GREEN BAY, Wis. (CBS/AP) – The Green Bay Packers are in the playoffs – but it certainly didn’t come easy.
Aaron Rodgers’ 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Donald Lee gave the Packers the lead in the fourth quarter, and their defense held on to clinch a wild card berth with a 10-3 victory over the division rival Chicago Bears on Sunday.
It was a struggle all afternoon for the Packers (10-6). Needing a win to get into the postseason, they trailed 3-0 at halftime and were tied going into the fourth quarter with the Bears – a team that didn’t have anything to play for in terms of playoff seeding, but still used its starters.
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Rodgers and the Green Bay offense sputtered for three quarters, but he broke through with back-to-back big passing plays early in the fourth quarter to set up the go-ahead touchdown. The defense did the rest, as Nick Collins’ interception ended a late drive for the Bears (11-5).
Rodgers threw for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Matt Forte had 91 yards rushing for Chicago, which came into Sunday’s game assured of a first-round playoff bye as the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
Jay Cutler threw for 168 yards with a pair of interceptions and was sacked six times, but he stayed in the game.
Just as Bears coach Lovie Smith promised all week, the Bears played their starters in an attempt to win – and for a while, it looked like they were going to knock the Packers out of the playoffs.
Green Bay didn’t look anything like the team that steamed the New York Giants to keep its playoff hopes alive last week, at least not for three quarters.
The Packers moved the ball at times but didn’t really threaten to score in the first half, while the Bears’ only dangerous drive stalled near the goal line and Robbie Gould kicked a 30-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 4:31 left in the second quarter.
Green Bay then appeared to grab some momentum early in the third quarter, stopping the Bears on fourth-and-2 at the Packers’ 40.
But Bears cornerback Charles Tillman made a diving interception on the Packers’ next play, returning it to the Packers’ 15-yard line. Green Bay challenged the play but it was upheld.
After a holding penalty on first down, Cutler threw a pass to the end zone on third-and-19 from the 24 and it was intercepted by Green Bay’s Charlie Peprah.
The Packers got another potential spark later in the third quarter from Tramon Williams, who returned a punt 41 yards to the Chicago 44.
Rodgers then hit Greg Jennings for a 33-yard completion, giving Green Bay first-and-goal on the 1.
But the Packers fell apart on the goal line and settled for a 23-yard field goal by Mason Crosby, tying the game at 3 with 2:39 left in the third quarter.
Rodgers finally made some big plays in the fourth quarter, throwing for 21 yards to Donald Driver and 46 yards to Jennings to set up a 1-yard touchdown pass to Donald Lee, giving the Packers a 10-3 lead with 12:42 left in the game.
The Packers came into Sunday’s game knowing they needed to win to get into the playoffs after Tampa Bay beat New Orleans earlier in the day. The Bears, meanwhile, didn’t have anything to play for from a playoff seeding scenario after Atlanta beat Carolina to clinch home field advantage.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.