The Chicago Bears wanted to see where they stood in a hostile environment with the playoffs at stake. When they play in two weeks, it’ll be their fans creating the raucous atmosphere.
by Colin Fly
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Chicago Bears wanted to see where they stood in a hostile environment with the playoffs at stake. When they play in two weeks, it’ll be their fans creating the raucous atmosphere.
Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass and the Green Bay Packers clinched a playoff berth with a 10-3 victory over their division rivals to enter the postseason as a sixth seed.
Despite an anemic offensive performance, Chicago feels good about its chances, too.
"We’re in the exact same position we were at eight o’clock this morning. Healthy. Second round bye," Bears tight end Greg Olsen said. "At the end of the day that’s the only thing you can take from it."
Still, being healthy and rested is a good start for the NFC North champs. Chicago (11-5) will face either Philadelphia, Seattle or New Orleans after a week off to scheme for a second-round opponent.
"To get 11 wins, you’re up to that level, playoff, regular season, we’re an 11-5 football team, we’re a good football team and we’re ready for someone to come to Soldier Field as we wait after we earned that bye," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We’re excited about playing our next home game."
The Packers know for sure they won’t return to Lambeau Field this season. If Green Bay (10-6) beats the Eagles on Sunday, they would next head to Atlanta to face the conference’s No. 1 seed.
"They’re a different team now," Rodgers said of the Eagles after Green Bay beat them in Week 1 when Michael Vick was still the backup to Kevin Kolb. "They’re very well-coached and they gave us some problems when we played up there."
Green Bay trailed 3-0 at halftime in a game the Packers had to win to get into the postseason and were tied going into the fourth quarter, while Chicago continued playing all its starters.
Rodgers connected with his two most trusted receivers — Donald Driver for 21 yards and Greg Jennings for 46 yards — to move to the 1, where he found tight end Donald Lee for the touchdown with 12:42 left.
Rodgers finished with 229 yards, a touchdown and an interception as Green Bay made the postseason despite 15 players on injured reserve, including six starters.
"We’ve stuck together, followed our coaches and believed in each other," Rodgers said. "I think it says a lot about the guys who stepped up."
Chicago had three possessions with a chance to tie, but only began moving on its final drive starting at its own 2 and crossing midfield on the 10th play. At the Packers 32 with 20 seconds left, Jay Cutler’s pass sailed over the head of Devin Hester and was intercepted by Nick Collins.
Cutler was sacked six times, including twice by linebacker Erik Walden, who has had extended playing time because Green Bay is so thin at the position. Still Cutler said he thought it was a good idea to play the starters, only joking that he asked Smith to rethink the plan after he was brought down over and over.
"Lovie never swayed in his decision. He said from the very get go we were going to roll in this game and we did even though Atlanta clinched No. 1. So, we wanted to come in here in a tough environment, we haven’t been in that in a while, so I thought it was a good idea," said Cutler, who finished with 168 yards and two interceptions. "I think our offensive line knows what they were doing. There’s no real problems out there."
The Packers again relied on the defense, which coach Mike McCarthy called outstanding.
"Offensively, it was not our best day, no question. The field position, the turnovers with the field position we had, but 10 points was enough to win," McCarthy said. "I was just very proud of our defense and special teams, the way they carried this game."
Green Bay didn’t look anything like the team that routed the New York Giants to keep its playoff hopes alive last week and trailed on Sunday when Robbie Gould kicked a 30-yard field goal to give Chicago a 3-0 lead late in the second quarter.
In the second half, the Packers squandered a first-and-goal chance at the 1, settling for a short field goal by Mason Crosby to tie it, but Green Bay wouldn’t waste its next opportunity in the red zone.
The Bears are sure they won’t blow their next chance, either, pointing to another strong defensive effort and the chance to play at home after getting a few key days off to rest.
"This was a good preparation for the playoffs. We’ve got a bye next week, but I know a lot of guys feel good about going into the playoffs," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "The last couple of weeks teams have been scoring a lot of points on us. It was important to us for the Packers to only get 10 points.
"We were effective when we did the things we needed to do. We were very disciplined."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)