The Chicago Bears were looking to clinch the NFC North and a playoff spot, when they hosted the Green Bay Packers in the season finale on Dec. 29.

After a shaky start, the Bears turned a 13-7 first-half deficit into a 28-20 lead in the fourth quarter, and appeared to be on their way to a postseason berth.

However, in a cruel twist of fate, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers responded with 13 unanswered points en route to a 33-28 come-from-behind victory. 

Aside from the Bears finding a way to lose a game they should have won, here are five things we learned from this Week 17 matchup.

 

Can't blame this one on Jay Cutler

Most of the talk in the media prior to this contest centered around how poorly Cutler had played against the Packers, which included a 1-8 mark to go along with a 2-to-1 interception-to touchdown ratio (17 interceptions, eight touchdowns).

And although Cutler insisted that it would take a group effort from the offense to win the game, everyone knew that he would have to play well in order for the Bears to have a chance of coming out on top.

Not only did Cutler play well, he had his best outing against the Packers, completing 15 of 24 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Unfortunately, his effort was not enough to prevent Chicago from missing the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons.

 

Rodgers' return spells trouble for Bears

The Packers' quarterback suited up for the first time in seven weeks against the same team that sent him to the injured list with a broken collarbone.

Conventional wisdom says that a player would be somewhat rusty after being off the field for an extended period of time.

Then again, this is Rodgers we're talking about here, and if there was any rust, you certainly couldn't tell from the way he played in this game.

Rodgers did throw two interceptions in the first half, but he also completed 25 of 39 passes for 318 yards with two touchdowns, including a 48-yard strike to a wide open Randall Cobb late in the fourth quarter, that helped the Packers steal a game at Soldier Field.

As a result, the Packers are now NFC North champs for the third straight season, and if Rodgers continues to play well, the Packers will be a team to contend with in the postseason.

 

History repeats itself

Three years ago, the Bears hosted the Packers in the last game of the season. While Chicago had little to play for with regards to playoff position, Green Bay needed a win in order to qualify for the postseason.

Not only did the Packers beat the Bears to make it to the playoffs, they also beat them again in the 2011 NFC championship game, and eventually went on to win it all against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Although the Bears did end a six-game losing skid against their arch rivals with a 27-20 victory at Lambeau Field back on Nov. 4, it is of little consolation because the Packers seem to come out on top when it matters the most.

 

Strangest play of the game

In the second quarter with over three minutes remaining, Julius Peppers forced the ball out of Rodgers' hands in what appeared to be an incomplete pass.

However, the officials never blew the whistle and none of the Bears players attempted to recover the loose ball on the field.

Finally, Packers' receiver Jarrett Boykin picked up the ball and ran it into the end zone, giving the Packers a 10-3 lead.

I am not a professional football player by any stretch of the imagination, but even I know that you continue to play until you hear the officials blow the whistle.

It is plays like this one that have defined a disappointing season for this franchise.

 

Bears did not deserve to go to the playoffs

In general, I usually don't make such bold statements, but in this case, I can't help myself.

While the offense did make significant strides this season, the defense was horrific at best, giving up a league-worst 161 yards per contest on the ground, including a 201 yards-per-game average in nine of the last 10 games.

Secondly, the Lions dropped six of their last seven games of the season and the Packers were without Rodgers for seven weeks.

But in spite of these factors, the Bears still failed to clinch a playoff berth despite having two chances to do so.

To bring the point home even further, the Bears were simply unable to deliver when it mattered the most.

On the last drive of the game, they allowed the Packers to convert on fourth down three times, and Chris Conte simply allowed Randall Cobb to run right by him for the game-winning score.

Simply put, playoff teams do not make mistakes of this magnitude when the game is on the line.

Furthermore, the main reason why the Packers are moving on is becaue they made the clutch plays while the Bears faltered.

 

James Tillman III is a resident of the Chicago-land area, who follows all the teams in the local region. James is currently a sports contributor for various sites including Football Nation, Sports Kings/Pass the Pill and Sports Rantz Magazine. James is also a former Featured Sports Contributor for Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @jtillman9693