Bears left Green (Bay) with envy after another loss to Packers

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Bears left Green (Bay) with envy after another loss to Packers

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers had the best comeback for all that trash-talk from the Chicago Bears.

Another NFC North title.

The Packers clinched their second straight division crown with a 21-13 victory over their archrivals Sunday - at Soldier Field, no less.

Aaron Rodgers connected with James Jones on all three touchdowns, Clay Matthews hounded Jay Cutler with two sacks and the Packers limited the Bears to just 190 yards, their third-lowest total of the season. Rodgers finished 23 of 36 for 291 yards as Green Bay won its sixth straight against Chicago.

Brandon Marshall had a 15-yard TD catch for the Bears. But Cutler had another dismal day against the Packers, throwing an interception that led to Green Bay's second touchdown, and Alshon Jeffery was whistled for three offensive pass interference calls late in the second half.

Chicago has lost five of six and is in danger of missing the playoffs after beginning the season 7-1. Boos rained down on the Bears in the fourth quarter, and again as they walked off the field.

Packers vs. Bears is the NFL's oldest - and fiercest - rivalry, and it got a little more heated earlier in the week when Marshall and Lance Briggs ripped on their neighbors to the north.

Marshall was particularly vehement, saying he'd never disliked a team as much as he did the Packers.

Green Bay had held him to 24 yards on two catches in their first meeting back in September, and the NFL's receptions leader called the rematch ''personal,'' adding, ''But the talk, you have to back it up. We'll go out there and we'll do everything we need to do to get a win.''

Marshall did his part, sidestepping one tackle and stiff-arming Casey Hayward on his way to the end zone for a touchdown that gave Chicago a 7-0 lead in the second quarter. He screamed and tossed the ball into the stands while the Chicago sideline erupted in high fives and hand slaps.

But the Packers silenced the Bears - and their fans - with a touchdown, interception and another touchdown, all in a three-minute span.

Having already been sacked twice, Rodgers was on the run again on third-and-6 when he spotted Randall Cobb down the right sideline. He threw a dart to Cobb, who hauled it in for a 31-yard gain that put the Packers at the Chicago 35. Three plays later, Rodgers connected with Jones for a 29-yard score that tied the game at 7.

After exchanging punts, Cutler was looking for Devin Hester but found Hayward, instead. It was the sixth pick of the season for the rookie, who grabbed the ball at midfield and returned it 24 yards. Five plays later, Rodgers hooked up with Jones again, this time for an 8-yard catch that made it 14-7 at halftime.

The Packers made it 21 unanswered points on the first drive of the second half. In another third-and-long situation, Rodgers threw incomplete to Jermichael Finley.

But the Packers got a second chance when Chris Conte was called for pass interference. After a delay of game penalty on Green Bay, Rodgers found Jones for a 6-yard score.

It was Jones' first three-touchdown game and the fourth multiple-TD game of his career.

The Bears had a chance to get back in the game when Charles Tillman forced a fumble by Ryan Grant and Nick Roach recovered it. Chicago got another break when Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett hauled Jeffery down right in front of the end zone - and right in front of an official. The pass interference penalty gave Chicago the ball at the Green Bay 1.

But the Bears could only get a 34-yard field goal by Olindo Mare out of it after Jeffery was called for pass interference, his first of three.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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