How the Packers won the NFC Championship Game

The NFC Championship game was a hard-fought battle between the Packers and the Bears.  It was nothing like either of their previous blowout playoff games in which the Packers scored the first 35 points in their game against the Falcons, and the Bears scored the first 28 points in their game against the Seahawks.  This game was different, as both defenses stepped up, and the game was not decided until there was less than a minute left in the game. 

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron RodgersAs I was watching the game, I knew the Packers were going to score on their first drive.  The thing I didn’t know is that the Packers would only score two more times the entire game, one being by the defense.  The Bears first possession was not as productive, but they moved the ball 29 yards to the Green Bay 34.  Instead of attempting a FG, the Bears decided to try to pin the Packers deep in their own territory.  A series of punts by both teams ensued, and the Packers led the Bears at the end of the first quarter 7-0. 

The Bears were pinned on their own 2 yard line just before the end of the first quarter, and a three-and-out series Green Bay Packers Running back James Starksgave Green Bay excellent field position on the Bears 44.  Five plays later, and a 4 yard run by James Starks gave the Packers a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.  Things were looking great for the Packers, just as they had in their rout against the Atlanta Falcons.  At one point in the quarter, the Bears had the ball on the Green Bay 31 yard line, and again decided to punt instead of attempting a field goal.  With two minutes left in the half Jay Cutler was sacked, and at the time, nobody knew how much that would impact the game.  Both teams had interceptions within the last minute of the half, but neither team scored, and the Packers led at halftime 14-0.

When the third quarter began, Jay Cutler was in at quarterback for the first series but the Bears went three-and-out.  When the Packers got the ball for the first time in the second half, it looked like the route was on.  Aaron Rodgers drove the ball 77 Chicago Bears Linebacker Brian Urlacheryards down to the Bears 6 yard line, and it looked like the score would soon be 21-0.  On third and goal, Rodgers threw late over the middle towards Donald DriverBrian Urlacher was playing zone, made the interception and returned it 39 yards to the Chicago 45.  When the Bears got the ball back this time, Cutler had been replaced by 39-year-old veteran Todd Collins.  It was later discovered that Cutler had a torn MCL in his right leg.  After unimpressive outings in two series, and with 57 seconds left in the third quarter, the Bears made a desperate move and brought in third string quarterback Caleb Hanie, who had played only sparingly in two games all season.

Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb HanieMuch to everyone’s surprise, the Bears new quarterback Caleb Hanie took them on an 8 play, 67 yard TD drive that closed the score to 14-7 with 12:02 still remaining in the game.  With the Bears deep in their own territory again, Hanie made his first mistake, as 337 pound nose tackle B.J. Raji stepped in front of the pass intended for Matt Forte.  Raji intercepted the ball and ended up running it back 18 yards for a TD.  That put the score at 21-7 Packers.  Instead of quitting and thinking the game was over, Hanie, on the Bears next possession, drove the ball 60 yards in 1:21 to make the score 21-14 with 4:43 still left in the game.  After being unable to establish a drive long enough to put any points on the board in their last five possessions, the Packers once again gave the ball back to the Bears.  This time with 2:53 remaining.  Caleb Hanie moved the ball 42 yards to the Green Bay 29 yard line.  On fourth and five with 47 seconds left, Hanie threw the ball to wide receiver Johnny Knox near the Green Bay 12 yard line.  The ball was underthrown, and intercepted by rookie cornerback Sam Shields, which ended the Bears opportunity to try and tie or win the game.  It was Shields’ second interception of the game, and with 37 seconds left, Aaron Rodgers kneeled one time while the Bears defense watched the clock count down to 0:00.

Green Bay Packers defensive back Sam ShieldsUnfortunately, the Bears did not establish much of a running game, as they could only muster 70 yards on 21 carries.  Time of possession and turnovers were critical in this game just as I had predicted, and the Packers were more successful at both.  The Packers had three interceptions on the day, two sacks, and held the ball 8:08 longer than the Bears.  Field position was a struggle all day for the Bears, as they always seemed to start their possessions near their own goal-line.  What did make the game close was the Bears ability to hold Aaron Rodgers in check, as he ended up 17-30 for 244 yards, no TD’s and 2 interceptions.  The Bears didn’t allow any big plays, although Greg Jennings was the most productive player on the field with 8 catches and 130 yards.  The Bears put the Packers in third down situations 11 times and gave up only 2 first downs.  The most any team scored against each other in their three meetings this year was the Packers 21 points this game, which was just enough to take them to the Superbowl.

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~ by Troy Erickson Realtor on February 1, 2011.

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