Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers beat the Bears for the 13th time in 16 tries. Jay Cutler, meanwhile, fell to 1-11 against the Packers as a Bear.
Alan Ball sat in front of his locker Sunday, still puzzled, still frustrated, still replaying the sequence over in his mind. The Bears cornerback had been asked to detail the 13-yard touchdown pass he surrendered to Packers receiver James Jones in the first quarter.
And frame by frame, Ball ran it back. Jones' precise fade route. His own solid coverage. The magnificent pinpoint throw by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
All at once, Ball envisioned himself twisting again, Rodgers' throw dropping right over his helmet and into Jones' chest.
"He's a hell of a quarterback," Ball said. "But when you get into situations like that, I have to find a way to be better. Plain and simple. He was playing at a high level because that's what he does. But on a play like that, my team is counting on me to make a play. So I have to figure out how to make a play."
Welcome to this Bears-Packers rivalry, Alan. And chalk up meeting No. 191 into the Packers' column, a 31-23 victory that came in big part because of Rodgers' ability to make plays and the Bears' inability to counter on defense.
Jones' 13-yard touchdown wasn't his only score against Ball. He added another way-too-easy 1-yard reception on a slant route early in the third quarter. On that play, Ball acknowledged, he needed to be tighter on Jones to disrupt the timing.
That's no easy task, of course, against Rodgers.
"He runs that system like it's no one's business," Ball said. "He reads the defense. He puts his guys in position to make plays. And then, not only are his guys in position, he puts the ball where it needs to be."
Rodgers' third and final TD pass came with 10:26 left, a back-breaking 5-yard throw to Randall Cobb that was so on the money that Cobb managed to snare it while being interfered with by cornerback Sherrick McManis. And just like that, Sunday's affair at Soldier Field served as a microcosm of the rivalry and perhaps a forecast for the rest of the Bears season.
Rodgers beat the Bears for the 13th time in 16 tries with a blend of accurate throws and shrewd scrambles.
Jay Cutler, meanwhile, fell to 1-11 against the Packers as a Bear, squandering a golden opportunity to reverse the rivalry's trend by throwing a costly fourth-quarter interception.
Equally notable, the Bears defense went without a big play all afternoon, its search for a premier playmaker still ongoing. The Bears neither sacked Rodgers nor put a single hit on him in the pocket. And they failed to come up with a takeaway that could've turned a vexing loss into a spirit-boosting upset.
On the 78-yard touchdown march that ended with Cobb's catch, the Packers converted three third downs and one fourth down.
For much of the day, Rodgers' precision was on full display.
"It's exactly what it is," Bears safety Antrel Rolle said. "In order for them to beat us, he had to make some excellent throws. And he did that today."
In the first half, the Bears defended Rodgers best with their offense, chewing clock and controlling the ball for more than 18 minutes. And when the Packers offense was on the field, Bears coordinator Vic Fangio used a plan designed to keep Rodgers in the pocket with his defensive backs battling in coverage.
Statistically, Rodgers' output (18-for-23, 189 yards, three TDs) paled in comparison to the dominance he piled on the Bears a year ago. In some ways, that had Bears defensive players feeling a little conflicted as they left Soldier Field.
Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee seemed encouraged overall, commending the secondary for holding strong.
"Let's be real," McPhee said. "If you had said Aaron Rodgers would come in and throw for 189 yards and we'd lose? (Shoot), that shocked me."
"We have to make plays when opportunity presents itself," Rolle added. "We were playing a great offense. So you give credit where credit is due. But we had times where we could have gotten off the field and we didn't do so. We have to improve."