The immediate effects of the Bears 21-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers were the easy part.
The Packers (10-4) clinched the NFC North division. The Bears (8-6) lost any meaningful control over their own playoff chances, going from the No. 2 seed in postseason standings at the midpoint when they were 7-1 to now trailing Seattle (9-5), the New York Giants (8-6, better conference record), Minnesota Vikings (8-6, better division and conference records), and ahead of the Dallas Cowboys (8-6) only by virtue of a Monday night win so long ago (Oct. 1) that it seems like a different season.
Which it effectively was.
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Them winning this game in our house is what we needed to avoid today and we didnt do it, center and co-captain Roberto Garza said.
Sunday marked the sixth straight loss to the Packers, a ominous development given that one of the first reasons cited for firing general manager Jerry Angelo was the failure to keep up with the Packers.
It now looms as a tipping point for Lovie Smith as well. And maybe more than just Smith, who was 6-2 against Green Bay when the Packers were quarterbacked by Brett Favre; 1-1 with Kyle Orton vs. Aaron Rodgers; and 1-7 in games vs. Rodgers with Jay Cutler as his quarterback.
A QB who cant beat the Packers
The teams with youthful second- (Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco), third- (Russell Wilson, Seattle) and fourth-round draft choices (Kirk Cousins, Washington) at quarterback are right now firmly in playoff contention or better. The one that traded away two No. 1 picks is wondering whether he is worth a contract extension with a year left on his deal.
And Cutler has now established definitively that he does not have the wherewithal to overcome his shortcomings visavis Aaron Rodgers and beat the Green Bay Packers.
If that flaw has been enough to put Angelo and Smith in jeopardy, the same assumption can be safely made about Cutler, now 1-7 vs. the Packers and Bears centerpiece since 2009.
As I noted in a column Sunday morning, the Bears quarterback is simply not as good as his opposite number and has not found ways to overcome that. The question now is whether he ever will be able to.
It wears on me, Cutler said. It wears on everyone. You dont want to lose to your rival year-in and year-out. Then its not a rivalry anymore. Its a domination.
Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron were brought down in some significant measure because they were unable to handle the Packers and Brett Favre. Smith, who could handle Favre but not his successor, is now feeling their pain.