Rodgers' TD pass to Cobb gives Packers NFC North title
Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb both returned from injuries on Sunday with Green Bay's division hopes on the line and they came through.
Rodgers found a wide open Cobb on 4th-and-8 for a 48-yard score with just 38 seconds to play to help the Packers with the NFC North with a 33-28 victory over the Chicago Bears.
Green Bay has the fourth seed in the upcoming NFC playoffs and will host the San Francisco 49ers in the wild card round of the playoffs on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 4:40 p.m. ET.
Rodgers had been out since a Nov. 4 game against these Bears due to a fractured left collarbone. He returned to practice this week and finished the game 25-for-39 for 318 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Packers (8-7-1), who won three of their last four games of the season to claim the division for a third straight year.
Cobb, who had been out since fracturing his right tibia on Oct. 13 against Baltimore, caught both touchdown passes by Rodgers, while Jordy Nelson had 10 grabs for 161 yards.
Chicago (8-8), meanwhile, dropped its final two games of the year with its playoff hopes in its own hands. The team has now missed the playoffs three straight seasons.
Jay Cutler completed 15-of-24 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while Matt Forte carried the ball 22 times for 110 yards and two scores with four catches for 47 yards and a TD in the loss.
The winning drive began at the Green Bay 13 with 6:24 to play and the Packers had to convert a fourth down on their first set of downs, with John Kuhn bulling his way through to move the chains.
Rodgers then scrambled for his only run of the game on 3rd-and-3 for a 5-yard gain, and converted another 4th-and-1 with a 6-yard pass to Nelson.
Once again, the Packers found themselves facing a 4th down from the Chicago 48, and the Bears brought the house on a blitz. Rodgers, though, avoided the rush and heaved the ball down the middle where a wide open Cobb easily made the catch and cruised into the end zone. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, and it was a 33-28 game with 38 seconds to play.
"I looked outside to make sure we had a big play there," Rodgers said. "From the throw I missed Andrew Quarless on earlier in the drive, I knew I had to get a little bit on it to make sure I didn't way underthrow him. When that ball came down and he got into the end zone it was just pandemonium."
Devin Hester took the kickoff to the Chicago 40 and Cutler hit Martellus Bennett for 15 yards, but the next two passes were incomplete, and Cutler's bomb on the last play was picked off in the end zone by Sam Shields to give Green Bay the win and the division.
"We knew it was going to come down to who had the ball last," Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. "Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time on the clock to get it done."
Rodgers looked sharp on the Packers' opening possession of the game, converting a 3rd-and-3 with a 14-yard pass to Nelson, and turning another third down later in the drive with a completion to Nelson.
Facing a 3rd-and-goal at the Chicago 5, Rodgers rolled out to his right and tried to get it to Jarrett Boykin in the end zone, but Chris Conte made a diving pick to keep the Packers off the board.
Forte ripped off a 20-yard run to get the ball across midfield, and Cutler floated a pass down the left sideline for a 37-yard catch by Marshall. Three plays later, Cutler hit Forte near the end zone to the left and he easily took it in for a 4-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 2:07 left in the first quarter.
Rodgers responded with another sharp drive and got the team down to the Chicago 26 after a 32-yard catch from Nelson. The next pass, though, was behind Nelson and he wound up tipping it into the hands of Tim Jennings for another pick.
Chicago was held to a three-and-out, with Rodgers finally leading the team on a scoring drive as a 26-yard catch by Nelson along with a roughing the passer call on Chicago led to a 33-yard field goal from Mason Crosby to make it a 7-3 game with 7:59 to play in the half.
Following another three-and-out, the Packers started out with excellent field position as they got the ball back at the Chicago 41.
Facing a 1st-and-10 at the Chicago 17, Rodgers found himself under pressure and had the ball knocked out of his hands by Julius Peppers. The ball went forward and bounced around a bit before Boykin picked up the ball.
Unsure of the call as the whistle had not blown, Boykin stood there for a moment with the ball at the 15. Eventually, though, he realized that the play was still going and he ran it in for a score.
The play was called a touchdown and reviewed to determine if Rodgers' arm was going forward prior to the ball being knocked out, but the call on the field stood and the Packers held a 10-7 lead with 3:28 to play in the second quarter.
Chicago then turned the ball over as Alshon Jeffery had the ball knocked out of his hands on a catch and Green Bay recovered at the Chicago 28.
The Bears' defense, though, did a good job of keeping the Packers out of the end zone and a 27-yard field goal from Crosby gave the team a 13-7 lead going into the break.
Green Bay started the second half with the ball and was quickly forced to punt, with Hester coming up with a 49-yard return to the Green Bay 30. Five plays later, Forte took the ball into the end zone around the left tackle for a 5-yard score and a 14-13 lead.
The Packers came right back with a scoring drive of their own as Eddie Lacy took a handoff 17 yards on the first snap, and James Starks bulled his way through the line for a 41-yard gain down to the Chicago 13. Rodgers then found Cobb in the back of the end zone for a 7-yard score and a 20-14 advantage with 7:27 left in the third quarter.
The scoring kept coming as the Bears came right back to take the lead. Facing a 3rd-and-4, Cutler went deep down the left sideline and hit Jeffery in stride near the Green Bay 35. He took it down to the 1-yard line for a 67-yard gain and Forte took it in on the next play for a 21-20 lead with 5:04 left in the third.
Green Bay was then held off the board and forced to punt, and a 33-yard pass reception from Forte got the ball to the Green Bay 8. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Cutler tossed a pass out to the right for Brandon Marshall, who briefly took his eyes off the ball to spin around a defender, than made a diving catch for a 5-yard score and a 28-20 lead.
A 34-yard catch from Nelson on the second play moved the ball across midfield for the Packers, and a 22-yard catch from Quarless set up Lacy's 6-yard run around the left tackle to make it a 28-27 game with 11:38 to play.
Chicago took off five minutes of the clock on its ensuing possession and crossed midfield, but wound up punting it back to Green Bay for the winning drive.
Green Bay has won seven of the last eight games against the Bears ... Starks finished with 88 yards on 11 carries and Lacy had 66 yards on 21 touches ... Marshall totaled 74 yards on six receptions ... Green Bay controlled the ball for over 35 minutes and finished the game with 473 yards, compared to 345 yards for Chicago ... Forte finished the season with 1,339 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, along with 594 yards and three touchdowns receiving.
12/29 22:15:19 ET