Packers rolling into NFC title match with Bears
Never mind the weather forecast for Soldier Field next Sunday. The NFL's most historic rivalry just got a lot hotter.
Even before they boarded the team plane back to Green Bay after Saturday night's rout of the Atlanta Falcons, Packers players were pondering the possibility they might face their fierce rival, the Chicago Bears, in the NFC championship game.
''For us to be playing the Bears next week, that would be something,'' Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings said. ''But we'll see.''
That became a reality Sunday, when Chicago beat Seattle to set up one of the juiciest conference championship matchups in recent memory.
Injured tight end Jermichael Finley won't be able to play - but even he's excited.
''(It's) going down,'' Finley posted on his Twitter account Sunday afternoon.
The Bears might have won the NFC North this year and hold home-field advantage over Green Bay. But with the way the Packers are playing right now, they might be the scariest No. 6 seed in history.
''Oh, we have what it takes,'' cornerback Charles Woodson said after Saturday night's game. ''Make no mistake about that. It's just about going out and executing.''
After holding on to beat the Eagles in Philadelphia last week, the Packers steamrolled the Falcons 48-21 on Saturday night. Then the Bears dismissed the Seahawks with a convincing win of their own, 35-24 on Sunday.
With Green Bay needing three road wins to make it to the Super Bowl, Packers coach Mike McCarthy has grown fond of saying his team will take on any team, any place, any time. As it turns out, the team and the place they'll face in their final step to get there is a very familiar one.
''We're a championship-caliber football team, we talked about that before the Philadelphia game,'' McCarthy said. ''We have 16 quarters on our mind, we've completed eight of them and we have an opportunity to play in four more next week. We feel very good about who we are, the way we played, our brand of football in all three areas, and that's what we're sticking to.''
The Packers are rolling behind Aaron Rodgers on offense and dominating on defense.
Rodgers played well in beating the Eagles last week, earning his first playoff win as a starter. Then he delivered one of the best performances of his brief-but-impressive career Saturday.
''Yeah, this probably was my best performance, I think (given) the stage that we were on, the importance of this game,'' Rodgers said. ''So yeah, it was a good night.''
Rodgers had only five incomplete passes, throwing for 366 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
''He was on fire,'' McCarthy said. ''He likes playing in domes, and you can see why.''
Rodgers already had his teammates' confidence, but what they saw Saturday was on another level.
''He played absolutely phenomenal,'' Jennings said. ''The performance he put on tonight, it was a treat to watch him. It was a treat to play with him.''
The same was true of the defense, which held Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to 186 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, and running back Michael Turner to 39 yards and a touchdown. Cornerback Tramon Williams made the play of the game, returning an interception 70 yards for a touchdown and giving the Packers a 28-14 lead at halftime.
''We're playing our best football,'' defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. ''Guys are hungry out there. We're a good team with a chance of being great. We're playing good ball right now at the right time.''