Packers beat offensively challenged Bears, become second No. 6 seed to make Super Bowl

Green Bay Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji (Left-Center) celebrates with teammates after intercepting and scoring a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the fourth quarter of their NFC Championship game at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, USA 23 January 2011. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-14 and will play the AFC Champion in Super Bowl XLV 06 February in Dallas, Texas, USA. EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO fotoglif933236

Here are five quick-hit thoughts about the Packers’ 21-14 win over the Bears in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

1. The Packers’ improbable run continues.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate what the 2010 Green Bay Packers have been able to do. They entered the season as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, only to see their hopes seemingly wash away because of injuries. Needing two wins in the final two weeks just to qualify for the postseason, they crushed the Giants and edged out the Bears to clinch the No. 6 seed in the NFC. Against long odds, the Packers then go on the road and knock off the Eagles, the No. 1-seeded Falcons and the No. 2-seeded Bears to reach the Super Bowl. It’s hard enough to win on the road, nevertheless do so in the postseason when home field advantage is so paramount. The Packers are red-hot and match up well with either the Jets or Steelers.

2. Capers deserves a lot of praise for the play of his defense.
Rex Ryan has earned a lot of attention this postseason for his defensive game plans, but Dom Capers deserves some of the spotlight after what Green Bay did on Sunday. His defense is the main reason the Packers won today – not Aaron Rodgers. The Bears made things interesting in the fourth quarter and the Packers did catch a break when Jay Cutler left the game with a knee injury, but let’s not take anything away from Capers’ game plan. The Bears could do nothing offensively for the first three quarters and their offensive line couldn’t stop Green Bay’s pass rush. Matt Forte had a couple of nice runs and Caleb Hanie made some clutch throws in the fourth quarter but again, domination was on display. The Packers held the Bears to 218 passing yards and 83 rushing, all while forcing three turnovers. On a day when Rodgers wasn’t at his best, the Packers needed a strong defensive effort and that’s exactly what they got.

3. Shields played the game of his young career.
How good was 23-year-old Sam Shields on Sunday? His interception (or semi-interception depending on whether or not you believe he had possession of the ball) right before half stopped Chicago from taking some momentum into the locker room and his second interception sealed the game. He was also a major factor as a blitzer, accounting for one of Green Bay’s two sacks and supplying the pressure on B.J. Raji’s pick-six in the fourth quarter. Kudos must be given to Capers for throwing a new wrinkle at Chicago’s offense by turning Shields into an unexpected X-factor. The undrafted rookie free agent was all over the place on Sunday.

4. This loss doesn’t hang on the Bears’ defense.
There’s not much more Chicago’s defense could have done to win this game. They gave up a touchdown on the first drive but they rebounded nicely after that. Thanks to the offense’s inability to move the ball, Chicago’s defense was constantly in poor field position for most of the first half but it managed to keep the deficit to just 14 points at halftime. Then when the offense showed some life by cutting the score to 14-7 early in the fourth, the Bears’ D once again came up big with a couple of huge stops. In the end, Chicago was done in by its offense but there’s no doubt that its defense came to play. Brian Urlacher was all over the place and for this unit to hold Rodgers to only 244 passing yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns after what he did to the Falcons last week was impressive.

5. A truly disastrous day for Cutler and the Bears’ O-line.
There’s nothing that Cutler can do about getting hurt. It’s football – injuries happen. But sorry Cutler supporters: he was awful in the first half. He missed an open Devin Hester early in the game that could have given the Bears a first down and set them up in great field position. He also looked for the Packers’ pass rush instead of anticipating it and he just never looked sure of himself. Give Green Bay’s defense credit for its play, but Cutler had to be better. Of course, it’s not like his offensive line did him many favors. He was constantly under duress and he didn’t have time to survey the field and go through his reads. Even if he was able to finish the game, his O-line wasn’t prepared for the pressure that Green Bay brought. I also thought Mike Martz panicked a little in the second quarter by trying to move the ball through the air instead of staying balanced. Forte was about the only offensive player for Chicago that’s deserving of praise. He and the defense kept the Bears in the game when it looked like all hope was lost in the third quarter. Give Hanie credit for breathing life into Chicago’s offense after Todd Collins’ pathetic performance, but it just wasn’t the Bears’ day offensively.

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