5 things to know after Packers beat Bears 33-28

Aaron Rodgers missed about half the season. Now, he can make up

for lost time.

Rodgers returned from a broken collarbone and fired a 48-yard

touchdown to Randall Cobb in the final minute Sunday to lead the

Green Bay Packers to a 33-28 victory over the Chicago Bears and the

NFC North championship.

”There were a lot of opportunities for us to give up, and we

just kept believing in each other,” Rodgers said. ”I’m proud of

our guys.”

Back after missing seven games with a broken left collarbone,

Rodgers found a wide-open Cobb on fourth-and-8 to wipe out a

one-point deficit with 38 seconds left.

Green Bay will host San Francisco next weekend in the wild-card

round.

The Bears had one final drive, but Jay Cutler’s deep pass to

Alshon Jeffery was intercepted by Sam Shields on the final

play.

That gave the Packers (8-7-1) their third straight division

title and fifth postseason appearance in a row. It also kept the

Bears (8-8) out of the playoffs for the sixth time in seven

years.

Things weren’t looking great for the Packers after Chicago’s

Brandon Marshall spun away from Tramon Williams in the end zone on

the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 28-20. But Green

Bay answered with a touchdown drive.

Eddie Lacy ran in from the 6 after a 22-yard pass from Rodgers

to Andrew Quarless went through safety Chris Conte’s hands, making

it a one-point game.

Then, on the winning drive, Green Bay converted twice on

fourth-and-1 before Rodgers eluded pressure and unleashed that

winning pass to Cobb.

A block by John Kuhn on Julius Peppers helped Rodgers roll to

the edge and find Cobb by himself down the field.

”We had a blitz on,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. ”We lost

an edge. Aaron was able to get outside. Once he got outside, things

happen. When you’ve got a zero blitz on, things can happen. And we

just lost coverage with our eyes in the backfield.”

Here are five things we learned from this game:

RODGERS READY: Rodgers got off to a shaky start. Then, he got

payback against the team that nearly ended his season.

He was intercepted on the Packers’ first two possessions but

threw for 318 yards and two touchdowns in his first appearance

since he was injured in a loss to Chicago on Nov. 4. That had to at

least send a chill through San Francisco and anyone else Green Bay

might face in the postseason.

WHERE’S THE `D?’: If there’s one area that could prevent the

Packers from making a run, it would be the defense – particularly

with Clay Matthews sidelined by broken thumb.

Among the worst in the league coming in, that group gave up 345

yards but couldn’t stop Chicago in the second half. The Packers

gave up 21 points over the final two quarters and registered just

one sack against Cutler in the game.

CUT-TING IT: Yes, the Bears’ first season under Trestman ended

the way five of the previous six did under Lovie Smith – with

Chicago out of the playoffs. They can’t blame that on their

quarterback, though.

With an expiring contract and questions about his ability in big

games, Cutler came through with a solid performance, throwing for

226 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He is now 1-9

against Green Bay, including a conference final and a loss with

Denver in 2007.

UNCERTAIN FUTURES: The Bears could have a decidedly different

look next season, with many players having expiring contracts

besides Cutler. That list includes Devin Hester, Charles Tillman

and Tim Jennings, among others.

Hester would like to come back. Whether he will is a different

story.

”I’ve done a lot of things around here,” he said. ”It’s my

eighth year. I just feel like I’d (like) the honor of trying to

retire as a Bear. At the same time, this is a business. It’s up to

the guys upstairs whether or not I’m worthy of staying

around.”

Cutler also said he would like to return, and Marshall

guaranteed he would.

”You’d love to,” Cutler said. ”You can’t predict the future,

though. I’m not really going to get into what’s going to happen. It

always works out how it’s supposed to.”

ON THE RUN: While Rodgers’ return is a huge lift for the

Packers, Lacy’s ankle injury remains a concern. He aggravated it in

the third quarter and finished with 66 yards.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org