NFL Game Summary - Green Bay at Chicago|
(Sunday, January 23rd)
Final Score: Green Bay 21, Chicago 14
Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Aaron Rodgers was perfect on two first-half
scoring drives, nose tackle B.J. Raji scored on an interception return in the
fourth quarter and the Green Bay Packers held on to beat the Chicago Bears
21-14 to win the NFC Championship on Sunday.
Rodgers, who finished with 244 yards passing, rushed for a one-yard touchdown
on the game's opening drive to give the Packers a lead they would never
relinquish -- even as the game grew tight in the second half.
Down to third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie, Chicago rallied for two
touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Hanie also had the Bears in Green Bay
territory inside the final minute, but was intercepted on a fourth down pass
by Packers cornerback Sam Shields, ending the game.
The first playoff meeting between the longtime rivals in more than 69 years
came to a more dramatic end than could have been expected after starting Bears
quarterback Jay Cutler left the game at the start of the third quarter.
"We felt we had them on the ropes there for a while, but we just couldn't get
it to a three-score game," said Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. "I think
that says a lot about them as a football team."
Green Bay moved on to its first Super Bowl in 13 years, setting up a date in
Dallas with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who beat the New York Jets 24-19 in the
AFC Championship Game later Sunday.
The game will be held February 6.
The Packers were only the fourth team ever to win three road games to make the
Super Bowl. They also joined the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers as the only sixth
seeds to advance to the Super Bowl.
Rodgers was 17-of-30 with two interceptions, doing most of his damage in the
first half. James Starks rushed 22 times for 74 yards and a touchdown in the
second quarter that gave the Packers a 14-0 halftime lead, and Greg Jennings
caught eight passes for 130 yards in the win.
Cutler threw one pass in the second half, knocked out of the game by a knee
injury that Chicago head coach Lovie Smith said he suffered at the end of the
"I feel bad for him," said Rodgers, "but I'm happy we're moving on."
Backup Todd Collins failed to complete any of his four passes before giving
way to Hanie. Once the third-stringer was in, Cutler was no longer able to
"Jay hurt his knee. He couldn't go," Smith said, tersely answering questions
about his starter's status. "The trainers, doctors, they were the ones who
made that decision."
Hanie, surprised as anyone that the Bears needed his services in such a big
spot, was 13-of-20 for 153 yards and led both Chicago scoring drives.
"I feel really good about what Caleb was able to do. We had an opportunity at
the end to tie the game. That was Caleb," said Smith.
"You don't expect to come in on a day like today," said Hanie, "but that's
just what happens sometimes."
Hanie threw a 32-yard pass to Johnny Knox on his first series, setting up
Chester Taylor's one-yard touchdown run to get the Bears within 14-7 early in
the fourth quarter.
But he didn't see the 330-pound Raji on a short pass intended for Matt Forte,
and the Packers lineman stepped in front of the pass and returned it 18 yards
for a touchdown and 21-7 Packers lead.
Hanie and Earl Bennett connected on a 35-yard touchdown pass four plays into
the next drive, getting the Bears within seven points with 4:43 remaining in
But, looking deep for Knox, Hanie was intercepted on a fourth-down pass in the
final minute by Shields, who scampered back near midfield. Rodgers kneeled to
end the game.
"Our guys just continued to fight," said Smith -- but they had to do it mostly
without Cutler, who was just 6-of-14 for 80 yards and an interception before
"Jay was hurt. I don't question his toughness," Bears linebacker Brian
Urlacher said. "He's one of toughest guys on the team."
Urlacher intercepted Rodgers at the Chicago six-yard line in the third
quarter, keeping potential points off the board. And he could have returned it
for a touchdown -- except Rodgers hustled to trip him up near midfield.
"Probably one of my better tackles," said Rodgers.
Indeed, in the biggest game of the NFL's oldest rivalry, the Packers seemed to
have the best player on the field.
Rodgers proved that much during Green Bay's 84-yard scoring drive to open the
He completed all four of his passes for 76 yards, hitting Jennings for 22
yards and 26 yards on the first two plays. He also found Starks for a six-
yarder and hit Jordy Nelson for 22 yards.
The Packers scored on the seventh play, with Rodgers scrambling around the
left side of his line and reaching inside the pylon to make it 7-0.
Rodgers was 10-of-15 for 156 yards in the first half. Along with Starks, he
led Green Bay's other first-half scoring drive early in the second quarter.
He threw two passes on the drive -- 16 yards to Brandon Jackson and 15 yards
to Nelson -- and Starks capped the brief 44-yard jaunt by stretching the ball
over the goal line on a four-yard run to make it 14-0.
With less than eight minutes to play in the half, the Bears passed on a 48-
yard field goal attempt for a punt that netted them only 11 yards in field
Indeed, nothing much went Chicago's way in the first half.
Forte stood out. He carried the ball eight times for just 28 yards, but also
caught four passes for 44 yards. His biggest contribution, though, may have
been recovering a fumble at the Bears' 23 after Cutler was stripped by
Rodgers was intercepted on the ensuing Packers possession -- his low pass
bounced off Donald Driver's foot and Lance Briggs was there to grab it. But
Cutler threw an interception two plays later, with Shields diving for a pass
intended for Knox.
"The way the offense came out early, it kind of got them on their heels. Then
the defense just went out and smothered them early," said Packers cornerback
"It was a team thing."
It was the 182nd meeting between the teams since 1921 and only the second
postseason meeting. The first took place December 14, 1941, when George Halas'
Bears defeated Curly Lambeau's Packers 33-14 at Wrigley Field to capture the
Western Division...Forte rushed 17 times for 70 yards and caught a game-high
10 passes for 90 yards...Jennings had his third career 100-yard playoff
game...The Bears still hold a 92-84-6 lead in the all-time series...Chicago
was in the NFC title game for the first time since the 2006 season -- the year
it lost to Indianapolis in the Super Bowl...Green Bay made back-to-back Super
Bowls after the 1996 and '97 seasons, winning the first one against New
England, then losing to Denver...The 2007 Giants also won three road games
to make the Super Bowl, while the 1985 New England Patriots also accomplished
the feat. Green Bay beat the Eagles in Philadelphia two weeks ago and
dispatched top-seeded Atlanta last week.
01/23 22:16:28 ET