The Green Bay Packers have secured the NFC North crown and a home playoff game with their nerve-wracking win over the Chicago Bears.
GoldenGate was supposed to be a back-breaking, season-shattering event for the Green Bay Packers. At that point, the Chicago Bears looked nearly untouchable. Now, the Packers are NFC North champions with two games remaining in the regular season.
The final score of 21-13 from Sunday's game between the Packers and Bears indicates that the game was very close, and that the Bears were in it until the very end. In reality, the Bears didn't look like they had a chance to win the game between the end of the first quarter and the end of the fourth quarter. Green Bay was very much in control for the majority of the game, and only allowed the Bears to get close through a variety of hilarious mistakes.
Chicago scored the first touchdown of the game, thanks to some horrible tackling on a great run and catch by Brandon Marshall in the second quarter. It came after a series of poor drives by the Packers, but they quickly sparked to life. James Jones capped off an excellent drive four minutes later with a 29-yard touchdown reception, his first of three on the day. He recorded his second just before the end of the half to put the Packers up 14-7.
Jones caught his third of the game half-way through the third quarter, on a great back shoulder through from Aaron Rodgers six yards out from the end zone. The Packers' defense came up with another stop to give the Packers the ball back late in the third quarter, up two touchdowns, with a chance to kill off the game. They picked up one first down on a magnificent 27-yard reception by Randall Cobb and looked well on their way to putting the game away, but Ryan Grant coughed up the ball in Bears territory, gifting them possession without giving up more points.
Olindo Mare notched a field goal at the end of a solid, but ultimately less than successful Bears drive. Chicago failed to punch the ball in for a touchdown despite getting a 1st and goal from the 5-yard line and a 2nd and goal from the 1-yard line. On 4th and 1, Alshon Jeffrey caught a touchdown pass, but was flagged for offensive pass interference. Facing a 4th and 11, the Bears settled for a field goal and headed into the fourth quarter down by 11.
What ensued was a series of poorly executed plays -- and even worse play calls from Mike McCarthy -- that kept the Bears around until the very end of the game. Mason Crosby missed his second kick of the game on the Packers' first drive of the quarter, slamming a 42-yard attempt off the upright.
Green Bay's defense came up with a stop, but the Packers' special teams unit gave possession right back to the Bears. On a punt return, Mike McCarthy and Shawn Slocum drew up a baffling trick passback play, where Randall Cobb threw a lateral across the field to Jeremy Ross, who fumbled. Fortunately for the Pack, the Bears had to settle for a field goal from Mare, and that would end the scoring in Sunday's contest.
The Packers' next possession featured an inexplicable long pass on 3rd down and 3, when they had a chance to kill off more clock with a first down. Again, on the ensuing Bears possession, the Packers defense came up big and forced a stop. Jeffrey was called for another offensive pass interference penalty on that drive, setting his team back considerably.
Chicago got one more chance to score, but never came close. After Tim Masthay pinned them inside their own 5-yard line, the Bears made little progress at advancing the ball up the field as the Packers held on for a victory.