Dramatic. That is exactly the word to describe Sunday's NFC North Division Title Game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers! For both sides, it was win and you're in, as the winner would secure a playoff berth along with a division crown.
Chicago opened up the game's scoring on it's 2nd possession when Jay Cutler hit Matt Forte for a 4 yd. TD Pass (Forte had 157 yards of total offense, and 3 Touchdown's). Brandon Marshall made a key 37 yard reception a few plays prior that helped setup the touchdown (TD) for Chicago to give the Bears a 7-0 lead. Green Bay moved the ball well on it's first three possessions, (getting inside the Chicago 30 on all three possessions) but surprisingly only came away with Field Goal. (FG)
Aaron Rodgers (who was making his first return since going down with a broken collarbone against Chicago in Week 9) was intercepted on Green Bay's first two possessions, once in the end zone by Chris Conte, and the other after a pass intended for Jordy Nelson went off his fingertips and ended up in the hands of Tim Jennings.
After Mason Crosby's FG cut the Bears lead to 7-3, the Green Bay defense forced the Chicago offense to it's second 3 and out. What followed on the ensuing Packer possession created a little bit of shock and a whole lot of confusion on both sides! 1st & 10 from the Chicago 17, Rodgers was setting up to throw for a pass when Bears Defensive End Julius Peppers had knocked the ball loose from his hands. After the play on Rodgers by Peppers, the ball went loose and every player on the field stopped, but the whistle still had not been blown, signifying the ball was live. Green Bay Wide Receiver Jarrett Boykin had picked the ball up, and being perplexed, initially stood around not realizing what was going on until he heard the sideline yelling at him to keep going. Boykin took it into the end zone for a TD, and the officials reviewed and confirmed that Peppers knocked the ball out of Rodgers hands before bringing his arm forward, creating a fumble, and live ball that allowed Green Bay to come away with the score and a 10-7 lead.
The Bears followed up with another miscue on it's ensuing possession when Alshon Jeffrey caught a pass but would Tramon Williams knocked it out of his hands and Morgan Burnett returned it to the Chicago 28. The Packers came away with three more points and took a 13-7 lead into halftime. The second half saw both offenses settle in and take charge!
After forcing Green Bay to a 3 and out, Devin Hester helped set up the Bears next scoring drive with a 49 yd. punt return to the Green Bay 30. Chicago ran the ball on each play, all carries going to Forte and concluding with him finding the end zone from 5 yards out on 1st & Goal for a TD to put the Bears back on top. The Packers responded quickly on it's following possession that started with a 17 yard run by Eddie Lacy. James Starks' number was called on the next 4 plays and tallied up 34 yards on the ground in the duration of those plays. Two plays later, Rodgers found Randall Cobb (who was also making his long awaited return from a broken tibia sustained in October) and the Packers regained the lead 20-14.
Chicago took only four plays to respond. On 3rd Down, Alshon Jeffrey came up with a huge 67 yard reception that setup the Bears on the Packers 1 yd. line. Matt Forte took it into the end zone on the very next play, and just like that, Chicago was back up 21-20! The Packers next drive would actually stall, but not without a little controversy. Andrew Quarless appeared to make a unique reception, in fact it was originally ruled that he did, but one of the other officials came in and overturned the catch and said it was an incompletion. Head Coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play. The replay showed Quarless securing the ball with both arms underneath the ball. Then as Quarless rolled over, the ball popped into the air and back down again into his chest of and into his hands for, once again, was originally ruled a catch then overturned. Officials said there was not enough indisputable evidence to over turn the incomplete call on the field. The Packers would end up punting one play later.
Chicago would take advantage of this opportunity. Brandon Marshall would make a nice catch in the corner of the end zone, spinning around and adjusting to make a play on the ball for a TD! The Bears now having scored 14 unanswered, were up 28-20! But the Packers would not go unanswered this time around! Big plays from Jordy Nelson, who fought off 4 tacklers and gained additional yardage after a reception that went for 34 yards, and a diving catch by Andrew Quarless for 22 yards, set up 1st & Goal from the Chicago 6. The very next play, Eddie Lacy took a hand off and looked as if he would be stopped behind the line of scrimmage, bounced out to the left side and walked into the end zone and made it a one point game again!
The Bears were able to once more move the ball down field, but ultimately the Green Bay defense would prevail and force Chicago to punt. The Packers picked up 9 yards on three plays. Facing a 4th & 1 from their own 2, Green Bay elected to go for it and John Kuhn picked up a yard and move the chains for the Packers offense. Later in the drive the Packers faced another 4th & 1, and converted once more when Rodgers threw to Jordy Nelson for a gain of 6 and a fresh set of downs.Three plays later, Green Bay would face its third 4th down situation. Needing 8 yards, Rodgers escaped a potential sack, flushed out of the pocket and threw a floater into the air and found a wide open Randall Cobb for a 48 yard TD (Cobbs 2nd Reception) as the Packers regained the lead in dramatic fashion.
After the failed two point conversion, Chicago still had a chance to win in regulation. Down 33-28 Cutler tried to mount a comeback, as he hit Martellus Bennett for a 15 yard gain at the Green Bay 45, but ended up throwing back to back incompletions. With less than 10 seconds remaining, Jay Cutler threw it up in the air in hopes that one of his receivers would come away with a game winning TD grab, ultimately however, Sam Shields intercepted it in the end zone and ran the back and went out of bounds after the game clock expired.
For Green Bay it's their 3rd straight division title and will host the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card Round. Meanwhile, Chicago falls to 8 & 8 and misses the playoffs for the 3rd straight season after winning the division title in 2010!
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