For the first 45 minutes of their game on Monday night, it looked as though the Bears were the team that was just playing out its season while the Packers were the team with a playoff berth on the line. While Aaron Rodgers and the Packers moved the ball up and down the field a little too easily, the Bears offense could hardly muster the ability to stay on the field for four plays. Yet, somehow, someway, as has often been the case this season, the Bears were able to pull out a victory.
For Kyle Orton, there was a lot more on the line than a possible playoff berth. The Bears quarterback was not only playing for his team on Monday night, but possibly for his future in Chicago. Orton struggled all night -- though his receivers didn't do much to help him at times -- but a struggling quarterback's best friend is a solid ground game, and after being invisible for the first three quarters rookie Matt Forte came to life in the fourth quarter.
Forte put the entire Bears offense on his back during the game-tying touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, carrying the ball seven times for 48 yards, and converting a key fourth and one before plunging into the end zone on a three yard run to tie the score. Then things got really interesting as Will Blackmon returned the ensuing kickoff 32 yards and Adrian Peterson hit him late out of bounds to tack another 15 yards onto the return, giving Green Bay the ball at the Chicago 35-yard line.
Thankfully for the Bears, even when the defense and offense aren't working, they always have special teams. After keeping the Packers out of the end zone to force a field goal attempt, Alex Brown blocked Mason Crosby's possible game-winner to send the game to overtime. Of course, the game never would have gone to overtime had it not been for Danieal Manning's excellence on kick returns -- on one return he dragged four Packers and the hearts of about 500,000 Vikings fans across the frozen tundra of Soldier Field for 15 yards -- and Brad Maynard's pinpoint punts. One of his punts in the third quarter was so accurate he actually managed to hit a Packer on his rear end, and allow the Bears to recover the kick and set up their first touchdown of the game.
Then in overtime after Orton hit Greg Olsen on the first play from scrimmage for a 17-yard pass to the 50-yard line, Mike Rouse's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a horsecollar tackle gave the Bears the ball at the Green Bay 35. A few Matt Forte runs later, and Robbie Gould came on to kick the game-winning field goal for the second straight week, and to keep the Bears playoff hopes alive.
As for what those hopes are, here's the skinny in case you didn't already know. First and foremost, the Bears need to beat the Texans next week in Houston. If they do, a Vikings loss to the Giants would make them the NFC North champions. If the Vikings beat the Giants next Sunday, the Bears can still get into the playoffs with losses by both Tampa Bay (vs. Oakland) and Dallas (@ Philadelphia). It's not the most likely scenario, but the Bears have been doing the exact opposite of what's expected of them all season, so there's no reason to believe they can't do it again next week.