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Game recap: 5 takeaways from Packers' playoff-clinching victory over Bears

At 9-8, Green Bay takes three-game winning streak into postseason

QB Jordan Love
QB Jordan Love

GREEN BAY – The Packers secured an NFC Wild Card playoff spot and the No. 7 seed with a 17-9 victory over the Bears on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Here are five takeaways from the all-important triumph:

  1. After all that's transpired the last four months, earning a playoff berth is immensely rewarding.

At the end of October, the Packers were 2-5. Two weeks later they were 3-6. Following a three-game winning streak, they dropped two more to fall to 6-8, hitting do-or-die mode on Christmas weekend.

But three straight wins, the last two against NFC North rivals, have ended the Packers' playoff drought at just one year, and they're back in the postseason in QB Jordan Love's first season at the helm.

"It means everything," Love said. "This was an opportunity that we worked for all season long. With our back against the wall, I'm just proud of this team."

Head Coach Matt LaFleur ran onto the field after Love took the final kneel-down to give his quarterback a huge congratulatory hug.

"It's rewarding in the fact that everybody counted us out, and we were struggling," LaFleur said. "And … we held it all together. And to get here was … special."

  1. Considering the stakes, it's hard to imagine Love playing better.

The impressive numbers are one thing – 27-of-32, 316 yards to go over 4,000 on the season, two TDs (both to Dontayvion Wicks), 128.6 passer rating. But it was also the plays he made in clutch moments with some laser-like throws while avoiding pressure and keeping the chains moving, as the Packers were 7-of-10 on third down.

Take his first snap of the fourth quarter. On Love's last play, he had fumbled the ball to the Bears while scrambling for a first down, and Chicago turned the takeaway into a field goal to get within 14-9.

So on the opening play of his next drive, Love rolled left off play-action and fired to a receiver not even in the progression – rookie Jayden Reed (four catches, 112 yards) streaking downfield. Reed made the catch in stride and took off for a 59-yard gain that set up another field goal to restore the eight-point advantage.

Or on the Packers' final drive, when they killed the last 6:08 off the clock, starting at their own 6-yard line, when Love stepped up in the pocket on third-and-7 and quickly rifled a 15-yard completion to Tucker Kraft that pretty much put the game away. Improv in the clutch.

"Those are things you cannot coach," LaFleur said, referring both to Love's resiliency and off-schedule playmaking. "You can sit there and talk about it 'til you're blue in the face.

"His ability to stay even keel, to battle through adversity, to lead our team. He's certainly proved himself over the back half of the season. I don't think there's many questions left, to be honest with you. I think great things are in store for him."

  1. The Packers dominated this game everywhere but on the scoreboard, yet the defense never caved.

The total yards were 432-192. First downs were 24-13. The Bears were just 3-of-11 on third down. It was a dominant effort.

But the Packers didn't put the game away until the end because of missed opportunities, including a missed field goal, running out of time in field-goal range at the end of the first half, Love's fumble, and two failures in the red zone.

But the defense held strong all day, sacking Bears QB Justin Fields five times and limiting Chicago to just three field goals despite the Bears reaching midfield or further on all six of their possessions.

"Anytime you hold anybody under 10 points, you better find a way to win that football game," LaFleur said. "Those guys, they're playing their butt off right now."

For all the missed chances, the offense rewarded the defense at the end of the game with the six-minute, clock-killing march that picked up four first downs and prevented the defense from having to take the field again.

"The way the game was going, we were in a mode that the (Chicago) defense wasn't going to stop us," Love said. "That's just that killer mindset that everyone in the locker room and on the offense has. When we get in that position, we want to take advantage and finish with the ball."

Check out photos from the Week 18 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024.

  1. The tale of two running backs said a lot about this game, too.

Both Green Bay's Aaron Jones and Chicago's Khalil Herbert came into the game with back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances. It was Jones who stretched his streak to three games, rushing for 111 yards on 22 carries and adding another 30 yards on five receptions.

Jones averaged 5.0 yards per carry, with no single run longer than 17 yards, against the league's No. 1 rush defense and kept the Packers in favorable situations all game.

"You can all see it," LaFleur said. "He's a difference-maker, right? His ability to be out there and get explosive gains and fight for some tough yardage, break tackles … He definitely takes a lot of pressure off other people."

Meanwhile, Herbert managed just 28 yards on 12 carries against a Packers run defense that has endured various rough stretches but finished the regular season strong. Herbert had one run for nine yards, meaning he had just 19 yards on his other 11 tries, less than two yards per.

LaFleur felt the Packers set a physical tone in that regard on the opening play, on which Herbert was stopped for a 2-yard loss by linebacker De'Vondre Campbell with cornerback Jaire Alexander also crashing hard from the outside.

"It was just our guys playing physical and playing aggressive and playing downhill," LaFleur said. "All in all I felt our guys were flying to the football."

  1. The Packers made the last home game of the season count and now are off to Dallas next week.

The 78,000-plus inside Lambeau Field were into it from the jump, and the team was certainly appreciative.

"What a great atmosphere, great environment," LaFleur said. "I can't say enough about our fans. That was a playoff-type atmosphere, and anytime you get that type of feeling in Lambeau I think it's tough on any opponent."

The Packers won't have that for as long as they last in the playoffs, having to turn into road warriors from here on out.

The Cowboys won the NFC East at 12-5, earned the NFC's No. 2 seed, and will host Green Bay in the wild-card round.

"We've got to go on the road," LaFleur said, "and earn it."


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