To close an ugly season in an even uglier division, the Green Bay Packers managed to overcome the Chicago Bears and take home the NFC North title on the road Dec. 29.
As a die-hard Packers fan and shareholder of the team, I should be jumping for joy, right? But I’m not.
Trust me, I’m happy Green Bay will venture into the offseason. With the way they were playing after quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ week nine injury, I didn’t expect a second place slot, let alone first place in the NFC North.
Yet when you grow up in Chicago as a Packers fan, you hear a lot of smack, a lot of bad-mouthing and a lot of explaining, no matter your age, race, creed or gender.
Every year, I attend the Packers-Bears game in Chicago with my father (who is a die-hard Bears fan – don’t ask me why I joined the dark side, I’ve just liked the Cheeseheads for as long as I can remember). Dec. 29 was no different, nor was our trip to and from Soldier Field with a bus full of Bears fans.
Of course, the disappointed Chicago fans started to explain why the Bears lost, and why it was all unfair. “The refs were so one-sided, too many calls went in Green Bay’s favor!” “The Packers’ first touchdown wasn’t even a touchdown.” “Did you see how generous the refs were with spotting the Packers on first down?” “We deserved to win, not Green Bay.”
I’m torn. Yes, I’m a Packers fan, and should be happy to gleam and gloat with the Packers’ victory. And yet, the Bears’ fans’ explanations have made me question if the Pack really did deserve that win. Did the Packers really deserve the NFC North title?
In an easy answer: yes. Green Bay won the title game against the Bears. Indeed, there were some questionable calls. But there will be questionable calls in every game. Was it fair for receiver Jarrett Boykin to pick up an abandoned football, casually cradle it and jog into the end zone for a TD? Sure it was. That was Rodgers with the heads-up play realizing the whistle was never blown. Chicago had just as much opportunity to run it back for six points of their own.
And besides those questionable plays, the Packers frankly played better than the Bears. Rodgers threw two picks (one of which was the receiver’s mistake), but also threw 2 TDs and racked up more than 300 yards. The ground men ran for 160 yards, the team took advantage of the clock by chewing up 35-plus minutes and Green Bay committed just one penalty all game.
So if the Packers played this well, with a rusty Aaron Rodgers and against Jay Cutler’s arm and his giant wide receiver targets, why does this win feel dirty?
Compared to other divisions, the NFC North was in shambles for the most part. Detroit seemed liked the future winner of the division, and the Bears played tough each week, yet somehow the 8-7-1 Green Bay Packers came out on top. With a trio of lacking quarterbacks trying to fill Rodgers’ shoes for half the season, the Packers were the last in my mind to come back and win it all.
I’m happy Green Bay is playing San Francisco this weekend in the playoffs, but I can’t get the nagging voice to the tune of a Chicago accent out of my head. Maybe the Bears, or the Lions, deserved to be in it. Maybe it’s wrong the Packers are representing the NFC North for the third consecutive year.
If the Packers do well in the playoffs with returning, healthier players, and if both the offense and defense hold up this offseason, I’ll be fully convinced. But for now, I’ll stick to my short answer, and say Green Bay deserved the title. It came down to one game between the Packers and Bears. Maybe the Packers didn’t deserve that chance, but the NFC North handed it to them.
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