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Final play was 'scary,' but Packers prevail again

That’s been the story of this team in 2019

Packers CB Tramon Williams secures the football at the end of Green Bay's 21-13 victory over the Chicago Bears.
Packers CB Tramon Williams secures the football at the end of Green Bay's 21-13 victory over the Chicago Bears.

GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers referenced Cal-Stanford, of course.

All the Packers, including Rodgers, were certainly glad the play didn't make the historical archives like the famous 1982 lateral-filled college kickoff return did.

But boy, was it close.

"It looked like they had something," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "I ain't gonna lie to you, it looked like they had something."

Chicago definitely did. On the final play of the Packers' 21-13 triumph on Sunday, the Bears eschewed a Hail Mary from the Green Bay 34-yard line and decided to complete a short pass and try to lateral their way to the end zone instead.

It very well could have worked, partly because the Packers were expecting the Hail Mary, so the change-up caught them off-guard.

Running back Tarik Cohen grabbed Mitch Trubisky's pass around the 30-yard line, ran another 10 yards, and pitched the ball back to Trubisky. He dropped it, scooped it up off the frozen Lambeau Field turf, avoided Kyler Fackrell to stay alive for a few yards, and lateraled to tight end Jesper Horsted around the 15.

As Horsted started angling to his right toward the pylon, suddenly the Bears did indeed have "something," like Williams said. Receivers Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson were both to Horsted's right, and they might have had the Packers outflanked.

"I think we've all seen clips of the play in the 'Big Game'," Rodgers said, drawing on his alma mater Cal's immortal finish to beat rival Stanford 37 years ago, one year before the Packers QB was born. "Just finish the play."

It was almost too late for the defense to do so. Had Horsted lateraled the ball to Robinson around the 10, with Miller in front of him to block, Robinson might have scored. But Horsted took a step or two too many, and by the time he tried to pitch it, he was being dragged down by Chandon Sullivan, and the lateral was low and forward, caroming off someone's leg toward the end zone.

At that point, only Horsted, by rule, could have recovered the ball for the play to be legal. Williams recovered it for the Packers inside the 5, and the sighs of relief were exhaled.

"That last play, that was scary," defensive lineman Kenny Clark said.

Robinson could be seen begging for the ball and was clearly upset when it didn't come to him sooner. Horsted, an undrafted rookie from Princeton, is going to kick himself when he sees the film. Chicago was eliminated from playoff contention Sunday.

Had the Bears pulled it off, the Packers still would have had a chance to stop the two-point conversion and get the win without going to overtime. But, like the Carolina game last month when running back Christian McCaffrey was stood up at the goal line on the final play of an eight-point victory, fortunately it didn't come down to that.

"I think I blacked out there for a second," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "That was a nail-biter play, that's for sure."

It's been the story of the Packers' season, really, pulling out tight victories any which way they can. This one was yet another way.

"I think we have a bunch of guys that are gonna fight for every inch out there, and that are resilient and care about each other," LaFleur said. "There's a bunch of unselfish guys. When you get that and they believe in that, I think anything's possible. That's what I love about this football team."

It's what'll carry the Packers as far as they can go, unless they can find another, more consistent level of play that has been so elusive.

These last two home games of the regular season were supposed to be their opportunity to hit another gear, and they had their chances. But they didn't capitalize, leaving numerous scoring opportunities out on the field while holding on to win a pair of close ones.

Lambeau Field hosted a Week 15 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, the 200th in the rivalry.

No one's apologizing for victories. No need to do that in the NFL. But the Packers know they haven't played their best. That means it's still out there for them to achieve. Will they?

They're going to keep trying while hopefully moving forward with their renaissance season. A playoff berth has been secured for the first time in three years. It's the first step, with a division title and possible first-round playoff bye still in the Packers' sights.

"It's kind of like … setting up dominoes," Rodgers said. "We're setting a few of them up and we'd like to knock them all down at one point, but it's one domino at a time.

"The first one obviously is making the playoffs, and winning the North, and then some other ones to be laid after that."

Not a single one will be easy to knock over.

Like the Bears on the last play, these Packers "have something." They've been finding a way all season. Somehow they have to find a way to make the most of this.

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