Packers clinch NFC North with 21-13 win over Bears

The Green Bay Packers have better things to do than trash talk
with the Chicago Bears.

Like win the NFC North.

And a few other titles, perhaps.

The Packers delivered the ultimate comeback to the yapping Bears
on Sunday, a 21-13 victory that gave Green Bay its second straight
NFC North title and put a serious dent in Chicago’s playoff hopes.
Aaron Rodgers connected with James Jones on all three touchdowns,
and Clay Matthews continued his dominance of Jay Cutler with two
more sacks as the Packers won their sixth straight against their
archrivals.

”Step one is done,” Matthews said. ”We just have to continue
this thing rolling all the way to the playoffs.”

The Packers are assured of a home playoff game and, at 10-4, are
still in the running for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

Not bad for a team that began the year 2-3.

”I think this team is playing the right way right now,”
Rodgers said. ”We have two games left in the regular season. We
want to be peaking at the right time because those are the teams
that make the deep runs.”

The Bears, meanwhile, are going to need help to get into the
playoffs after dropping five of their last six games. It’s a
stunning slide for a team that began the year 7-1.

”We’re down, but we’re not out,” Cutler said. ”We need to
remind the guys that there are two games left, and there’s a lot of
football left. We’ve got to get back together. We’ve got to piece
this thing back together – however we do it.”

Running their mouths off clearly isn’t the way to go.

Packers vs. Bears is the NFL’s oldest and fiercest rivalry, and
the Bears cranked up the heat when Brandon Marshall and Lance
Briggs ripped their neighbors to the north earlier in the week.
Marshall was particularly passionate, saying he’d never disliked a
team as much as he did the Packers and that Sunday’s game was
”personal.”

Rather than get drawn into the fray, the Packers saved their
response for the field.

”We don’t try to trash talk,” Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields
said. ”When we get on the field we trash talk, but not in the
paper. We let our actions show on the field.”

Marshall scored Chicago’s only touchdown, but finished with 56
yards on six catches, his fewest totals in a month. Cutler had
another dismal day against the Packers, throwing an interception
that led to the game-winning touchdown. He’s been picked off 17
times by the Packers, including 10 in his last five games.

The Bears managed only 67 yards the entire second half, and
Alshon Jeffery was whistled for offensive pass interference three
times – yes, three – in the final 16 minutes of the game.

”Everybody involved in this offense should be held accountable,
even if that means jobs,” said Marshall, who struggled to compose
himself as he spoke before cutting short his postgame interview.
”It’s been this way all year. There’s no excuse. We still have two
games left. There’s still hope, but at the same time, we need to be
held accountable.”

The Packers piled almost 400 yards on Briggs and his buddies,
and turned a 7-0 deficit into a 14-7 lead over the last 4:19 of the
second quarter thanks to a pair of Rodgers-to-Jones TDs sandwiched
around a Casey Hayward pick.

”That was important. That was really important,” Rodgers said
of the 14-point swing. ”We couldn’t them get up a couple scores
and get into what they wanted to do, which it looked like they
wanted to run (Matt) Forte a lot. Getting ahead of them kind of
took them out of some of that stuff.”

The Packers made it 21 unanswered points on the first drive of
the second half. In another third-and-long situation, Rodgers threw
incomplete to Jermichael Finley – the guy Bears linebacker Lance
Briggs had dubbed ”an idiot” after the Packers’ tight end said he
thought Chicago would be better without injured Brian Urlacher.

But Green Bay got a second chance when Chris Conte was called
for pass interference. After a delay of game penalty, Rodgers found
Jones for a 6-yard score.

It was Jones’ first three-touchdown game and the fourth
multiple-TD game of his career.

The Bears had chances to get back into it. Green Bay’s Mason
Crosby missed two more field goals, and Charles Tillman forced a
fumble by Ryan Grant that Nick Roach recovered. Chicago got a big
break on the next play when Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett hauled
Alshon Jeffery down right in front of the end zone – and right in
front of an official. The pass interference penalty gave Chicago
the ball at the Green Bay 1.

But the Bears could only get a 34-yard field goal by Olindo Mare
out of it after the first of Jeffery’s pass interference
penalties.

”We’re just getting started,” coach Mike McCarthy said. ”We
feel that way as a football team, not trying to be arrogant, (but)
we feel there’s a lot better football in front of us. It was an
extremely important game for everybody involved today, but we fully
expected to come in here and win this thing.”

NOTES: Matthews has eight sacks of Cutler in eight games. …
The Bears sacked Rodgers three times, with Peppers and Corey Wooton
each being credited with 1 1/2. … Despite two more misses by
Crosby, his 11th and 12th this year, McCarthy said the Packers will
not be looking for a new kicker. ”We’re not changing kickers.
Write that down right now,” McCarthy said. ”He’s our guy.”