The rap on GB QB Aaron Rodgers, in what most feel is a stellar career thus far, has been the dearth of fourth quarter comebacks on his resume.
Make that past tense.
A-Rod executed a Woolly Mammoth-sized one at Soldier Field Sunday evening.
Rodgers, in his first game back since fracturing his now-famous clavicle, threw a 48-yard TD pass to another returnee, Randall Cobb, with 38 seconds to play.
It came on a fourth and eight and was the culmination of a 15 play drive that gobbled up almost six minutes on the clock.
The Pack converted on two other fourth downs in that drive for the ages.
That score, coupled with an Eddie Lacy rushing touch earlier in the fourth quarter, erased a 28-20 deficit in the final quarter.
The Packers thus win the NFC North Division title and a home playoff game with the hard-fought, 33-28, victory.
The Pack’s ‘D’ was finally able to throttle Chicago’s power back Matt Forte in the last stanza, but not before he scored three touchdowns in a tour de force effort.
Forte racked up 157 all-purpose yards and had the team on his back.
Chicago QB Jay Cutler, whose future in the Windy City is uncertain, uncertain had a few drops as he tried to bring it home.
The Packer secondary tightened up coverage and Sam Shields picked off the Hail Mary as time ran out.
Green Bay hosts the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field next Sunday as the playoffs get underway with Wild Card Weekend.
Kickoff is set for 3:40 p.m. on 620 WTMJ Radio and Fox6 Milwaukee.
Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore and their mates decimated the Pack in the first round a year ago.
Kaepernick threw for over 400 yards in San Fran's victory in Green Bay to open the season.
Anquan Boldin had a huge game and in the meantime Michael Crabtree has come back to bolster the receiving corps.
Still and all, it is a warm weather team playing on the Frozen Tundra in January.
When one game is for all the marbles, players and coaches tend to lose theirs.
The oldest rivalry in all of sport was no exception at Soldier Field on Sunday.
It was hard to tell what was more frayed, the nerves of the participants or the folks hooked up to heart monitors in hospitals across Wisconsin.
Whether it was rust or just having to get his game-legs back, Rodgers did struggle a bit throughout.
He threw two interceptions in the first half and was overthrowing or under throwing targets.
Any thought that he would be tentative because of his injury quickly faded as he ran for a crucial first down with the game on the line.
If he was experiencing any pain, it melted away from his face as he pumped his fists in victory.
The Packers frittered away their first opportunity at scoring when a first and goal turned into a Rodgers pick in the end zone.
That gave the Bears a huge boost of energy.
They responded with an 80-yard drive that was finished off by Matt Forte’s four-yard grab of a Jay Cutler pass.
It was 7-0 in favor of the denizens of Soldier Field with 2:12 left in the first quarter.
If it wasn’t rust, it was clear A-Rod wasn’t sharp at the start. He got some big gainers from hookups with Jordy Nelson, but threw an uncharacteristic second interception on the Pack’s next possession.
After the GB ‘D’ did its thing, Rodgers & Co. went back to work.
Another red zone drive was stopped at the 15 and the Packers drew to 7-3 on a 33-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with 7:59 left in the half.
A short field gave Rodgers a chance to regain the lead, knowing he would get the ball after intermission.
On the freakiest play you will see in a long while, Jarrett Boykin picked up what everyone thought was an incomplete pass and ran it in for a score.
Rodgers arm was going forward, but it appeared the slippery spheroid had fallen out prior to the throw.
The whistle had not blown and the replay confirmed the touch.
It was 10-7 Green Bay with 3:28 until the break.
Another fumble recovery, this time after a Chicago completion, led to a 13-7 lead with two ticks left.
A three and out after the second half kick gave Chicago momentum, buoyed by a 49-yard punt return by the hall-of-famer in waiting Devin Hester.
Forte did the damage on the ground and his five-yard scamper nearly untouched gave the advantage back to the Bears, 14-13, with 10:46 to play in the third quarter.
The Packers took to the ground on their next possession against the most porous run-defense in the league this season.
James Starks ripped off a 40-yard burst on a third and one.
The red zone series was capped off by a seven-yard TD pass from A-Rod to Randall Cobb covering nine yards.
It was Cobb’s first game back in three months.
That made it 20-14 with 7:27 to play in the third stanza.
There was little time to celebrate as Cutler hit Alshon Jeffery for a 67-yard gainer to Green Bay’s one and Forte’s third score of the day gave the lead right back to the Bears.
With 5:04, it was 21-20 in favor of the Midway’s Monsters.
The lead ballooned to eight points, 28-20, at the start of the final quarter when Cutler lofted one to Brandon Marshall from the five.
Green Bay’s defense had failed to come up with an answer to Forte yet again as the Bears seemingly found their groove.
Rodgers went to Nelson again on the ensuing possession and the receiver gobbled up more yards after catch.
Passes to James Jones and Andrew Quarless for first downs set up a first and goal from the five.
Eddie Lacy ran it in from there.
Head coach Mike McCarthy opted to kick the point after and it was 28-27, Chicago, with 11:38 to play.
Forte was finally corralled by the Pack and they got the ball at their own 12 under seven minutes to play.
A gutsy fourth and one run by John Kuhn and a first down gambol by Rodgers kept the drive alive.
The trick here is to take the lead without giving the Bears too much time to work with on a potential comeback.
On fourth and eight, Rodgers eluded the rush and found a streaking Cobb for a 48-yard pass to seal the deal.