(WLAX/WEUX) – The NFC road to the Super Bowl goes through Lambeau Field.
The determined Chicago Bears did their best to prevent that Sunday afternoon, but Aaron Rodgers and a “bend but don’t break” defense prevailed in the fourth quarter of a hard-fought 35-16 victory.
Green Bay earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC and finished with a sterling 13-3 regular-season record for the second consecutive year, including a six-game winning streak. The Packers earned a much-needed bye week before hosting an NFC Divisional Game.
“Just so happy for our players, our coaches, everybody that’s poured so much into this to get us to this point,” head coach Matt LaFleur said in his post-game Zoom press conference. “For us to be able to deliver in crunch time, that’s what it’s all about. We will celebrate this. We’re happy that the road to Tampa goes through Lambeau.”
Chicago finished 8-8, but also made the expanded playoffs with an Arizona Cardinals loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Bears travel to #2 seed New Orleans Sunday.
There was much to celebrate in the visitor’s locker room at Soldier Field—and even a few dance moves by LaFleur.
“I didn’t see any tears,” Rodgers said. “I’d probably be the one crying.
“I think anybody over 30 can appreciate. . . the emotions, the perspective changes a little bit. This is a special season. It will always be a special season for me. . . It’s such a difficult time for so many people. I have such an understanding and appreciation for how difficult it’s been on so many people. I’ve really just tried to have a good perspective, an attitude of gratitude, and really just enjoy every moment of this season.”
If Rodgers didn’t secure his third league Most Valuable Player award after his performance Sunday something is very wrong. As Davante Adams succinctly put it: “The MVP should be locked up. There’s nothing else to really talk about.”
Rodgers was, well, vintage Rodgers. 19 completions in 25 attempts (76%). 240 yards. Four touchdowns. No interceptions. A perfect passer rating in the first half, a stellar 147.9 for the game.
His stats would have been even better if Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who burned the Bears secondary on a 72-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, had hung on to a perfectly thrown bomb from Rodgers to open the second half.
Rodgers led the Packers on a game-clinching 12-play, 76-yard drive in the fourth quarter, capped by Aaron Jones’ 4-yard run for a 28-16 cushion. It was fitting Rodgers’ final touchdown pass—his league-leading 48th of the season and a career-best—went to Adams, who tied Sterling Sharpe’s franchise record of 18 touchdowns in a season. With six receptions for 46 yards, Adams broke Sharpe’s single-season record with 115 receptions.
Mike Pettine’s defense was the epitome of “bend but don’t break” at Soldier Field. Chicago scored a touchdown on the game’s opening drive, but the Bears’ next four trips into the red zone resulted in three field goals.
Despite being on the field for the bulk of the contest (35:29 minutes, 74 plays), the Green Bay defense made big plays at crucial times. Two of the biggest came in the fourth quarter. The Bears converted five 4th-down conversions in the game, but not the sixth attempt early in the fourth quarter trailing 21-16.
Cornerback Chandon Sullivan read and almost intercepted Mitch Trubisky’s sprint-out pass intended for Allen Robinson to set up Green Bay’s 76-yard touchdown drive. On Chicago’s ensuing possession, safety Adrian Amos intercepted an ill-advised Trubisky throw in Bears territory and the Packers capitalized on Adams’ touchdown to account for the 35-16 final.
For the first time since 2011, the road to the Super Bowl potentially goes through Green Bay in January. The Packers are two wins away from a trip to Tampa Bay.
“It gives us an opportunity,” Rodgers said. “Different year, so the home-field advantage might not mean the exact same as in years past. Obviously, with the home field crowd, that can make a difference at certain times in the game. But it’s important. We know the weather is an issue always in these months, so we’ll definitely be hoping for some cold, frigid temperatures in a couple weeks.”
LaFleur said the team will have a short breather before resuming preparations for their divisional game.
We also understand there’s a lot in front of us,” he said. “We’re going to have to continue to be disciplined in our approach and take it day by day, not only from the football component but just being responsible off the field as well.”
“Just everything that’s going on in the world, what we told our guys is we need everybody in that locker room to be at their very best.”
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