Senior writer jclombardi highlights Packers headlines about triumph against Bears.
NFC Champions: Packers are on their way back to the Super Bowl and feeling like the best team in the NFL. From the start of a clear, cold Sunday at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the Packers showed why they were 3½-point favorites coming in the NFC championship game even though they were seeded lower than the Bears and playing on the road. And when they’d finally survived the Bears’ shocking rally behind a third-string quarterback, the Packers had earned their 21-14 win and chance to join the pantheon of title teams from the NFL’s smallest city, which has produced 12 NFL champions, including three since the Super Bowl era began in the 1966.
PACKERS 21, BEARS 14–Tough, Resilient Packers earn trip to Super Bowl: The Packers beat the Chicago Bears, 21-14, in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday because they blocked and tackled. They won three consecutive playoff games on the road because they prepared and executed. They became the first sixth-seeded NFC team to reach the Super Bowl, knocking off the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds along the way, because they had [MORE] superb players on both sides of the ball and were [SOMEWHAT] well-coached. The Packers are going to Dallas because they’re tough. They’re resilient. They’re confident. They are representing the NFC because they are a very good team. On Feb. 6, we’ll find out if they’re the best team in the NFL. Standing in their way is another proud franchise, the AFC Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers and Bears went at each other with a ferocity befitting the occasion. The Packers dominated in building a 14-0 halftime lead, but the Bears fought back and the outcome was in doubt until the final minute. Only when cornerback Shields intercepted third-string Bears quarterback Hanie with less than 45 seconds left could the Packers and their far-flung fans finally let out a collective sigh of relief. In a sweet bit of irony, Green Bay claimed the Halas Trophy awarded to the NFC champions and named after Bears patriarch George “Papa Bear” Halas. “I’m numb,” said McCarthy, the fifth-year coach who called the victory the highlight of his professional career. “It’s a great feeling.” No team seeded sixth in the NFC had made it to the Super Bowl since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990. The Steelers did it in the AFC in 2005. The Packers (13-6) improved their all-time postseason record to 28-16 and will be trying to win their 13th NFL title. They won Super Bowls I, II and XXXI and lost Super Bowl XXXII.
Big-play D gives Packers trip to Super Bowl in Big D: That confidence came from watching the defense do it over and over during a season that will end right where the Packers hoped it would — at Super Bowl XLV. The Packer Nation couldn’t rest Sunday until rookie cornerback Sam Shields intercepted a pass with 37 seconds remaining to seal a 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears before 61,171 fans at Soldier Field. For the first time in 13 seasons, the Packers (13-6) are headed to the Super Bowl. They’ll face the Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4) on Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The victory completed a run of three road wins in 15 days and helped Green Bay become the first No. 6 seed from the NFC to make it to the Super Bowl. Fittingly, Green Bay’s honorary captain for Sunday’s game was Willie Davis, a Hall of Fame defensive end who played for the dominant Vince Lombardi teams in the 1960s. “How fitting is it for the Green Bay Packers to win an NFC championship with defense,” said Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji, who scored the deciding touchdown on an 18-yard interception return with 6 minutes, 4 seconds left in the game. “We’ve talked about it, we’ve heard about it, we see those old veterans hanging up on the wall every day when we go to work. For us to come out and play great defense, it’s a remarkable feeling.” Packers won their fifth straight game despite a subpar performance from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had been red hot in the postseason. Rodgers was 17 of 30 for 244 yards with no touchdown passes and two interceptions for a passer rating of 55.4, his lowest this season. But it didn’t matter because the defense did what it’s been doing all season: deliver in the clutch. For the third time in four games, the Packers came up with an interception in the closing minute to seal a victory.