and we were both exposed to the often harsh and humorless business side of the game. One is compelled to cheer for the individual, not the franchises.

Sunday seemed like a flashback to those days as a Bears fan when you really cared and left Wrigley Field after those Packers-Bears games disappointed more often than not.

On Sunday, Cutler couldn’t deliver, the hometown team was knocked around, and the Packers are Super Bowl bound.

Green Bay gave Chicago yet another bitter memory to put in a Bears-Packers scrapbook that looked all too familiar. Even after all these years.


Packers Hold Off Bears to Clinch Postseason Berth

Chicago, with nothing to play for, competed as if it were the and gave no quarter. Green Bay, with everything on the line, mounted an unforgettable rally.

Somewhere, Vince Lombardi and George Halas had to be smiling.

The result was a 10-3 Packers win that propelled Green Bay to the postseason and sent most of the 70,833 fans at Lambeau Field home happy.

Green Bay’s win gave it an N.F.C. wild-card berth and ended the Giants’ season. The Packers, the Giants and Tampa Bay all finished with 10-6 records, but Green Bay won the tie breaker based on the strength of its victories.

“It feels incredible,” said Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden, who had a team-high 2 sacks and 11 tackles. “It didn’t always look great for us, but we got it done.”

The Packers got it done with a terrific defensive effort that limited the Bears to 227 total yards and just 97 yards after halftime. Green Bay sacked the Bears’ Jay Cutler six times, had two interceptions and limited Cutler to a 43.5 passer rating — less than half his season average.

“I don’t know if it was our best game this year or not,” Packers nose tackle B. J. Raji said, referring to his defensive teammates. “But if it wasn’t, it was close.”

Green Bay struggled on offense throughout and trailed, 3-0, before Mason Crosby kicked a field goal with 2 minutes 39 seconds to play in the third quarter.

The winning points came when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit tight end Donald Lee with a 1-yard touchdown pass with 12:42 left in the game. The play was set up by a 46-yard completion from Rodgers to the Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings.

Chicago drove to Green Bay’s 32 in the closing moments. But Cutler was intercepted by Nick Collins, the Packers’ Pro Bowl safety, with 10 seconds to play.

“I thought the guys showed a lot to come out of here with a win,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. “The Bears played really hard and fought all game, but so did we.”

The Packers entered as a 10-point favorite largely because it seemed unlikely that the Bears (11-5) would play their starters the entire game. When Atlanta defeated Carolina earlier Sunday, the Falcons clinched the No. 1 seed in the N.F.C. and the Bears were locked into the No. 2 seed.

Bears Coach Lovie Smith had to choose between playing his starters in what had become a meaningless game for Chicago or resting them for the playoffs.

But Smith, who said earlier this week, “We’re playing to win the game,” did exactly that. And for much of the game, it appeared Chicago might just pull off a stunning victory.

“It was nice to play the whole game,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “It keeps us in shape because we’re off next week.”

Linebacker Lance Briggs added, “We had an opportunity to knock them out of the playoffs.”

The Bears led, 3-0, midway through the third quarter when Green Bay’s offense, which produced 45 points a week earlier against the Giants, received a boost from Williams, who returned a punt 41 yards to Chicago’s 44.

Three plays later, Rodgers hit Jennings for 33 yards to the Bears’ 1. But Chicago’s defense forced the Packers to settle for Crosby’s 23-yard field goal, which tied the game, 3-3.

After the Packers forced a three-and-out, their offense produced its finest drive of the day — a five-play, 75-yard march to take a 10-3 lead.

Rodgers hit receiver Donald Driver with a 21-yard pass on a third-and-3 to keep the drive going. On the next play, Jennings got behind Chicago’s defense and Rodgers hit him in stride for 46 yards to the 1.

The Packers then brought in their goal-line personnel, and Rodgers ran a play-action fake. Lee slipped out in the right flat and caught the winning score.

While the ending was thrilling for the Packers, much of the day was a struggle.

Green Bay’s offense went nowhere in the first half. Then Chicago took the lead with 4:31 left in the second quarter after a 10-play, 62-yard drive that ended with a 30-yard Robbie Gould field goal.

Chicago had a chance to take a two-score lead when the veteran cornerback Charles Tillman made a diving interception early in the third quarter, then returned the ball 42 yards to Green Bay’s 15. But Packers safety Charlie Peprah answered with an interception in the end zone.

That seemed to give the Packers a spark — and helped them eventually topple their greatest rival.

“I’m just proud of them,” Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said of his team. “This is an exciting day for the organization. It’s an exciting day for our fans. And we’re excited as a football team.”