In a classic pro football struggle the Green Bay Packers persevered over the Chicago Bears by a score of 21 – 14 Sunday thus becoming Champions of the National Football Conference and advancing to Super Bowl XLV where they will meet the American Football Conference champions. It has been a long time (1998) since the Packers last participated in the ultimate showcase of American professional sports and the nation of Cheese is elated.
The game against the Bears started out so well that visions of a blowout entered my head as Aaron Rodgers marched the team right down the field on their opening possession for a score. Between Rodgers’ hot hand passing to Greg Jennings and the rushing of James Starks, the Packers pretty much dominated the first half which ended with the Packers up by a score of 14 – 0. Alas, Packer/Bear games are never pretty and soon into the second half Rodgers cooled off and mistakes and conservative play calling changed the momentum.
The offense having turned cold, the resourceful Packers turned to their defense to win this game. With but six minutes left in the game, nose tackle B.J. Raji made the play of the game when he drifted into the flat in seldom seen pass coverage and picked off an errant throw which he ran back for a touchdown. The play gave the Packers a seemingly insurmountable 21 – 7 lead, but the Bears came storming back with a quick touchdown. After the Packers were unable to generate any offense, the Bears got the ball back late in the game and were within striking distance when rookie cornerback Sam Shields intercepted a pass, thus ensuring the Packer victory.
The interception by Shields was his second of the game, having made a brilliant leaping interception just before halftime. Shields and Starks are two examples of players coming out of total obscurity to help their teammates accomplish what they have this year. It seems like this year’s team, horribly decimated by injuries early on, comes up with one replacement player after another who gets the job done and in some cases, with better production than the guy he replaced. It truly has been an amazing accomplishment and a great season.
Punter Tim Masthay and the Packers’ special teams coverage units also deserve mega kudos for their efforts in this game. The often maligned Jarrett Bush was a demon on the coverage teams. Masthay struggled badly early this season but has really come on as of late. His precision punting nailed the Bears into bad field position often in this game and more importantly, the Packers were able to contain the returns of Devin Hester, the Bears’ best player.
So it is on to Dallas and Super Bowl XLV where the Packers will collide with the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 6. In the meantime, Cheeseheads get to savor the moment, taking pride in their team and knowing that if the Packers play to their potential they will once again become the champions of all professional football for the thirteenth time.
GO PACK GO!!!