It was exactly the kind of tough, defensive football game that a Bears-Packers NFC championship game should be, and ultimately it was the Packers' defense that sealed the win with two fourth-quarter interceptions of Bears third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie, who actually played well under the circumstances. Just not well enough to win.
Packers defensive back Sam Shields picked off Hanie in the red zone with mere seconds left to thwart a comeback.
Some thoughts on the game:
• Aaron Rodgers struggled mightily in the second half as the Green Bay offense stagnated and failed to score, while the Bears generated 14 fourth-quarter points. This after the Packers had held complete control for most of the game.
• Rodgers did get off to an amazing start, throwing four perfect passes for 76 yards on the opening drive, then finishing it with a one-yard touchdown run to give the Packers a 7-0 lead.
• It took all of three seconds for the sloppy turf at Soldier Field to have an impact on the game: Green Bay's James Starks slipped while returning the opening kickoff and was stopped after gaining just 12 yards.
• On the Packers' ensuing kickoff they booted the ball short to avoid Devin Hester, setting up the Bears in good field position at the 37-yard line.
• Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and receiver Hester couldn't hook up after Hester got open for what could have been a huge gain on third-and-7 at the end of the Bears' first drive, leading to a punt.
• The Packers' offense picked up right where it left off on the first play of the second drive, with Starks running up the middle for 16 yards.
• After that run, however, the Bears finally started to pressure Rodgers, aided in large part by starting tackle Chad Clifton suffering an injury and being replaced by backup T.J. Lang. Feeling the pressure, Rodgers threw three straight incompletions and the Packers had to punt.
• The Bears' second series was a three-and-out that ended with Cutler getting sacked, and another punt.
• Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher had a huge sack on the Packers' next series, with an eight-yard loss on third down taking Green Bay out of field goal range and forcing a punt. That punt was outstanding, and the Packers downed it at the 2-yard line.
• Chicago's next series was terrible, with two runs into the line of scrimmage sandwiching an incomplete pass, and the Bears had to punt again.
• Taking advantage of the good field position, Green Bay went 44 yards in five plays, with Starks capping it off for a four-yard touchdown run that made the score 14-0.
• The Bears finally started to get things going offensively on their next drive, but a costly holding penalty backed them up out of the red zone and Chicago ended up punting for the fourth time.
• Rodgers reeled off a 25-yard run on the Packers' next drive, showing once again that he's among the best running backs in the league at making plays with his feet. Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, however, made a big third-and-1 stop to force the Packers to punt again.
• After yet another Bears punt -- Brad Maynard's fifth of the first half -- Chicago finally caught a break on defense, when Rodgers threw a low pass to Donald Driver that bounced off Driver's hands and into the hands of Bears linebacker Lance Briggs for an interception. But Cutler promptly threw an interception of his own, with Shields making a great diving grab, and the Packers took a 14-0 lead into halftime.
• The Packers looked like they were about to score another touchdown early in the third quarter until Urlacher picked off a Rodgers pass at the goal line and took it to midfield. Urlacher would have scored if not for an open-field tackle by Rodgers.
• After that Urlacher interception, Todd Collins had to come in to replace Cutler, and the Bears' offense stagnated. After the teams traded punts, it was time for Hanie to come in, and with the Bears down 14-0 with their third-string quarterback, it appeared to be over.
• But Hanie injected some life into the Bears, throwing a great 32-yard pass to Johnny Knox that set up Chicago's first score, cutting the deficit to 14-7. The game was on.
• It appeared to be over, however, when Hanie threw a terrible pass into the hands of Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji, who rumbled 18 yards for a touchdown to give the Packers a 21-7 lead. But the Bears responded to that mistake well, with Hanie quickly marching them down the field, covering 60 yards in just four plays and concluding with a touchdown pass from Hanie to Earl Bennett.
• After that touchdown the Packers went three-and-out, and the Bears were in business, with the ball, down just seven points, with 2:53 to play. But while Hanie drove the Bears inside the Packers' 30-yard line, he ultimately threw a pass over the middle that Shields intercepted -- his second of the game -- to seal the win.
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