Rodgers-to-Cobb connection ends Bears’ season
CHICAGO – The Chicago Bears' playoff hopes disappeared in stunning fashion Sunday as Aaron Rodgers hit a wide-open Randall Cobb on a 48-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds remaining to give the Green Bay Packers a 33-28 victory at Soldier Field, securing the NFC North title and a home playoff game.
The Bears finished 8-8 in coach Marc Trestman's first season.
The Packers (8-7-1) captured the NFC North title and a playoff berth on a fourth-and-8 play to overcome the Bears' 28-27 lead.
"I'm very disappointed for our players and for our fans," Trestman said. "I'm proud of the effort they gave today."
Trestman said the Bears' locker room was upbeat at halftime despite a 13-7 deficit, and he was pleased with how the team responded in the second half.
"I thought our guys came to play," Trestman said. "We didn't play well enough to win."
Rodgers returned from a fractured left collarbone suffered Nov. 4 at Lambeau Field against the Bears and engaged the Bears' Jay Cutler in a dramatic duel.
Rodgers went 25-for-39 for 318 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 85.2. Cutler was 15-for-24 for 226 yards, two TDs, one pick and a passer rating of 103.8.
"I thought he led our football team very well," Trestman said of Cutler. "Jay played well enough for us to win tonight."
Cutler cited "little things" that he wished the Bears could have done differently.
Asked if the offense had done enough to win, Cutler said, "We lost as a team. If we had made some plays [on offense] earlier we might have won as a team."
Eddie Lacy's six-yard TD run pulled the Packers to within 28-27 with 11:38 left in regulation after Rodgers marched them 77 yards in six plays.
Cutler had hit Brandon Marshall on a 5-yard touchdown toss to increase the Bears' lead to 28-20 at the start of the fourth quarter. Marshall spun around and beat Tramon Williams for the nifty TD catch.
Matt Forte's 1-yard run, his third touchdown of the day, enabled the Bears to regain the lead at 21-20 with 5:04 left in the third. The score was set up by a 67-yard bomb from Cutler to Alshon Jeffery.
Forte rushed for 110 yards on 22 carries and had four receptions for 47 yards.
A seven-yard TD pass from Rodgers to Cobb had put the Packers back on top 20-14 with 7:27 to play in the third quarter.
Forte scored on a five-yard run to put the Bears ahead 14-13 with 10:46 to play in the third quarter.
After the Packers went three-and-out on the first possession of the second half, Devin Hester took a 50-yard punt and returned it 49 yards to set the Bears up at the Green Bay 30. After converting a third-and-two into a first down, Forte scored to give the Bears the lead.
Mason Crosby's 27-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half gave the Packers a 13-7 lead entering intermission. The score was set up by an Alshon Jeffery fumble.
Jarrett Boykin scored on a 15-yard return of a Rodgers fumble to give the Packers a 10-7 lead with 3:34 left in the first half. Boykin picked the ball up, but had to be urged to run to the end zone as both teams apparently thought Rodgers had thrown an incomplete pass.
Rodgers faded back to pass and was hit by Julius Peppers. The ball was loose in Rodgers' hand before Peppers hit him, the officials later ruled. The ball was picked up belatedly by Boykin and returned 15 yards for a touchdown as Bears defenders stood around.
"I can't explain that," Trestman said. "Twenty-two players basically stopped. ... Nobody got on the football. I didn't hear a whistle. I was just as curious as anybody else why no one was moving to the ball."
Crosby kicked a 33-yard field goal with 7:59 left until halftime to cut the Bears' lead to 7-3. The Packers' scoring drive included an unnecessary roughness call on Bears defensive end Shea McClellin after Rodgers had been sacked for a five-yard loss by Lance Briggs on third down. The penalty advanced the ball to the Bears' 18.
Cutler got on the board first, hitting Forte on a four-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 Bears lead at the 2:07 mark of the first quarter. It capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive.
Rodgers threw his second interception with 14:21 left in the second quarter. The high pass caromed off the hands of Jordy Nelson and into the hands of cornerback Tim Jennings at the Bears 17. He returned it to the 20.
Rodgers had marched the Packers down the field on a 14-play drive on their first possession but was intercepted in the end zone by Bears safety Chris Conte.