On a fourth-and-8 play in the final minute of the game, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers found Randall Cobb wide open over the middle of the field, and Cobb's easy touchdown gave the Packers an incredible 33-28 victory over the Chicago Bears Sunday evening.
Jay Cutler went 15-for-24 for 226 yards and two touchdowns in the contest, and Matt Forte rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns and picked up another score through the air as the Bears fell short of the NFC playoffs for the second consecutive year.
In a bit of foreshadowing, the game started out on a bad note for the Bears. After a three-and-out by the offense, Adam Podlesh's punt landed at about the 4-yard line. It appeared that TJ Ford had kept the ball from going into the end zone, but the officials ruled on the field that he had stepped on the goal line and ruled the play a touchback. Despite a challenge by Marc Trestman, the call was upheld, and the Packers started out at their own 20 yard line.
Fortunately for Chicago though, their defense was able to step up in a big way at the end of a great drive by the Packers. On the run, Rodgers threw the ball to the corner of the end zone, but Chris Conte went streaking across the formation and picked off the pass to deny the Packers a score.
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The offense took full advantage in the momentum swing, and put together a tremendous drive to move the ball down the field. Marquees Wilson picked up a great block along the edge of the formation on a long Forte gain, and a few plays later, Forte ran an option route out of the backfield, and Cutler found him open in the end zone to put the Bears 7-0.
The Packers responded with a good drive of their own, but another Rodgers miscue ended the drive in its tracks. On a crossing route, Jordy Nelson couldn't quite corral a pass that sailed a bit, and after he tipped the ball in the air Tim Jennings came down with it for the Bears' second interception of the afternoon.
After another three-and-out for the Bears, the Packers got a couple of breaks en route to a field goal by Mason Crosby. The biggest one came on a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty against Shea McClellin after he rolled over Rodgers on the ground, but the Bears finally stopped the drive and only conceded three points to make the game 7-3.
A bad punt by Podlesh gave the Packers exxcellent field position, but no one could have predicted what happened next. Under durress, Rodgers wound up to throw the ball, but it was hit out of his hand by Julius Peppers. The ball laid on the ground for several seconds before Jarrett Boykin picked it up and walked into the end zone.
The Bears stood around stunned, but replay revealed that the ball was indeed fumbled by Rodgers, and no official blew their whistle, so the incredibly undisciplined play by the Bears' defense came back to bite them, and the Packers took a 10-7 lead as a result.
Making matters worse, the Bears immediately turned the ball over again. This time, it was Alshon Jeffery doing the honors, as he came down with a nice catch but ended up fumbling the ball away. The Packers were able to quickly get back down the field, and they got another field goal from Crosby to make it 13-7 at the half.
The second half started with the Packers getting the ball, but after an incomplete pass by Rodgers on 3rd-and-1, the Bears got the ball back almost immediately. From there, it was the Matt Forte Show, as he carried the ball five consecutive times and ended up running through a gaping hole to score on first-and-goal to give the Bears back the lead at 14-13.
The Packers got the ball back and immediately went back to work. James Starks blew past Craig Steltz on a long run to give the Packers great field position, and then Cobb made a wide open catch in the end zone to give Green Bay the lead back at 20-14.
After two more great runs by Forte, Cutler let loose a tremendous downfield strike to hit Jeffery in stride for a 69-yard gain that gave the Bears a 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line. From there, it was Forte again, as he bulldozed his way into the end zone for his third touchdown of the day to give the Bears a 21-20 lead.
The Bears' defense finally made another stop in the late stages of the third quarter, and on the first play of the fourth, Cutler rewarded them for their effort. Seeing a blitz coming from the weak side of the formation, Cutler lofted up a perfect touch pass toward the back of the end zone, and Brandon Marshall made an incredible adjustment on the ball and made a beautiful catch to extend the Chicago lead to 28-20.
With more bad tackling by Peppers and Major Wright on yet another Nelson catch, the Packers cut the deficit down to one when Lacy went to the weak side of the formation, stopped, and reversed field to waltz into the end zone for an easy score. Mike McCarthy ended up deciding to go for the extra point instead of the two-point conversion, and as a result the Packers still trailed 28-27.
Cutler and the offense came back out on the field and racked up two quick first downs on the ensuing drive, but after Jeffery barely missed coming down with a jump ball catch on third down, they were forced to punt the ball away.
The Packers' final drive of the evening would prove to be a gut-wrenching one for the Bears. On two consecutive fourth downs, the Packers picked up the yardage needed for the first, with John Kuhn barely picking up a 4th-and-1 near midfield. On a 4th-and-8 play, Rodgers dropped back, and under durress from a ferocious Chicago blitz, he found a ridiculously wide open Cobb at the 10-yard line, and the receiver who had missed most of the season with a broken leg was able to trot into the end zone for the score with just 38 seconds left. The two point conversion failed, but the Packers still led the game 33-28.
With not much time left on the clock, Cutler completed a pass to get the Bears close to midfield, but he could do no more. His first down pass attempt to Jeffery was knocked down in the end zone, and then Marshall dropped a ball on a sliding catch attempt near the Packers' 25-yard line. Then, on the last play of the game, Cutler lofted the ball up to the end zone, but it was picked off by the Packers, and with that they sealed an NFC North championship and sent the Bears packing.
The Packers will now face the San Francisco 49'ers next week in an NFC Wild Card game at Lambeau Field, while the New Orleans Saints will either travel to Dallas or Philadelphia depending on who wins the Sunday night showdown between the Cowboys and Eagles.