Packers Hold Off Bears 21-14; Advance to Super Bowl XLV
What a game.
It probably wasn’t the contest either team pictured going in, but the Packers knocked off the Bears 21-14 Sunday at Soldier Field to advance to Super Bowl XLV. The game featured three Bears’ quarterbacks, two Aaron Rodgers interceptions, an interception returned for a touchdown from a 340-pound nose tackle, and two interceptions from an undrafted free agent rookie.
The Packers will take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, who also hung on to beat the New York Jets 24-19, Feb. 6 in Dallas, Texas. Here are game balls to hand out for the Packers’ NFC Title.
Sam Shields: For all the deserved talk cornerback Tramon Williams received over the last two weeks, it was another undrafted cornerback who came up huge for the Packers Sunday. Shields, a wide receiver-turned-cornerback from Miami, intercepted two passes and also recorded a sack, becoming the first rookie to ever do so in a playoff game. His first interception came late in the first half on the heels of an Aaron Rodgers interception in Chicago territory. Down 14-0, the Bears were looking to gain some momentum and were closing in on field goal range. Quarterback Jay Cutler lofted a pass down the left sideline intended for Johnny Knox, but Shields stayed stride-for-stride with Knox and made a leaping grab for the takeaway.
His second pick came in the final minutes and sealed the game for the Packers. Facing a 4th and 5 from the Packers’ 29-yard line, third string quarterback Caleb Hanie once again looked for Knox, but it was Shields who again jumped in front of his receiver to pick it off. He also added a sack and finished with four tackles. The addition of Shields has allowed the Packers to move Charles Woodson around without giving up too much on the outside, and the Packers’ defense has reaped the benefits. This was a mini-break out party for Shields, who was the Packers’ MVP today.
Greg Jennings: Aaron Rodgers was far from perfect today, missing some easy passes and throwing into traffic when he didn’t need to. However, the passes he did complete, or at least eight of them, were made far easier by the outstanding route-running and hands of Greg Jennings. He finished the game with eight catches for 130 yards and was targeted a team-high 11 times. In a game where field conditions were poor and neither offense was clicking, having a reliable set of hands on crucial plays was a main key to the game.
Jennings got things going early, catching passes on the first two plays of the game for 50 yards to put the Packers’ in great field position. Jennings was also on the receiving end of a few crucial second and third downs late in the game, keeping the Packers in great position to come out with the win. It’s not a stretch to say Jennings has become one of, if not, the best recievers in the league. He can beat teams from anywhere on the field on any kind of route, something that will be key in two weeks against the feared Steelers’ defense.
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