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Bears sweep Pack for first time since 1991

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Most playoff teams would expect to get
more than 166 yards passing from their starting quarterback.

For the Chicago Bears, however, it represents a giant leap
forward.

Rex Grossman didn't pile up gaudy statistics in his first
regular-season start in nearly 15 months. But his ability to throw
accurate deep passes gave the Bears a new dimension, helping them
clinch the NFC North and a first-round bye with a 24-17 victory
over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

"We mixed it up a little bit," Grossman said. "We saw a lot
of tape where we could do some things down the field, and we made a
few plays there. We got a lead and came back to our running game
and great defense."

The Bears (11-4) also swept the Packers for the first time since
1991.

"I don't think you can change the magnitude of winning in Green
Bay or clinching the division in Green Bay," said linebacker Lance
Briggs, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the third
quarter. "It's the Packers. They're our biggest rival."

The Packers (3-12) are well on their way toward their first
losing season in the Brett Favre era. With one game remaining, the
futures of Favre and coach Mike Sherman remain in doubt.

"This one really hurts, because we didn't want them to win the
division on our field," Packers defensive tackle Grady Jackson
said. "This season feels like a bad dream."

The season has been a nightmare for Favre, who tried to rally
the Packers in the final minute but came up short. A potential
game-tying drive ended with yet another Favre interception.

Favre had four more passes picked off Sunday, bringing his total
to 28 for the season and surpassing his previous career high of 24
in 1993.

"Anytime a quarterback gets four interceptions, you have to
look at that," Sherman said. "I do know this: He gave us a chance
to win there at the end."

Favre has gone four straight games without a touchdown pass, the
first time in his career he has gone more than two games without
throwing for a score.

Favre, who has yet to decide if he will return to play next
season, didn't speak to reporters after the game.

Favre outdueled Grossman with 317 yards on 30-of-51 passing,
including six passes to Donald Driver for 106 yards. But Grossman
threw more effective deep passes, opening up space for running back
Thomas Jones. Jones had 25 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown.

"It was great to see the offense do that," coach Lovie Smith
said. "It was good to see the defense finish the job at the end.
It was a great team effort, a great team win."

Grossman missed most of last season with a knee injury, then
broke his ankle in a preseason game in August. He was replaced by
rookie Kyle Orton, who played mostly mistake-free football but
didn't make spectacular plays.

Smith replaced Orton with Grossman in the second half of the
Bears' victory over Atlanta last Sunday night. After naming
Grossman his new starter, Smith spent most of last week proclaiming
that the Bears weren't about to deviate from their identity as a
run-first offense.

But he gave Grossman license to let it fly.

Grossman heaved a deep pass toward wide receiver Bernard Berrian
on the Bears' first offensive play. The pass fell incomplete, but
Grossman kept throwing.

Grossman completed his next five passes, including three for
first downs and a 12-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad on
third-and-goal from the Packers 12.

Grossman set up the Bears' second touchdown with a 54-yard heave
to Berrian; a subsequent roughing penalty on Packers defensive end
Michael Montgomery gave Chicago first-and-goal on the Packers 9.

Jones plunged into the end zone two plays later, putting the
Bears ahead 14-7.

Bears kicker Robbie Gould added a 45-yard field goal in the
third quarter, making the score 17-7. Packers kicker Ryan Longwell
missed a 38-yard field goal in the second quarter and 39-yarder in
the third.

"It was just one of those days -- should have made the kicks,"
Longwell said.

Briggs returned his interception 10 yards for a touchdown,
making it 24-7 in the third quarter. But the Packers didn't quit.

Antonio Chatman returned a punt 85 yards for a score to make it
24-14 with 7:54 remaining. The Packers drew to within a touchdown
when Longwell finally connected on a 26-yard field goal with 1:54
remaining.

The Packers got the ball back with 1:26 left, and Favre hit
Driver on a 56-yard completion to put the Packers at the Bears 35
with less than a minute remaining. But a spike and consecutive
sacks left Favre only with time for a fourth-down heave that was
picked off by Chris Harris -- his second of the day -- as time
expired.

Game Notes
Four Bears starters were inactive Sunday: Safety Mike Brown
(calf); defensive tackle Ian Scott (hamstring); linebacker Hunter
Hillenmeyer (thumb); and right guard Terrence Metcalf (shoulder).
... Packers center Mike Flanagan left the game after aggravating
his sports hernia.

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