Packers vs. Bears (21-14)
Down 14-0 with less than two minutes left and the Packers offense driving into Bears territory, the moment arrived when good fortune shined on Chicago. A freakish deflection off of Donald Driver’s foot from an Aaron Rodgers pass landed Lance Briggs perhaps the easiest interception of his career. Fortuitously the Bears defense had stopped the Packers’ offensive momentum and entrusted Jay Cutler to bring Chicago back in the game.
Instead Cutler immediately turned around and under threw a deep bomb to Johnny Knox, which was promptly intercepted by cornerback Sam Shields.
Forget Cutler’s earlier missed connections to Devin Hester or his inability to get anything started on offense for the Bears. Chicago needed their quarterback to deliver a momentum changing drive/big play to back up the Packers turnover. Not surprisingly Cutler came up short.
At this point the game was seemingly over and Cutler had shown himself to be just another physically talented quarterback bust. But the Bears quarterback had one more treat in store of the football viewing world…unceremoniously removing himself from the game due to an undefined knee injury.
Questions and criticisms are swirling about the extent to which Cutler was actually injured or simply saw the writing on the wall and wanted no part of self imploding during one of the most important games in the history of the Chicago Bears.
We’ll have the entire off-season to debate and sort out the details to the extent of Cutler’s “injury” and the quarterback’s heart. One thing is for certain though; plenty of people should be retracting their criticism of Josh McDaniels for sending Cutler to the Bears for two 1sts and a 3rd round draft pick.
What truly made the entire Cutler mess even worse was the fact that the Bears defense never for once gave up. Even though Aaron Rodgers entered this game as the hottest quarterback in playoff history, Urlacher, Briggs, and Peppers knew that Rodgers wasn’t the same quarterback against them as against other teams. Chicago’s defensive determination kept Rodgers frustrated, limited the potent Green Bay offense to only 14 points and ensured that the Bears continued to have a chance to win a game where none should have existed.
Adding further salt to the Cutler wound was third string quarterback Caleb Hanie who frustrated the Dom Caper’s defense that stymied Cutler, by throwing for two touchdowns and providing the Bears with an opportunity to tie the game on their final drive. As much as the Bears defense was cheering in support of Hanie, deep down they must have been ready to pummel Cutler for not being able to do what an untested third string quarterback could.
The mediocrity that was exhibited by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense was partially to be expected playing against a division rival, who they had only scored 27 points against in two meetings this season. Fortunately for Green Bay, Dom Capers defense showed up and largely controlled the Bears offense throughout the game. Sam Shields had a career day with four tackles, one sack, a forced fumble and two interceptions, including the game ending 4th down interception of Hanie.
As significant as Shields was in against the Bears, it was B.J. Raji who proved to be the decisive force for the Packers both sides of the ball. His 4th quarter interception of Hanie turned lumbering touchdown run and his presence as a decoy at fullback during Aaron Rodger’s 1st quarter touchdown run are arguably the reason that Green Bay had 21 not just 10 points on the scoreboard.
In the end it wasn’t the prettiest of Conference Championship games. However, thanks largely to their play making defense the Packers are heading to the Super Bowl, while the Bears have an entire off-season to stew about wasting another season and opportunity at a championship because of their train wreck of a quarterback Jay Cutler.
For another read on the Bears loss and Cutler debacle check out Michael Wilbon’s article on espn.com: click here