For four weeks, you wondered if you were looking at a mirage.
You watched the Eagles fumble, the Giants stumble, the Chargers run out of gas and the Vikings get in their own way and you figured that Packers were at least as lucky as they were good.
For the better part of 40 minutes, with the bright lights of "Sunday Night Football" shining down on Lambeau Field and stars like Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and Caroline Lyders' "American Idol" boyfriend in the house, you were ready to push your chips to the center of the table and go all in.
The opening drive was flawless. (Green Bay has a running game? Who knew?) Atari Bigby dumped a running back on defense. The Packers punched the visitors from Chicago in the mouth. Playoff team? They looked like a powerhouse. They looked like a Super Bowl contender.
So, what happened?
How did the Packers turn a 10-point lead with less than 5 minutes left in the third quarter into a deflating 27-20 loss?
For starters, there were five turnovers, the two early ones by rookie receiver James Jones and two late ones by veterans Brett Favre and Charles Woodson.
There were penalties. There were some bad breaks and a confusing penalty or two. There were some injuries (Scott Wells is a pretty vital and oft-overlooked part of this team's success).
But, there were also mental mistakes. A boneheaded throw by Favre. A bad challenge by coach Mike McCarthy. A blown assignment by safety Nick Collins on the winning touchdown (funny how we'd hardly heard the guy's name this season until this).
In losing this game, the Packers pumped life into a demoralized Chicago team that could have -- make that "should have" -- been buried. If Brian Griese and the Bears resurrect their season, they'll point to Sunday night as the turning point.
The Packers have a game against Washington Sunday before their annual bye week. If they come out angry and take care of business, they'll be 5-1 and talk of a championship run will not seem far-fetched. If they lay an egg, the chants of "Overrated" and "Flash in the pan" will ring throughout the NFL pundit's chorus.
Here are some points to ponder while the Packers "look at the film" and try to determine what went wrong:
DeShawn Wynn and Vernand Morency looked like capable runners in the first half. In the final quarter, the Packers decided not to run the ball. The tally for the final 17 plays: 16 passes, one run.
Wynn had to leave the field after the first series because of dehydration and cramps? Maybe it's a misprint, but our media guide says the young man played college football at FLORIDA! We know it was unseasonably warm in Green Bay, but that's pretty ridiculous. After listening to Brewers cynics for the past few months, we have to ask "Does Wynn have the same trainer as Ben Sheets?"
The Packers seemed to blitz more often Sunday night. Brady Poppinga, who was partially culpable for the deciding touchdown, and Nick Barnett blew up a draw play so well that one wondered if Green Bay was stealing signs from the Bears coaching staff.
Woodson is still a tremendously talented cover corner, but he seems a step slow when trying to turn the corner on punt returns. Maybe it was the yellow shoes playing tricks on us.
Show us a team that wins when it turns the ball over five times and commits 12 penalties for 93 yards. It doesn't happen very often.
Casual fans may have missed it, but first-round draft pick Justin Harrell actually got into the game Sunday night. Good to see him justify his paycheck.
The Packers contained Bears return specialist Devin Hester, mostly by kicking the ball short and trusting their defense. It worked. And, they still lost.
Green Bay is now 0-1 when Deanna Favre participates in the opening coin toss.
Jones' fumbles didn't lead to points for Chicago, but they prevented the Packers from building a prohibitive lead. McCarthy may have erred in benching Jones after the second fumble. Why not give him a shot at redemption?
That guy broadcasting the game with Al Michaels didn't look or sound very much like Frank Caliendo. Then again, we saw Caliendo so much on TBS during the baseball games that it may have skewed our opinion.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.