Packers beat Bears 35-16 to clinch NFC's top seed, first-round playoff bye
CHICAGO - For years, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has said he wanted an NFC championship game inside Lambeau Field.
If the Packers win their first playoff game this month, they’ll finally get it.
Rodgers delivered another virtuoso performance against Green Bay's arch-rivals, potentially securing a third career MVP in leading the Packers to a 35-16 win against the Bears. The victory clinched the NFC’s top overall seed, and with it the Packers will receive a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout.
The Packers needed a win or Seattle Seahawks loss to secure the No. 1 seed. The Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers 26-23, meaning the victory over the Bears was necessary.
The Bears still made the playoffs by virtue of the Arizona Cardinals losing to the Los Angeles Rams.
Rodgers, who completed all 10 of his passes in the first half, finished 19-for-24 for 240 yards, four touchdowns and a 147.9 rating. On the season, Rodgers finished with a career-high 48 touchdown passes, eclipsing his 45 in 2011. His five interceptions were one fewer than he had that season.
Here are five quick takeaways:
Adams sets records
Davante Adams entered Sunday within distance of setting a hat trick of single-season Packers receiving records. He got two of the three. Adams had six grabs against the Bears, his 12th straight game with at least six receptions to close this season. He finished with 115 catches, eclipsing Sterling Sharpe’s franchise record of 112 set in 1993. Adams’ final catch was a 6-yard touchdown, pulling him into a tie with Sharpe (1994) for most catches in a single season with 18. It took Adams just 14 games to set the franchise’s single-season catch record and tie the touchdown catch record. Adams had an outside chance at reaching Jordy Nelson’s receiving yards record of 1,519 set in 2014, but his 46 yards Sunday left him 145 short.
Jones delivers KO
The Bears’ defensive front was much more formidable Sunday than their game at Lambeau Field in late November. That was expected as defensive lineman Akiem Hicks was able to play in the finale after missing that late-November game. The Bears held Aaron Jones to 42 yards on 11 carries, his lowest in the season’s final six games. But Jones established a new career high for rushing with 1,104 yards, surpassing his 1,084 yards from last season. He also delivered the knockout blow, a 4-yard touchdown run that gave the Packers a two-score lead with less than four minutes left.
Tonyan ties TE record
Robert Tonyan tied Paul Coffman’s single-season record (11) for touchdown catches among Packers tight ends in the first quarter. Tonyan caught a 3-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers, who on the same play became the second quarterback in NFL history with multiple seasons of 45 touchdown passes, joining Peyton Manning. Tonyan, who controversially was not selected to the Pro Bowl, is among only three Packers tight ends with double-digit TDs in a season, joining Keith Jackson (1996) and Coffman. Coffman had stood alone with the record since establishing it in 1983.
Packers defense peaking
It looks like the Packers will bring a defense with them into the playoffs. After faltering early this season, the Packers' defense has jelled at the perfect time. The Packers allowed only one touchdown Sunday against a Bears offense that had scored 30 points in four straight games, forcing Chicago to go 1-for-4 inside the red zone. They also forced the Bears to go 6-of-14 on third down, though they were 4-for-5 on fourth down. For the second straight year, safety Adrian Amos delivered the game-sealing interception against his former team in Chicago.
More not-so-special teams
If the Packers aren’t careful, their potential Super Bowl run will once again be upended by special teams. It’s been an ongoing issue this season — as it was in 2014 — and again made the offense and defense scramble to overcome mistakes Sunday. The game started with Mason Crosby’s kickoff wandering too close to the sideline, allowing Bears savvy return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson to step out of bounds and simply touch the football for a penalty. It gave the Bears possession at their 40-yard line, setting up a short field they cashed in for a touchdown. Later in the first half, Packers punt returner Tavon Austin lost a fumble at the 20-yard line, setting up another short field. This time, the defense held for a field goal. Special teams will get you beat in big games. At this point, it’s clear the Packers are entering their postseason run with a gamble in the game’s third phase.