CHICAGO - If the Green Bay Packers win their final two games this season, they will win the NFC North title.
That’s what the Sunday before Christmas brought them. With scores around the division falling just right, the Packers survived bitter cold — a game-time temperature of 11 degrees and an even worse wind chill — for a 30-27 win against the Chicago Bears that put them in the NFC North’s driver seat.
Mason Crosby kicked a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give Green Bay the victory after the Bears rallied from a 27-10 deficit to tie the game with 1:19 left.
The actual attendance at frigid Soldier Field was 44,601 (with 16,536 of the paid attendance of 61,137 choosing to stay away).
The Packers' win over the Bears evened the all-time series between the two rivals at 94-94-6, the first time the Bears haven’t led the rivalry since 1933. It was coupled with the Detroit Lions losing 17-6 at the New York Giants, and the Minnesota Vikings getting blown out on their home field 34-6 against the Indianapolis Colts.
BOX SCORE: Packers 30, Bears 27
GAME BLOG: Review Silverstein's live coverage
MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES: Write the Packers-Bears headline
The final score was closer than expected. The Packers entered the fourth quarter with a 17-point lead, only to see the Bears go on consecutive touchdown drives. The Packers held Chicago out of the end zone inside the final 90 seconds thanks to a third-down pass breakup from Micah Hyde at the goal line.
The Packers got the ball back at their 27-yard line with 1:13 left. Receiver Jordy Nelson caught a season-long 60-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers on third-and-11 with the clock running down, setting up Crosby’s game-winning field goal.
"We knew we wanted to run a crossing pattern and to post Jordy behind it," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Obviously, Jordy had a safety on him. Just a great cross throw, great protection, particularly on the edges there and given the time."
Nelson’s 60-yard catch put him over the 1,000-yard mark this season.
"Once I got past the defensive back I threw my arm up to make sure Aaron saw me," Nelson said of the play. "He said he saw it, so he let it go.
"It wasn't the most graceful thing, but it got done."
The Packers are now one game behind the Lions in the NFC North, and a game up on the Vikings. They’ll close their season with a home game against the Vikings on Saturday, followed by a trip to Detroit on New Year’s Day.
With their victory over the Lions at Lambeau Field in September, the Packers would own the tiebreaker if they win the regular-season finale in Detroit.
It wouldn’t have happened without the Packers' fourth straight win Sunday, matching their four-game losing streak from November. Suddenly, they are among the NFC’s hottest teams.
Here’s a look at their game against the Bears:
- Rodgers survived four quarters: Ideally, the Packers would have cruised to a blowout lead in the first half, put their franchise quarterback on the shelf in the third quarter. Wasn’t happening Sunday. The Bears played tough, making Rodgers play through his strained calf all four quarters. Rodgers finished 19-for-31 for 252 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions, a rating of 87.
- A running game emerged: In three quarters Sunday, converted running back Ty Montgomery did something Eddie Lacy has never reached in his career: 150 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns. Montgomery was slick through his running lanes, showing natural vision with some sensational cutbacks to finish with 16 carries for 162 yards. Montgomery hadn’t carried more than nine times in a game since moving to the backfield, but showed Sunday he can be a featured tailback down the stretch. Other than Rodgers’ apparent health, it might’ve been the biggest development from Sunday’s game. Montgomery wasn’t the only running back to thrash the Bears defense. Christine Michael also had a 42-yard touchdown, his seventh of the season and first with the Packers.
- Clinton-Dix leads turnover parade: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intercepted Bears quarterback Matt Barkley twice, pulling into a tie among NFL safeties with five interceptions for the season. It could be a signature game in what might become a Pro Bowl season.