Sports Network | January 2, 2011
Green Bay, WI (Sports Network) – The Packers needed one defensive stop to get into the playoffs.
Nick Collins made sure it happened.
Collins’ interception deep in Green Bay territory helped the Packers defeat the game Chicago Bears, 10-3, at Lambeau Field to close out the regular season in celebratory fashion.
Aaron Rodgers’ one-yard touchdown pass to Donald Lee in the fourth quarter was the difference, and the Packers (10-6) will head to Philadelphia as the sixth seed to take on the NFC East champion Eagles in next week’s Wild Card Playoffs.
Rodgers finished with 229 yards passing, and Greg Jennings caught four passes for 97 yards to help the Packers earn back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since four straight trips from 2001-04.
The Bears (11-5), with absolutely nothing to gain by playing their starters, tried to deal their arch-rival a knockout blow, but will still go into the playoffs with the No. 2 seeding and a first-round bye.
Cutler nearly directed a potential game-tying drive in the final minutes, but came up just short.
Beginning from the Chicago two-yard line with just under five minutes to play, Cutler converted a 3rd-and-1 with a seven-yard pass to Greg Olsen, then scrambled for seven yards on a 3rd-and-4 to gain the 31-yard line.
The two-minute warning came shortly thereafter, and the Bears moved into Green Bay territory on an 11-yard reception by Forte as the clock ticked below 1 1/2 minutes.
On 3rd-and-10 from the 48, Cutler hit an open Devin Hester for a 16-yard gain, and his next pass fell incomplete near the five in an attempt to reach Devin Aromashodu. Hester was open again on the following snap, but Cutler’s pass sailed high and right into the hands of Collins, sealing the outcome.
Both teams struggled on offense in the first half, going a combined 2-for-12 on third downs and just one red zone opportunity.
The best chance in the first quarter was Green Bay’s second drive, when Rodgers hit Driver for a pass to the Chicago 35. Driver, though, had the ball punched out of his grasp, and Charles Tillman fell on it to end the series.
The Bears scored the first half’s only points midway through the second quarter on a 10-play, 62-yard drive. Cutler hit Rashied Davis for a 21-yard pass play to start the set, and Forte later took a screen pass 27 yards to get into field goal range. Robbie Gould hit a 30-yarder with 4:31 left.
Green Bay, which scored 45 points in a rout of New York last week to control its own destiny, was suddenly staring defeat in the face after a scoreless first half.
Things looked even worse in the third when Rodgers was intercepted near midfield on a diving catch by Tillman, who returned the ball to the Packers’ 15. But Cutler returned the favor quickly, lofting an ill-advised pass right to Green Bay’s Charlie Peprah in the end zone.
The Packers finally found a spark with six minutes left in the third when Tramon Williams returned a punt 41 yards to the Chicago 44. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Jennings took a deep pass down the right sideline 33 yards to the one.
Rodgers wasn’t able to lead his team into the end zone, but Mason Crosby’s 23- yard field goal tied the game with 2:39 left.
A solid kickoff return put the Bears at midfield, but a sack forced a 3rd- and-15 situation. Cutler dumped the ball off to Forte, who was able to run straight up the middle to seemingly gain the first down; however, the crowd noise was so loud that the players never realized that Chicago had called a timeout, nullifying the play.
Cutler was sacked again on the second attempt and punted the ball away, leading to Green Bay’s go-ahead drive.
The Packers took over at their own 25 and faced a 3rd-and-3, but Rodgers converted with a 21-yard completion to Donald Driver. Rodgers hit a wide-open Jennings again down the right sideline on the next play, and Jennings took the ball to the one.
Green Bay made sure to punch it in this time, as Rodgers found Lee wide open in the back of the end zone with 12:42 remaining.
Chicago recorded just one first down on its next two drives, which both resulted in a punt.
Chicago still leads the historic series, 91-83-6…The Bears have lost their last three games at Lambeau Field…Green Bay has won 11 of its last 12 home games…The Packers, who committed 18 penalties for 152 yards in their 20-17 loss to Chicago earlier this season, were whistled for only four infractions totaling 30 yards on Sunday…The Bears finished 6-2 on the road, while the Packers went 7-1 at home this season.