Welcome to the first installment of a new series here at WCG, the Wednesday Night Game Review. My goal is to fill the off-season void with looks back at some classic games in Bears history: the good, the bad, and the ugly. To start off, I wanted to take us back to 2004. After the glories of the 80s, the Bears had spent most of the 90s in the bottom of the NFC. The worst part of the post-Ditka era was letting Favre and the Packers go 20-4 against the Bears, but in 2004 Chicago had a new man promising salvation. Lovie Smith came into town saying all the right things, famously declaring that beating Green Bay was his number one goal. Smith got his first shot at the Pack in only his second game as a head coach, as the Bears came into Green Bay with a chance to crash Mike Sherman's home opener. Follow me below the fold to see if Urlacher, Mike Brown, and Rex Grossman could get the Lovie era off on the right foot...
The mighty Rex Grossman then takes to the field, and he shows just why they say the tight end is a new QB's best friend. Grossman first completes a nice third down conversion to TE Dustin Lyman for twelve yards, then makes a deep pass to a wide-open Dez Clark for 31 yards. Good Rex rapidly becomes Bad Rex, however, and the Bears sputter out at the GB 40 with Grossman almost throwing an interception on third down. The Bears weren't going to leave the field without showing a little spunk, though, as they faked a field goal and had Brad Maynard punt the ball away.
Green Bay loses a bit of the steam they had to start and go three and out, giving Grossman another chance to prove his worth. He takes a bad sack on second down, but strings the ball to Bobby Wade on third and fifteen to keep the Bears moving. Grossman and Thomas Jones take turns chipping their way down the field, getting the Bears all the way to the Green Bay 26. This tag team approach fails the Bears as they get close to the red zone, as a Thomas Jones run for a loss of two is followed by a classic Grossman "just throw it up there" interception to Darren Sharper.
Green Bay comes back to the field, backed up into their own end zone but gaining momentum again. Ahman Green digs them out of the hole by finding holes in the middle of the Bears defense big enough to get 25 yards in two plays. Favre then gets to take his "just throw it up there" shot down field, except his goes for 44 yards to Javon Walker. The Pack are now looking to get into the Bears red-zone, except Favre begins to show his bad side by throwing some dangerous incompletions. The Packers try for three, but Longwell's kick bounces off the post and is no good.
Perhaps Terry Shea started to think better of resting his hopes on Rex, so he calls a few nice running plays to start off the drive. First Thomas Jones runs straight ahead for 20, followed by an end around to Bobby Wade for a first down and an eleven yard run by FB Brian Johnson. The Bears are now on the edge of the red zone and seem to be stalling again, but a fortunate illegal contact penalty called on the Packers give them a first down on the GB 11. With everyone on the Packers thinking run, the Bears send out a three receiver bunch to the strong side and swing Thomas Jones into the flat. Jones takes two defenders with him into the flat and leaves Brian Johnson completely open on the four, and he takes the pass straight ahead to put the Bears in the lead 7-3.
The momentum swings even further in the Bears direction when Brett Favre throws an interception to SS Mike Green a few plays into his drive. Our Green took the ball all the way back to the Bears 40, but after review he was ruled down by contact and sent back to the 4. The Bears are too backed up to do much and Maynard sends a line drive punt out of the end zone and gives GB nice field position at their own 40. Green Bay once again marches the ball down toward the end zone, but the Bears again show just how strong a Lovie Smith defense can be when it's backed up. On first and goal at the seven, Brian Urlacher snatches the ball right out of Ahman Green's hands and right into the hands of a waiting Mike Brown. Urlacher takes a nice shot on Favre to pop Brown all the way into the end zone, coming three yards short of the franchise record for a fumble returned for a TD (set by George Halas himself at 98 yards). Farve tries to get one good drive together before the half, but the Bears stop him with near-interceptions by Mike Brown and Lance Briggs. The Bears head into the locker room with a 14-3 lead and a silenced Green Bay crowd.
Lovie's strategy of deferring pays a big dividend when the Bears get the ball to start the third. After a few short runs by #20, he breaks the big one, going 51 yards to put the Bears on the GB 11. Jones seemingly fumbles the ball into the end zone on the next play but is ruled down on the one. He walks to the end zone on the next play, though, putting the Bears up 21 to 3 and the Packers on notice that Lovie's Bears mean business. The most striking thing about the drive is the huge holes Jones had to work with - it was refreshing to see a Bears O-line that could throw a good block!
Even at this point in his career, Favre was playing for the record books and was in danger of breaking his 25 game TD streak and his nearly flawless record against the Bears. The Packers put together a very nice drive, converting a fourth and one on the Bears 30 and pushing their way into the Bears red zone again. Even luck seems to be on the Bears side when a easy touchdown thrown to Bubba Franks is called back on offensive pass interference, but Favre would not be denied his touchdown. He keeps his streak alive by throwing a nice touch pass to Robert Ferguson from twelve yards out, making it 21 to 10 and putting some life back into the crowd.
The game becomes all defense, with the two teams quickly trading off punts as the third quarter rolls into the fourth. Lovie and Shea are already thinking clock control with thirteen minutes left to play and the ball on the 20 when they send in Anthony Thomas for four straight runs. The drive and the clock both stop when the John Tait is called offsides on third down, and the Bears punt it away again. The Packers look to take a shot down field, but Javon Walker is blanketed so well by both Mike Brown and Charles Tillman that he can only hope for a pass interference call. The Packers take another shot, but Favre can only watch as his touch pass to Ferguson bounces off his hands. On third and ten, Favre is lucky to get a throw away before a blitzing Lance Briggs takes him to the turf.
The Bears get the ball again and once again try to run down the clock with a heavy dose of Thomas Jones. With help from a Rex Grossman sneak and a Bobby Wade end-around, he gets the Bears all the way down to the GB 15. Terry Shea, however, decides to take a play out of the Ron Turner book, with David Terrell losing eight yards on another end-around attempt. Terrell looks to redeem himself on the next play, but coughs up the ball to Na'il Diggs and gives Favre his chance to make this a ball game. Favre, however, takes his shot too early and puts the ball right into the hands of Bobby Gray, who returns the interception all the way to the GB 36.
The fans started leaving as the Bears once again looked to run out the clock. They only take 45 seconds off the clock, however, and miss a 45 yard field goal to give the Packers a chance to at least make the score more respectable. Robert Ferguson pulls in a nice pass to get the Packers into the red zone, and Fox reminds everyone that Favre has 27 fourth quarter comeback victories. But a few quick incompletions puts Green Bay into a fourth and eight. A charging Brian Urlacher forces Favre into an intentional grounding call, giving the Bears the ball back with just enough time for Rex Grossman to take a knee. Lovie's Bears walk away 1-0 against Green Bay, even though they are on their way to a 5-11 season.
Even in his second game, Lovie was already in his stride. His defense bent but didn't break, his quarterback took just enough shots down field to keep the running lanes open, and he won the game by relying on turnovers and clock control. While we might complain now, I'm guessing were all pretty happen then. Talk about your favorite '04 memories or your Lovie gripes in the comments, and I'll see you back here next Wednsday.