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Game Review: Packers Grind Out Fifth Straight Win

CHICAGO - Nothing has come easy for the Packers during their now five-game winning streak, and that didn’t change on Sunday against the archrival Chicago Bears. - More Packers-Bears Game Center


S Nick Collins' interception and 31-yard return set up the Packers' game-winning TD in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field on Sunday.

CHICAGO - Nothing has come easy for the Packers during their now five-game winning streak, and that didn't change on Sunday against the archrival Chicago Bears.

But in a see-saw game that saw the Packers blow a 13-point advantage, fall behind by one point, re-take the lead and then hold on down the stretch, Green Bay's 21-14 victory at Soldier Field proved to be a lot like the four that immediately preceded it - imperfect to be sure but noteworthy for what needed to be overcome to get it.

"That momentum, there are going to be opportunities where it's going to swing back at you," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "You have to keep stepping up and swing it back the other way, and our guys did for four quarters."

With the win, the Packers posted their first season sweep of the Bears since 2003. More important, they improved to 9-4 and took an even stronger hold on a potential NFC Wild Card playoff spot.

With three games remaining, the Packers are now the NFC Wild Card leader. They hold a one-game lead plus the head-to-head tiebreaker on the Dallas Cowboys (8-5), and a two-game lead on the New York Giants (7-6). The NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) share the same record as Green Bay.

The Packers controlled the game early, grabbing a 13-0 lead just two minutes into the second quarter. Ryan Grant's 62-yard touchdown run on the offense's first play from scrimmage was followed by a pair of field goals, one set up by a Charles Woodson interception.

But the Packers would regret not turning those two red-zone possessions into touchdowns, as the Bears finally got going midway through the second quarter with a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Quarterback Jay Cutler hit Johnny Knox for a 19-yard score with 1:48 left in the half to make it 13-7.

Then the Packers got a bit sloppy. With time winding down in the first half, the offense was looking to tack on points when a 19-yard completion from Aaron Rodgers to Jermichael Finley got the ball to the edge of field-goal range, but Finley (five catches, 70 yards) fumbled at the end of the play and Chicago's Danieal Manning recovered.

Another turnover on the opening possession of the second half proved even more costly. One play after a 24-yard pass to Greg Jennings got the Packers near field-goal range once again, Rodgers lost the handle on the ball not once, but twice. He grabbed his first flub in mid-air but then still tried to throw the ball again, only to have it squirt even higher into the air and fall into the arms of Chicago defensive tackle Anthony Adams.

"It was one of those slow-motion deals where the ball floats in the air and as I'm going down, I'm hoping someone gets slowed down or tackled so he doesn't run it all the way down for a touchdown," said Rodgers, who finished 16-of-24 for 180 yards for an 88.9 rating. "That was definitely one of the more embarrassing plays of my career."

The Bears turned the mistake into a 56-yard touchdown drive, capped by Cutler's 10-yard pass to Devin Aromashodu, for a 14-13 lead midway through the third quarter. Suddenly, the Packers' early domination was seemingly all for naught.

"We kind of got on our heels a little bit when they went up," Woodson said. "But I think we all felt the offense would put some more points up. We just kind of figured that would happen. That's the way we've been playing this year. Get points when we need to and get stops when we need to."

The two converged nicely early in the fourth quarter for the go-ahead score. Under heavy pressure from a blitzing Tramon Williams, Cutler (23-of-36, 209 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 74.9 rating) threw woefully short down the left sideline to Knox and Nick Collins intercepted, returning it 31 yards to the Chicago 11-yard line.

"We had a trap coverage over there," Collins explained, as Cutler tried to throw too late to the area vacated momentarily by Williams on the blitz. "I had a safety over the top so I was able to play underneath, and he just threw it right to me."

After a pass-interference call in the end zone on cornerback Zackary Bowman against Donald Driver, Grant took it in from the 1 for his second touchdown of the game. A 2-point pass from Rodgers to Jennings made it 21-14 with 12:39 left.

"You have to be able to keep fighting and understand it's not over -- grab the momentum back," Grant said of the roller-coaster affair, which he finished with 137 rushing yards on 20 carries (6.9 avg.). "Guys stepped up when we needed it most and we were able to finish it through."

{sportsad300}The Packers could have made it easier on themselves by getting a two-score lead, but running back Brandon Jackson dropped a short dump-off pass on third down that at a minimum would have made for a much shorter field goal try. Kicker Mason Crosby then missed from 42 yards anyway with 6:05 left, keeping the Bears in it.

But the defense held firm, not allowing Chicago a first down on either of its last two possessions. Williams had a big sack just after the 2-minute warning, and when Cutler's fourth-down pass from his own 10 was incomplete with 1:08 left, the game was finally over.

"Dom (Capers) was very aggressive throughout the day, and you could see that all the way up to the last play," McCarthy said, referring to his defensive coordinator. "Dom is keeping his foot on the gas. There is a confidence, there is a trust there, and once again I think this game started and ended with our defense. I'm very pleased with the way we're playing on defense."

And pleased with racking up yet another win, albeit similar to many of the others in not being secured as quickly and comfortably as it could have been.

"Guys are feeling confident, and it's legit confidence and it should be," Grant said. "Because we're playing better football as a team. There are lulls here and there throughout the game, and we have to take care of that. We can't have those and let teams stay in the game like that.

"But we'll take wins and keep moving forward."

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