Packers 21

(10-6, 3-5 away)

Bears 14

(11-5, 5-3 home)

Coverage: FOX

3:00 PM ET, January 23, 2011

Soldier Field, Chicago, IL 

1 2 3 4 T
GB 7 7 0 721
CHI 0 0 0 1414

Top Performers

Passing: A. Rodgers (GB) - 244 YDS, 2 INT

Rushing: J. Starks (GB) - 22 CAR, 74 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: G. Jennings (GB) - 8 REC, 130 YDS

Defense propels Packers into Super Bowl after Bears lose Jay Cutler

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- There was one Monster of the Midway in the NFC Championship Game and his name was Aaron Rodgers.

He wasn't even at his best and, still, he was better than the first, the second and the third quarterback used in vain by the Chicago Bears against their bitter rivals.

Rodgers ran for a score and made a TD-saving tackle in leading the Green Bay Packers into the Super Bowl with a bone-jarring 21-14 victory Sunday over Chicago.

"It's an incredible feeling," Rodgers said. "I'm at a loss for words."

Rodgers played well enough to keep the Bears off balance all afternoon, Green Bay punter Tim Masthay kept Devin Hester under wraps and the Packers' superb defense took care of the rest in knocking the Bears out of the playoffs.

It was the 182nd meeting in the league's most historic feud, and the stakes had never been bigger.

Now the Packers (13-6) are headed to Dallas. And no matter what happens in the Super Bowl on Feb. 6, the Packers and their fans hold ultimate bragging rights over their foes to the south.

Green Bay will play the Pittsburgh Steelers, who topped the New York Jets 24-19 in the AFC championship game. The Packers opened as 2½-point favorites for the game at Cowboys Stadium.

"We made a play to win the game and that's all that matters," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. "Keep playing defense the way we know how, and it's going to be tough for teams to beat us."

All Jay Cutler could do was watch, having left the game with a knee injury early in the third quarter. Even before the injury, Cutler was having trouble moving the ball. Worse, he was getting booed by the home fans.

Primary backup Todd Collins replaced Cutler and was jeered even worse. Then little-known backup Caleb Hanie and the Bears (12-6) actually made it a game.

Chicago's third-string quarterback rallied the Bears for a touchdown drive to cut the lead to 14-7 after Chester Taylor's 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

Hanie had a chance to tie the game after the Bears' defense finally got a few stops, but threw a ball straight to Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji, who lumbered 18 yards into the end zone for a touchdown to give the Packers a 21-7 lead.

But Hanie wasn't finished. He threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett to again cut the lead to seven points with 4:43 left.

The Bears forced a punt and got the ball back with under 3 minutes left. Hanie drove the Bears to the Green Bay 29-yard line, then threw a fourth-down interception to Sam Shields -- the rookie's second of the game.

Now all those Pro Bowl voters who didn't think Rodgers was worthy can relax. They're off the hook. Rodgers will be headed to the Super Bowl instead.

Rodgers proved ready for the biggest day of his brief but impressive career as the successor to Brett Favre, even if his final stat line didn't look impressive after an ugly, hard-fought game.

He threw for 244 yards with two interceptions -- a disappointment, given how well he had played lately. But his play in the first half was good enough to put the Bears in a two-touchdown hole, boggling a good defense that suddenly seemed to fall for every play-action fake.

Chicago was ready for a championship party under sunny skies and 20-degree temperatures, and went wild from the national anthem on. But Rodgers quieted them down quickly, marching the Packers on an opening drive then ended with Rodgers scrambling for a score.

The Bears went with a heavy dose of running back Matt Forte early on, with limited success.

Early in the second quarter, Brandon Jackson faked Brian Urlacher out for a long gain on a screen pass, and Rodgers' pass to Jordy Nelson set up James Starks' 4-yard touchdown run to give Green Bay a 14-0 lead.

It was the latest in a series of big moments for Rodgers, who has earned near-universal praise for the way he has played this season -- especially since sitting out the Packers' Dec. 19 loss at New England because of a concussion.

Rodgers has been on a hot streak ever since, and doing it under pressure. The Packers would have been out of the playoffs with a loss in either of their last two regular-season games, including the regular season finale against Chicago.

With the Packers leading 14-0 at halftime, Green Bay's defense forced a three-and-out to begin the second half, and Rodgers went back to marching the Packers down the field.

With the Packers poised to put the game away, Rodgers instead tossed the ball to Urlacher on third-and-goal. He took off and ran down the Bears linebacker near midfield, barely preventing him from running it back for a touchdown when he grabbed him.

"I don't think he saw me," Urlacher said. "He threw it to me -- then he tackled me."

Rodgers' play almost certainly saved a score and might have saved the game.

"I don't get paid to tackle, but that was probably one of my better plays of the game," Rodgers said.

Urlacher, who said earlier in the week that he voted for Rodgers for the Pro Bowl, walked away impressed.

"Great quarterback, no doubt about that," Urlacher said.

But after Urlacher's interception, the Bears couldn't make anything happen with Collins in for Cutler, and appeared to be headed for a blowout until Hanie took over.

Packers players were surprised Cutler didn't come back.

"You know if he doesn't come back it had to be serious, not to come back and play in this game," Charles Woodson said.

Matthews wasn't sure when Cutler got hurt.

"Kinda wish they would have had Jay in there the whole time the way things were going," Matthews said.

Bears coach Lovie Smith grew testy after being asked several questions about Cutler's injury.

"He hurt his knee and he was out, all right?" Smith said. "There's nothing else for me to tell you on that. I don't know exactly when it happened, he couldn't go and that was that."

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs2317
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays6364
Total Yards356301
Yards per play5.74.7
Total Drives1414
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-31-1
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs10

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

gbTD10:56Aaron Rodgers 1 Yard Run (Mason Crosby Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 84 yds, 4:10
gbTD11:19James Starks 4 Yard Run (Mason Crosby Kick is Good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 44 yds, 2:53
chiTD12:05Chester Taylor 1 Yard Run (Robbie Gould Kick is Good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 67 yds, 3:55
gbTD6:12B.J. Raji 18 Yard Interception Return (Mason Crosby Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 5 yds, 1:18
chiTD4:53Earl Bennett 35 Yard Pass From Caleb Hanie (Robbie Gould Kick is Good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 60 yds, 1:21

Research Notes

Chicago fans had come to expect to see the Bears win at Soldier Field in the postseason as they had won 3 straight entering Sunday's rivalry game with the Packers. What they saw instead was an offense that sputtered and put up the fewest points in a playoff game for the franchise in nearly 20 years.
130 quarterbacks have thrown at least 14 passes in a postseason game the last 5 seasons... Jay Cutler's 31.8 passer rtg is the 5th worst in that span.
NEXT-LEVEL: B.J. Raji contributed on two Packers scores on Sunday. Raji picked up a crucial pick-six in the fourth quarter and he also lined up at fullback for Aaron Rodgers' first quarter rushing touchdown. Raji also lined up at fullback for John Kuhn's touchdown run in the Divisional Round against Atlanta.
Aaron Rodgers was just 1-of-7 with a sack, an interception and one first down on 3rd down on Sunday. That interception also came in the red zone. Rodgers had thrown just one red zone interception in his entire career prior to Sunday.
NEXT-LEVEL: Sam Shields had just one interception on passes at least 15 yards downfield in the regular season and first two playoff rounds. In the NFC Conference Championship, Shields had two such interceptions.
NEXT-LEVEL: The Packers blitzed a member of the secondary 13 times - the Bears' quarterbacks went 5-for-12 with a sack, 12.2 passer rating and two interceptions, including B.J. Raji's pick-six.

PackersThe Green Bay Packers had a long road to get to Super Bowl XLV, winning away from Lambeau Field three times.

The Packers 21-14 win over the Bears was the first NFC Championship game since 1978 (Cowboys 28-0) that did not have a field goal made in the game.

ESPN Stats & Information