Nick Collins mobs teammate Sam Shields after his game clinching interception sent the Packers to the Super Bowl - AP
It was not easy. It was not pretty. But in the end, damn does it feel good. On a day where Aaron Rodgers played relatively poorly and on a day where the Packers made a habit of not finishing drives, it all didn’t matter. Final Score: Packers 21, Bears 14. Up next, the Super Bowl.
The game started about as well as you’d hope if you were a Packers fan. Green Bay jumped out to a 14 point lead and the rout, it seemed, was on. But Green Bay could never fully put away the Bears. They squandered numerous opportunities to extend the lead to three possessions, and as a result Chicago just kept hanging around and hanging around. After a brilliant game last week, Bears QB Jay Cutler reverted back to form, which is to say he was erratic. He’d throw an INT, he’d end up going 6 out of 14, and he’d leave with some sort of injury. The severity of which is not known.
After Todd Collins would come in and redefine the word “terrible”, Caleb Hanie, a little known QB out of Colorado State, would come in and nearly save the Bears skin. But not before making an awful decision.
It’s not often you see 330+ pound defensive tackles drop into coverage, but that’s what BJ Raji did on this play. He dropped out of his nose tackle position and back into a zone. Hanie may never have saw him, or he didn’t anticipate it because he threw it right to the big dude (In Hanie’s defense, Raji’s hard not to hit when throwing a football). Raji made the interception and then ran it back 18 yards for a touchdown. One would hope a coach told Raji to never hold the ball out for the last 5 yards like he did again, because Hanie nearly made Raji look like Leon Lett. But in the end, it was a TD and the Packers took a 21-7 lead with 6:12 remaining. Game over, right?
Somehow, Hanie shook off what just happened instantly. And then he led the Bears on a lightning quick touchdown drive in response, capping it with a 35 yard TD to Earl Bennett, who was aided by an absolutely horrible angle that was taken by Nick Collins on the play. Suddenly, with 4:53 left, it was a game again.
The Packers offense stalled. Just like in Philly, it would be on the defense to hold off a last ditch comeback effort.
Hanie drove his team admirably. All the way down deep into Packers territory. But following a questionable third down call (a jet sweep to Earl Bennett of all people that both didn’t go for a first down and allowed the clock to keep running) the Bears had a 4th down and 4 at the Packers 29. Packers fans everywhere sat on the edge of their seats. Would the Bears third string QB get a first down and eventually cap this improbable comeback, or would the Packers clamp down and head to Dallas. Sam Shields had the answer. Hanie moved around in the pocket a bit and then rifled a desperation ball to Johnny Knox, but Sam Shields was there first. The undrafted rookie from Miami made the interception and sent the Packers to Dallas to play for the Lombardi. Remember the name Sam Shields, it’ll be the answer to a trivia question someday.
After the Shields INT, Aaron Rodgers came out and took the victory knee, likely savoring the moment. For years he’s been linked with Brett Favre, but Rodgers is building his own legacy in Green Bay now. He’s lived in the shadow of Brett Favre for his entire career, but now Rodgers gets his chance to get rid of that shadow once and for all. One game to a legacy. One game to legend status. Rodgers, and all of Packer nation, are looking forward to it.
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