GREEN BAY – The Packers moved another step closer to a playoff berth on Sunday, but it was another closer-than-it-should-have-been victory.
An 18-point lead in the second half nearly slipped away at a chilly Lambeau Field, with Chicago's last-ditch effort ending with a fumbled lateral inside the 5-yard line, and the Packers emerged with a 21-13 victory over the Bears to improve to 11-3.
Green Bay walked off a frozen field just one more win, or one more Rams loss, away from clinching a spot in the postseason. The Rams were playing at Dallas late Sunday afternoon. (Update: The Rams lost, securing a playoff berth for the Packers.)
"We knew going into this thing it was going to be a four-quarter battle," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "That's exactly what it was. The game came down to the final snap."
It never should have, though. While the Packers were in control much of the game on an 11-degree day, they failed to put the Bears away despite numerous chances.
Green Bay gained command with some impressive offensive work. Receiver Davante Adams highlighted his 100-yard day (seven catches, 103 yards) by hauling in a 29-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-7 play in the first quarter, when QB Aaron Rodgers changed the play at the line and took a shot downfield with Adams in the slot.
The Packers also came out of the locker room after halftime and put together two efficient touchdown drives, covering 73 and 66 yards in 10 total plays. Running back Aaron Jones finished both with touchdown runs, giving him 14 rushing TDs on the season and 17 scores overall, as he finished with 51 yards on 13 carries.
But sprinkled around those were four Green Bay possessions that reached Chicago territory and produced no points. One in each half had the Packers in position for field goals of less than 50 yards, but they went backwards to get knocked out of scoring range both times.
The first, from the Chicago 31-yard line late in the second quarter, was due to an intentional grounding penalty on Rodgers when he was trying to throw the ball away but got his arm grabbed, so his throwaway never reached the line of scrimmage. The other, with five minutes left in the game from the Chicago 27, was a sack of Rodgers on third-and-4.
"I love being 11-3, and I think the performance was a little up and down," said Rodgers, who was 16-of-33 for 203 yards (78.2 passer rating). "We've just got to be a little more opportunistic."
The late sack was especially costly because the Bears, behind 100-yard receiving days from Allen Robinson (7-125) and Anthony Miller (9-118, TD), had rallied from a 21-3 deficit to get within 21-13, but the Packers had seemingly snatched back the momentum.
QB Mitch Trubisky (29-of-53, 348 yards, one TD, two INT, 65.6 rating) had just thrown an interception to defensive lineman Dean Lowry, who reached up to bat the ball with both hands and then make the catch juggling it on the way down.
The Packers were in great shape to make it a two-score game again, and instead the defense still had to get two more stops to preserve the win.
"We somehow find a way," LaFleur said, describing his team. "I think that's a credit to our players and their belief that we will find a way. You always look back and want more. We had chances there to put that game away from an offensive perspective and didn't get it done."
Lambeau Field hosted a Week 15 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, the 200th in the rivalry.
Defensively, Lowry's interception was the play of the day, and the Packers held the Bears out of the end zone until midway through the fourth quarter. The defense also stopped three fourth-down attempts, including a crucial one from the Green Bay 49-yard line just after the two-minute warning.
Chicago's final drive started from its own 22 with 36 seconds left and reached the Green Bay 34. One shot to the end zone bounced off hands of players from both teams and went out of bounds. The last play included three laterals by the Bears, but the last one was fumbled inside the 5-yard line and cornerback Tramon Williams recovered.
The Packers stopped the Bears' three-game winning streak and now have a three-game winning streak of their own as they hit the road for the final two games of the regular season.
They're one win away from an NFC North title and can take the division by beating either the Vikings next week or the Lions in Week 17. Win both and they'll earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. Either accomplishment would guarantee at least one more contest at Lambeau Field, where the Packers are 7-1.
"We have to keep winning," LaFleur said, "to try to get another game here."