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Packers win NFC North, to host 49ers in wildcard

Aaron Rodgers. Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Packers win NFC North, to host 49ers in wildcard

By Jay Sorgi. CREATED Dec 29, 2013 - UPDATED: Dec 29, 2013

Postgame

11:06 p.m.
The victorious Packers are back in Green Bay.

Here's the NFC playoff schedule:

Who the Packers would face in the next round depends on the other wildcard winner.

If it's the Philadelphia Eagles (3 seed who beat Dallas), the Packers travel to Seattle for a 4:35 p.m. game on Saturday, Jan. 11.

If it's the New Orleans Saints (6 seed), the Packers travel to Carolina for a noon game on Sunday, Jan. 12.

The NFC Championship Game would be Sunday, Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.m.

Super Bowl XLVIII would be Sunday, Feb. 2 at 5:30 p.m.

By the way, here's your photobomb, with two QB's!

Also check out the amazing reaction by the Wisconsin Badgers to the Packers' game-winning touchdown pass from Rodgers to Cobb:

6:42 p.m.
The San Francisco 49ers are coming to Lambeau Field after a game-winning field goal give them a 23-20 triumph over Arizona.

Meanwhile:

6:38 p.m.
Here you go, Packers fans:

4th Quarter

6:28 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  :38
Hester to the 40....so the Bears have to go 60 yards.

14 yards to Bennett.  14 yards.  Time out.  :28.

PHEW!  A bomb into triple coverage for Jeffrey, and this time, the secondary was ready.

:16...slippage and a DROP by Marshall....wow.  They're helping the Packers' cause.

:10, 3rd down...Cutler with forever...bombage...this is it...deep...PICKED OFF!   DIVISION CHAMPS!

6:11 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  6:24
Green Bay 33, Chicago 28
Rodgers-Cobb 47 yd TD pass (2 pt play no good)

This is time for the four-minute offense extended.  Control the ball the whole time.

Lacy with two touches to start, one ground, one air.

3rd-1 at GB 22: Lacy.  Up the middle.  Bears stuff him?  Yes.  I think he got it if they give forward progress, but not given.

4th-1 at GB 22: Whoa.  This is it.  Kuhn...phew.  First down.  You may utter it: "Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn!"

Rodgers.  Jones.  Sure throw, sure catch.  Seven yards.  One-man screen, and Cobb with a great block.

3rd-3 at GB 30: Rodgers...no slide.  You must dive.  Season at stake.  First down.

3rd-1 at GB 44: Lacy.  Outside...and the Bears knew it.  Minus one.  RUN INSIDE ON THOSE PLAYS!

4th-1.5 at GB 43.5 with 2:00 left: Biggest play for the Packers, maybe, in three seasons.

RODGERS TO NELSON!  Money.  Simple hook pattern, and Chicago had no chance.

Somehow, a practice football came on the field.  Weird bit of comedy in the middle of explosive tension.

Under 1:35 left...20 yards from safe field goal range: Rodgers wasn't ready for the snap, but got a good throw out to Quarless...who slipped.

1:00 left...tick...tock..3rd-8 at CHI 48: Tim Jennings with a heck of a defensive play to separate Jordy Nelson from the ball on a behind-Nelson throw.

:46 left, 4th-7 at CHI 47, season on the line v. 2: ARod...COBB!  TOUCHDOWN!!!!!!!!   MIRACLE!!!!!!!!!  DAGGER!  (Per Wayne Larrivee, of course.)

Cobb was WIDE OPEN!!!!!   "Bears blew the coverage big time."

5:58 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  11:38
In a game with not so many penalties, a false start hurts the Bears.  No complaints from Packers Planet.

Particularly because Forte gets open for eight yards on a swing pass. 

Forte again...but this time, Williams made a critical open-field tackle after a five-yard gain.

3rd-2 at CHI 34: Forte takes care of it.  To the 45.  A sweep like the way the Packers used to run it back in the 60's.

Marshall.  Short stuff.  Seven yards....could have been much worse if his sideline tip-toeing was better.

Wilson with another first down catch.  This is child's play for the Bears offense.

Flaggage helps a bit to make it 1st-15, and so does a great open field tackle by Hawk on Forte after a catch. Just two yards.

Forte does a Payton-style bounce back to the other direction to try and make a miracle...but a five-yard loss.  NICE.

3rd-17 at GB 45: A bad burned time out by Green Bay.  Lattimore had to sprint off the field, and the Packers had to call it to avoid 12 men on the field. I would not have called that time out. Let them have 3rd-12, but keep the TO for when you'll REALLY need it.

3rd-17, v.2: Bombage...Jeffrey...nope.  Almost a highlight-film catch.  Shields didn't have good position at the point of the catch, but Jeffrey had his hands on it.

5:51 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  14:55
Chicago 28, Green Bay 27
Lacy 6 yd TD run

Season at stake, guys.  With the way the Bears' offense is gashing Green Bay, the Packers must respond now.

Nelson with a quick throw...BROKEN TACKLE...OFF TO THE RACES.  He is perhaps singlehandedly carrying this offense.  34 yards.  

Play action to Jones...12 yards on a one-man screen.  With little running game due to an injured Lacy, it's gonna be up to Rodgers' arm.

WOW!  Insane catch by Quarless, and this one counts.  23 yards, and that throw was about an inch away from being a pick.  Reminiscent of Super Bowl 3rd down throws.

Lacy does something MONSTROUS!  Six yards on an outside bounce and Rodgers helps him with a block to paydirt!

5:48 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  continued from 3rd quarter
Chicago 28, Green Bay 20
Cutler-Marshall 5 yd TD pass

Cutler...end zone...a tall guy caught it where a short guy wouldn't.  Marshall.  Eight-point game.

3rd Quarter

5:41 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  3:27
Cutler to Marshall...burning Hyde.  Not unexpected.  Marshall is, understatedly, good.  Hyde's a rookie.

Forte stiff-arms a tackle attempt.  Richardson gets destroyed.  From a 1 yd gain to a 16 yard gain.

Cutler to Forte...super open.  33 yards.  Not a defender within 20 yards of him, then two broken tackles.  Pathetic defense.

2nd-goal at GB 5: Forte outside...and Williams run-stuffs well on the pitchout.

5:32 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  5:04
Rodgers...Nelson...another near-explosive play of 18 yards.  Slant pattern.  Nice.

WHAT A CATCH BY QUARLESS!  He sprawled for it.  Tipped it up.  Caught it.

But the refs say it was a trap.

Sadly, good call, I think???...though McCarthy is throwing the challenge flag.  I don't think he's winning this one.

3rd-10 at GB 38: Nope.  To Nelson, but a rare great job of coverage on Nelson by a linebacker helping the safety.

5:24 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  7:27
Chicago 21, Green Bay 20
Forte 1 yd TD run

A short kickoff means Hester doesn't run it.  Thankfully.  The ball comes out to the 25.

Forte could have slammed for a first down up the middle, but B.J. Raji and Jamari Lattimore closed the hole shut.

3rd-4 at CHI 32: Bomb.  Jeffrey is wide open.  Burned Shields.  Horrible.  

But is it a TD?  His torso may have been down before the ball reaches the plane of the goal.

1st-goal at GB 1: Forte's 3rd TD.

5:16 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  10:46
Green Bay 20, Chicago 14
Rodgers-Cobb 7 yd TD pass

Lacy is back...and rumbling!  Perhaps what the Packers should have done on 3rd-1...um, he's slow to get up.  He is REALLY hurting.  Limping.  Nowhere near 100%.

Starks may have to carry it the rest of the game.

3rd-1 at GB 46: Starks...BIG hole!  Broken tackle!  MONSTER RUN to the 15!  It helps to face "the worst defense in the history of the Chicago Bears!" - Wayne Larrivee

3rd-4 at CHI 7: FINALLY!  Rodgers hits the end zone...and it's COBB!  The comeback boys pull off the comeback.

5:10 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  13:19
Chicago 14, Green Bay 13
Forte 5 yd TD run

Forte. 15 yards.  Packers' run defense not exactly as good as it could be with a healthy Johnny Jolly.

"Packers lead by a tenuous six points." - Wayne Larrivee

3rd-2 at GB 8: Forte to the outside, and it's five yards that the Packers must protect for the lead.

"If you could script the wrong way to come out of the locker room at halftime..." - Larry McCarren

1st-goal at GB 5: Forte.  Outside.  Nobody laid a hand on him.

5:07 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  15:00 left in 3rd quarter
Starks getting more playing time as I think Lacy's ankle is really hurting him.  Starks is doing OK to well.  Lacy would have had a 1st down on the 2nd down play.

3rd-1 at GB 29: Boykin missed, as Bowman rode him down, had a hand on his back, but no call.  "Fairly handsy." - Larry McCarren

Missed opportunity.

Uh oh.  Hester.  Huge outside return with the Bears getting away with a body bump clip.  HUGE return.  Bears 30 yards from the lead.

Halftime

5:05 p.m.
If the scores stand as they are in the late games, it's the Packers hosting San Francisco in the NFC wildcard game, with Seattle becoming the NFC top seed and New Orleans going to the NFC East champ in the other wildcard game.

2nd Quarter

4:52 p.m.  Bears' 4th Drive  :02
Just a muff recovery at the 32.  Yawn.

4:45 p.m.  Packers' 4th Drive  1:47
Green Bay 13, Chicago 7
Crosby 27 yd FG

What an opportunity for a monster score to end the half here.

Lacy with a short run, and he is in pain...running hard despite it.

Rodgers...JUST missed Nelson who was wide open 10 yards from a two-score lead.

3rd-7 at CHI 25: Nelson.  Diving catch.  Money.  Ol' reliable and it's nine yards to a commanding lead.

1st-goal at CHI 9: Lacy and the Chicago defense has a bead on him.  Nothing.  Tick..tock..tick..tock.

2nd-goal at CHI 9, :20 left: Rodgers has to simply throw the ball away to save a third down, as NO ONE was open.

3rd-goal at CHI 9, :11 left: Rodgers...threw it to Schaumburg to save the field goal attempt.

4:40 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  3:23
Great job by Jarrett Bush holding Devin Hester.  Behind the 20 yard line.

Bush takes care of the bad field position with a nice run up the middle.  Garza slams Daniels down.  (He's pretty good, that Garza guy.)

Now under two minutes...JEFFREY FUMBLES!  Burnett...lateral to Shields.  Cue the happy calliope music.  28 yards from paydirt.

Turnovers will decide this.

4:28 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  6:09
Green Bay 10, Chicago 7
Boykin fumble recovery TD

James Anderson has no one to block him before destroying Eddie Lacy for a loss of two.  Even bowling balls need an offensive line.

Lacy gets his yardage back for seven yards on a screen pass, and he injures Tim Jennings by leaping over him, but his thigh which is as big as a tree trunk slams Jennings' head.

3rd-4 at CHI 35: Jones.  Money.  Seven yards on a square out.  Simple.

Starks bounces off left guard.  Great eight yard gain, thanks to Sitton/Quarless blocks.

Rodgers struck hard as he had to get rid of the ball on 1st-10.  What?  Fumble?  It was recovered by Boykin....TOUCHDOWN?   "That...is...weird." - Wayne Larrivee

The football was spinning like a fumbled ball when Peppers hit Rodgers.  It went forward.  Boykin got the ball on a lark, consulted Rodgers, ran into the end zone and the ref put his arms up.

But doesn't the "Holy Roller" rule preclude a fumble forward recovery for a TD?

CONFIRMED RULING AND TD!  WHAT? The Holy Roller rule doesn't count here.

4:21 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  7:59
Hester gathers a short kickoff...but a flag near the 20 means a long field for Cutler.  Lots of pushing/shoving.

MULUMBA owns the tight end on the left side and got to Cutler's blind side.  First career sack.

3rd-10 at CHI 10: Cutler over the middle and a NEAR pick by Bush.  Get that pick and Rodgers is in SERIOUS business.

4:10 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  12:45
Chicago 7, Green Bay 3
Crosby 33 yd FG

Lacy's back and bowling ball-style for five yards.  Four guys had to take him down.

3rd-5 at CHI 41: Nelson!  To the Chicago 33!  Fantastic crossing pattern from the slot and 28 yards.  He is MONSTROUS against this secondary.

3rd-3.5 at CHI 32: Had forever, but fantastic coverage forced a sack.  He almost lost his footing. Chicago lost their mind, as McClellin, the guy who put Rodgers out for seven weeks, hit him after he went down.

18 yards and a kick from a tie game: Jones with a stiff arm to get him some extra yardage, seven yards.  "Jones with a stiff-arm and a half." - Larry McCarren

Lacy with a rare miscue, slipping on the not-so-great turf and it's a four-yard loss.  Briggs did a great job penetrating, and Lacy tried to cut back.  He slipped on the cut back.

3rd-7 at CHI 15: End zone...Nelson...nope.  One-handed try by Nelson.  Overthrow.

4:05 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  14:21
Bears run the pistol, and throw to Jeffrey....but the Packers were ready.  GREAT Williams tackle to force a 1-yard gain.

3rd-5 at CHI 26: Cutler's off, too.  Throw behind Marshall, and Hyde was all over it, too.

HUGE 3-and-out.

UH OH.  Hyde let the ball come loose on the punt catch...phew.  Packers control the ball, but not after major heart failure.

4:02 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  continued from 1st quarter
"I believe I see No. 18 in the huddle." - Larry McCarren

Rodgers goes to Nelson instead with a great circle route and he was WIDE open, to the Chicago 26.  Credit Rodgers' mobility with the intent to throw.  32 yards.

Ugh.  Nelson's drop led to the 2nd pick.  But the throw was high.  He should make that catch, but not the best throw.

1st Quarter

3:55 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  2:07
Packers need to respond....and they're running Starks right now. 

Just two yards on the first carry.  Will need to see if there's issues with Lacy's ankle.

Starks with a nice easy short throw to Starks to the cusp of a first down.

3rd-.5 at GB 28.5: Starks...broken tackle saves the first down...and gives him a chance to punish some Bears en route to nine yards.

3:47 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  5:43
Chicago 7, Green Bay 0
Cutler-Forte 4 yd TD pass

With snow falling hard, Cutler with a low throw to Marshall who dropped it.

Take 2: Cutler to Marshall...and this one works.  First down.  Easy key pass completion.  A play the Packers love to run.

Forte on a fake reverse and the Packers get big-time gashed.  Absolutely no one waiting for Forte on the right side.  21 yards.  Zero outside contain.

Cutler with forever...goes deep...uh oh. Marshall puts the Bears in close.  Had forever, and Shields got beat on a play few human beings could stop.

1st-goal at CHI 8: Great coverage, and Cutler threw the end zone fade to Gary, Ind.

2nd-goal at CHI 8: Forte up to the four.  Not horrible outcome, since Chicago probably will still throw on 3rd down.

3rd-goal at CHI 4: Forte on a circle route, and Chicago strikes first.

3:29 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  13:13
He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

80 yards to paydirt: Lacy with an outside toss run...nice patience gives him a burst outside for an easy 14 yards.

Rodgers' first throw: quick throw for five yards to Boykin.  No huddle, too....he's really getting in the groove.

Forever to throw and A-Rod's 2-2.  Quarless with a great catch as a Bears defender was clocking him.  Credit Lacy for the blitz pickup.

Eight more yards for Lacy right up the middle.  Ladies and gentlemen, this offense is showing the productivity early that we knew it could have all year.

3rd-3 at CHI 45: Play action...Nelson, Mr. Clutch, for the first down.  The slant was there for 1/2 second.  Rodgers got it there when he needed it to be.

"Aaron Rodgers looks pretty sharp, doesn't seem to be overly rusty." - Larry McCarren

Starks.  Drop.  "Right between the four and the four on his jersey." - Wayne Larrivee.

3rd-4 at CHI 25: Flag as Frey reached and held Nelson on the patented slant pattern.  That was a hug around his stomach.

Boykin with a heck of a Madden spinning move on a one-on-one pattern, broke about five tackles to get four yards.  Perhaps not the best play design.

3rd-5 at CHI 15: Nelson.  Again.  A broken tackle got him the first down.

"It is just different when Aaron Rodgers is running the offensive show." - Larry McCarren

1st-goal at CHI 9: Lacy right.  Great slam for four yards on a run the Bears knew was coming.

2nd-goal at CHI 5: Rodgers runs himself...and Chicago also knew what was coming.  He smartly slid to protect his injury.

3rd-goal at CHI 5: Has to scramble...picked in the end zone.  Conte.  A rare mistake.  That pass had no chance.

3:25 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  15:00
This is it.  The season at stake.

Hester does what he does well: get around the wedge and get big yardage...near midfield...and it gets worse.  Unnecessary roughness after the play.  Ugh.  Aiyewa.

Hyde did well to stop Marshall's quick WR screen pass, hold him to three yards.  He didn't make the tackle, but he helped his teammates get to Marshall.

3rd-2 at GB 34: Fast throw and a HECK of a job by Tramon Williams who was where the football was going before Jeffrey was there.

Without that play, Chicago scores points on the drive.

It appeared the Bears' Ford had touched the football during the punt while his feet were in the end zone.  But replay shows may not be the case.  Chicago challenges and loses.  The ruling stands.

Pregame updates

3:22 p.m.
Packers win the toss...they will defer to the 2nd half, smartly.  Decide the wind or the ball for the 2nd stanza?  Interesting.

3:04 p.m.
Carolina will not be coming to Lambeau Field after their 21-20 edging of Atlanta.  That means a Packers win means either New Orleans, San Francisco or Seattle.

Click here for the full playoff scenarios.

2:49 p.m.
More of Mike McCarthy's exclusive gameday preview:

- On Jay Cutler
"Very talented...can make all the throws.  The man's played a lot of football...he gets better and better with each opportunity in this new offense."

- On the new Chicago offense
"Totally different...do a great job with Matt Forte running the football...a lot of underneath, controlled passing game...more of a traditional west coast offense."

- On the explosive receiving corps of the Bears
"Big men, and they go up and catch the football...made a difference in their football team...definitely a big time group."

- On the nature of this division-determining game
"Throw the statistics out.  It's a one-game season."

- On the need to win the turnover battle
"Turnover ratio is a huge factor in the outcome of football games...the last month, we're going about it the right way.  We've got to do a great job of ball extraction today."

- On the need to win in the return game and the field position battle
"Ball placement is at a premium today...field position will be another primary factor in this game."

- Will snow, sleet, wind lead to a game plan change?
"We have a weather-assessment plan each and every game.  It starts in pregame...we had a meeting about it earlier with the coordinators.  We'll go through our pregame and we'll assess, and if we need to adjust the playcalling, we will."

2:48 p.m.
Good news for Eddie Lacy:

2:43 p.m.
Mike McCarthy exclusively with Wayne Larrivee.

- On the finality of this rivalry game
"It's about one game...everything you do throughout the off-season, preseason, the struggles you have, the success you have, it comes down to one game.  It's a great spot to be in."

- On the loss to Pittsburgh, and a 2nd chance
"It was a lift, a microcosm of our season...it's been so up and down.  All you can ask for is an opportunity."

- On the possibility of Rodgers playing rusty
"Can't really worry about it.  Aaron's practiced for three weeks.  We have great faith in him as a football player, a leader of our team."

- On Randall Cobb's role
"We're going to get him in some plays, see how it goes, get him acclimated...I don't think it's practical for Randall to play 50 plays today."

- On Eddie Lacy playing hurt
"Eddie will definitely start the game.  We'll see how he goes.  We feel really good about our 1-2 punch with Eddie and James Starks."

- On the linebackers w/o Matthews/Jones
"Nate Palmer will be up.  We have a 4-man rotation with Mike Neal, Nick (Perry) and Andy (Mulumba)."

2:38 p.m.
They like both kinds of football in Brazil...at least if the Packers are playing.

He might be happy this guy is warming up at quarterback for Chicago:

2:28 p.m.
Will Randall Cobb play punt returner today?

2:24 p.m.
Teams may want to take the wind at their back and head north to south today if they win the flip.

Here's why:

1:57 p.m.
Randall Cobb is active! 

Who's not:
- WR Chris Harper
- LB Brad Jones (Andy Mulumba and Mike Neal will start at OLB)
- LB Clay Matthews (we knew that)
- CB Jumal Rolle
- G Lane Taylor
- C J.C. Tretter
- DE C.J. Wilson

1:56 p.m.
It's getting worse weather-wise.

1:47 p.m.
So THAT'S who that guy is who we've seen at Packers road games:

1:20 p.m.
For those of you who love the song "The Bears Still Suck," you are joined...by Donald Driver.

1:09 p.m.
It's a crazy playoff scenario today - 18 different teams with playoff plans, and only 12 can get there.  Click here for the full scenarios.

Here's the breakdown for who the Packers would theoretically face in the wildcard round - the NFC 5 seed.
- If San Francisco and Seattle win (most probable), or if New Orleans loses: San Francisco comes to Green Bay next weekend.
- If San Francisco wins and Seattle loses: Seattle comes to Lambeau
- If San Francisco loses, Carolina and New Orleans win: New Orleans travels to Green Bay
- If San Francisco loses, Carolina loses and New Orleans wins: Carolina travels to Lambeau

12:35 p.m.
A restaurant is serving a Jay Cutler-themed omelet.  You can apparently "pick 6" ingredients.

12:32 p.m.
Welcome to Soldier Field...the only stadium that makes it look like a spaceship landed inside a Greek monument.

But inside, it actually looks pretty cool.

12:15 p.m.
It's a cold and gray day today in Chicago.  December football.  Just as it should be.

11:36 a.m. Happy birthday, Ray Nitschke!  This is a game we're guessing you would have loved to play in, in conditions you would have enjoyed.

11:33 a.m.
It's a wet, chilly one in Chicago, and it's going to only get worse.  Eddie Lacy, be ready.

Pregame Story

It's the most important regular season meeting ever between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears - the first time they've ever ended a season with a division title at stake.

The winner moves on.  The loser's season ends.

And yes, the most valuable Packer, the guy Mike McCarthy calls "the best player in football," will be on the field after a nearly two-month layoff.

But Chicago will not lie down, and Rodgers' presence does not automatically mean a playoff berth - even if Jay Cutler's the other quarterback.

The season's on the line. Stay tuned.