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Packers clinch home field advantage in NFC playoffs

Jermichael Finley. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Packers clinch home field advantage in NFC playoffs

By Jay Sorgi. CREATED Dec 25, 2011 - UPDATED: Dec 25, 2011

Next game: Sunday, January 1st vs. Detroit
Packers Gameday at 10:00 a.m. on Newsradio 620 WTMJ, a live blog here and postgame on Live at 5 and 10 on TODAY'S TMJ4

4th Quarter

10:21 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  1:11
Just get the onside kick and it's a Merry Christmas in Wisconsin.

Pop fly...bounces out of bounds.  Academic.

Victory formation time.

10:05 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  4:33
Green Bay 35, Chicago 21
Gould 30 yd FG

Bears are 90 yards away from a 10-point game.  They're 4:33 from being eliminated from playoff contention.

Two McCown window dressing completions with the four-minute mark.  Yawn.

Shields missed an INT with a pass that Williams caught near midfield.  Height and reach = the issue.

Bell with another first down as he came out of the backfield.

McCown with a scramble...McCown with another scramble and run.  First down.  But the clock continues to run.

Another team gets 400 yards on the Packers.   No suffocating defense, but again, offense dominates.

Sanzenbacher with a shoestring catch near the far sideline, then a cut across the field for 19 yards, and the two minute warning sounds. Lovely.

Hang catch.  Ball hit the ground before the trap.  Incomplete, and we'll probably have a second two-minute warning.  Ha!

McCown doesn't get to first down territory after a scramble.  Tick.  Tock.  Tick.  Tock.  Two-minute warning.  Again.

3rd-3 at GB 23: First down catch by Sanzenbacher, and out of bounds.  1:57 to score three touchdowns?  Nope.

McCown running himself and he made Wynn whiff completely on a tackle.  Pathetic tackle.  Doubtful it will be a big problem, but one for the follies reel.

3rd-6 at CHI 12: McCown to the five yard line...and Shields missed an interception.  Failed to hang on.

Field goal time?  What?

9:57 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  7:54
Packers are ready for the onsides kick...and it goes out of bounds.

PILE DRIVE TO THE 50, as Wayne put it - Grant with the smash of Bears defenders.

Grant again.  Hopefully, a lot of Ryan Grant smashing for yardage at the end of this game.  They will need him.

Saine running hard, too, getting yards, is something pretty good, too.  No complaints there.

9:44 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  14:53
Green Bay 35, Chicago 18
McCown-Davis 1 yd TD pass (2pt play complete)

Now, sit Rodgers.  Keep him rested.  Make sure he's OK for the playoffs.  Enough nicks, bruises, guys out of action.  You are 14:53 from home field.  Rest Rodgers.

Hester finally gets open past the 30 yard line...33 yard line.  Bush stops him from going the distance.

McCown to Williams to the 47.  Great yardage gaining, not so great at converting it.   Packers again, bend but don't break.  They cause turnovers, which make up for a lot of defensive yard-allowing malfeasance.

3rd-3 at GB 47: McCown gets Davis inside the 35.  Davis was sitting there, waiting for the ball like he was waiting for a bus at the stop.

Fast throw to Williams on a one-step drop near the 25.  Hot read to the tall receiver through the shorter d-backs.

Inside the 20 now as Kellen Davis tippy-toes along the sidelines for a catch.  Ballet-like.

McCown play action, but Matthews chases him.  Congrats to McCown for being able to evade the trash-talking Matthews for a first down.

Bell finally gets a running opportunity and he's running like Walter Payton.  Pathetic.

McCown runs for the first down as defenders were on his tail.  36 inches from paydirt.

1st-goal at GB 1: Bell slips, and Bishop cleaned up.

2nd-goal at GB 1: McCown scrambles and discovers Davis wide Woodson and Burnett double-teamed a fullback and let a wideout get wide open.

Then McCown gets the 2-pt play himself and spikes it over the goalpost.  Uh, you're down how many points?

9:40 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  Continued from 1st Qtr
Green Bay 35, Chicago 10
Rodgers-Nelson 2 yd TD pass

2nd-goal at CHI 4: ARod missed Jones...but yellow fabric on green grass.  Bowman on the back of Jones, and that one's coming to the one or two yard line.

1st-goal at CHI 2: ARod - NELSON!  DAGGER!

3rd Quarter

9:36 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  1:12
Wayne seems ready to unleash the dagger with a Packers touchdown on this drive.

Bombing time for Nelson...SPECIAL CATCH BY NELSON AT THE EIGHT!  Front shoulder catch, as it was inside.

1st-goal at CHI 8: Grant slamming inside the five on a sweep.  Four yards as Lang led the charge.

9:33 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  1:54
Hester does another beyond-the-20 return, but no complaints.  Stopped at the 23.  Bush with the stop, and he might get the special teams nod for the Pro Bowl.

Chicago runs with Allen...and Woodson took Allen out at the line of scrimmage.  The Bears can't consider running for long, though, down three scores.

3rd-8 at CHI 25: McCown deep and PICKED!  Peprah!  Into Packers territory at the 33.  Tipped by Woodson.  The playmaker doing it again.  Won't be on the stats, but should be on the credit list.

9:20 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  8:26
Green Bay 28, Chicago 10
Rodgers-Jones 7 yd TD pass

Cobb with a pair of broken tackles during the punt return, where he ran about 70 yards for about a six-yard gain.

Cobb makes a much bigger gain during the first play from scrimmage.  He burned Lance Briggs.  No one really pressing him.

ARod again...runs himself and breaks a tackle inside the 45...inside the 40, making Lance Briggs whiff!

3rd-7 at CHI 36: ARod finds Driver!  To the 18 and that's 10,000 yards for a career!

In the red zone...Rodgers with +2 on a busted play.  Could have been worse.  MUCH worse. 

3rd-8 at CHI 16: ARod to Jones - gets the first down!  He wasn't in first down turf, but Jones broke two tackles after his curl pattern.  Goal to go.  Effort play.

1st-goal at CHI 7: Starks downed in the backfield by Melton.  Limping.  Uh oh.  RB health issue.


9:17 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  10:02
Hester tried to fake the downed ball in the end zone and try the return...but the Packers knew the Tom Foolery was coming.

Ball out at the 20.  Hah, Chicago.  Not this time.

Shields with a great open field tackle on Roy Williams to stop a five-yard gain from being more.

3rd-3 at CHI 27: McCown misses Roy Williams down the far sideline.  Good throw, first down.  A wounded duck of a throw.

9:10 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  11:35
Green Bay 21, Chicago 10
Rodgers-Nelson 55 yd TD pass

Busted play, at least positive yardage.  One yard on the QB sweep.  But stupid.

Grant with a broken tackle run to the Green BAy 45!   Grant smashed a Bear along the sideline and ran for an extra eight yards or so. 

Newhouse could have been called for holding, but wasn't.

ARod...forever...deep!  NELSON!  TWO SCORE LEAD AGAIN!  Perfect post pattern and Nelson burned his defenders.  Wayne: "A BEAUTIFUL CHRISTMAS RAINBOW!"

9:01 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  15:00
Green Bay 14, Chicago 10
Williams fumble recovery in end zone

Hester finally breaks the 20 yard line...but he steps out at the 28.  No big damage.

Bell.  Again.  35 yard line.   Bell again.  45 yard line.  Wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too much.  By a patchwork O-line.  Larry: "Bears just blockin' folks."

Bell.  Again.  But this time, -2, after Hawk and Bishop flew too the football.

McCown has to run it himself, and he gets to midfield.    He saw an opening and ran with it.  Could have perhaps waited longer for a downfield throw.

3rd-7 at 50: Wide open.  Bennett.  30, 20, 15, cutback.  Stopped inside the 5.  One yard line.  Williams slipped, then whiffed on a tackle.  Shields also whiffed.  Horrible tackling.  Horrible.

1st-goal at GB 1: Bell outside...breaks a tackle...FUMBLE!  But Chicago recovers by Williams.   Big dude with the recovery.

2nd Quarter

8:45 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  :16
Hester doesn't get a chance on the kickoff.  Ball over his head, in Manitowoc.

Not-so-victory formation.  Go to the locker room.

8:35 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  1:56
Green Bay 14, Chicago 3
Rodgers-Jones 3 yd TD pass

Now, Chicago owns the 2nd half momentum opportunity because they'll own the ball to start the 2nd half.

Green Bay needs a score.

Cobb helps with a fabulous return along the right side to the 36.

ARod downfield and Jones past midfield - WAY OFF TO THE RACES!  Fabulous deep crossing pattern to the Chicago 33.  But he was in bounds.

1:12 left...tick, tock...ARod deep but he missed Finley.  He got one hand on it, but that was off the mark.  Perfect throw and it's 1st-goal.

1:01 left, Rodgers will run himself to the 30 yard line...tick, tock, tick...time out.  All-time passing yardage record.

:50 left - Nelson wide open thanks to Tillman slipping/falling.  Inside the 15 yard line.  Out of bounds.  :43 to take the lead.

:43 - Rodgers-to-Driver for 10 yards and anohter firs down!  Tick, tock, tick, tock.

:20 - Chicago takes time out.  Why?  Confused in terms of defensive set?

:18 - 1st-goal at 3: ARod to Jones!  PERFECT!  Slant pattern and it's a two-score lead.  Key.

8:24 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  7:05
Green Bay 7, Chicago 3
Gould 35 yd FG

Uh oh.  Sanzenbacher for a first down.  In between three defenders.  Wayne: "You get the feeling the Bears getting a little more confidence in Josh McCown and what he can do."

Bell off left tackle and nine yards.  Mike Martz is giving up his style of game for running the football. Chicago style football.  Traditional Chicago football.

Bell cutback and first down...and a LOAD more.  Left side again and this time, 20 yards.  There is almost nothing in this Packers run-stopping game tonight.

Allen breaks another tackle - inside the 20.  Burnett and Peprah.  Wayne: "This has gone beyond alarming."

Red zone.

3rd-4 at GB 13: Allen HIT IN THE BACKFIELD BY HAWK!  The blitz worked to perfection.

8:19 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  8:17
Time of possession doesn't mean much if the points don't go on the board.  Thanks, Claymaker!

ARod, while he's hit, finds STarks on a swing pass for a six-yard gain.

Uh oh.  Rodgers holding his hand.  Shaking it off...hopes to still stay in the game.

3rd-3 at GB 34: ARod on the run and his delivery was caught by Cobb, but WAY out of play.

8:11 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  13:44
Chicago again behind the 20, thanks to Tim Masthay's amazing punting - inside the 20.

Allen stopped behind the 20!  C.J. Wilson with the hard hit to Allen's left ribs.

3rd-9 at CHI 19: McCown finds Williams 21 yards downfield.  Even the Bears can gash Green Bay deep.  Peprah on non-coverage.

SCREEN!  Bell DESTROYED by Claymaker, and a FUMBLE!  McCown was Johnny on the spot, scrambling for the loose football.  -3 loss.  Lovely.

3rd-8 at CHI 42: McCown forced to scramble, but Bell wide open.  Another HUGE 3rd down play.  39 yard line of Green Bay.  Packers' backs were turned to the line when Bell caught the pass.  All the running room in the world.

Five yards for Allen.  Stuttering, breaking tackles.  Turning not much into something.

Again, Allen, and a first down at the 27.  Cutback in the backfield and the stutter-step got him open.  Chicago is owning the ground game, and owning the clock.

McCown screen PICKED!  CLAY MATTHEWS!  That is pure instinct.  He read it and stuffed McCown, stopping a drive that would have produced points.

8:09 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  15:00
Rodgers high-percentage throw to Cobb, and the one-man screen with Finley didn't work.  Finley failing with the block.  Four yards, still.

3rd-4 at GB 30: Rodgers back shoulder to Jones, and he slipped attempting to come back and make the catch.  Pass far behind Jones, too.  Inaccurate.  A rarity.

1st Quarter

8:02 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  2:38
And thanks to Devin Hester boo-booing by catching a punt at the four yard line, the Packers have Chicago pinned behind their 20 yard line.

Bell slams through the middle for a nine-yard power run.  Chicago's offensive line decided to show up, for once.

Larry: "A lot of folks have been able to gash the Packers pretty well."

Bell right.  33 yard line.  Five yards.  This is getting old.  53 yards...make that 58 yards... in the first quarter for bell.

Bell FINALLY STOPPED!  Bishop with fabulous pursuit to hold Chicago to a loss.

3rd-4 at CHI 34: McCown's passed NEARLY PICKED!   Williams dropped the pass, Williams had a grasp of it but failed to hang on.

7:54 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive 4:16
Bears offsides - ARod goes deeeeeeep for Finley, but the ball bounced off his face mask and he failed to make the catch.  Doesn't count as a drop, because of the offsides penalty.

Nick Roach on Finley often - the kid from Milwaukee is in a mismatch, folks.

Starks with good acceleration after a cutback to make Briggs miss, for four yards.

ARod scrambling...finding Finley, but Wright dislodged Finley from the ball.


It appeared that Finley's knee was down, but t know see on the other angle that the ball did squirt loose...never had control.

3rd-1 at GB 48: Grant stymied.  Idonije slammed Grant wayyyy behind the line.  He "ran around the block of Marshall Newhouse," according to Larry McCarren.

7:39 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  10:26
Hester comes out of the end zone after catching three yards deep, and Brad Jones drags him down at the 13.  What?  Hester is human...on rare occasion.

Bell starts at RB with no Forte, and he cuts back against the grain on a sweep to get four yards.  Smart running, knowing what's NOT there - the outside edge.

A great first down run on the left side for Chicago.  Bell right, Bell left.  Chicago using the George Halas playbook so far.

Shotgun, and it's four straight runs with Bell, to set up 3rd-1 this time.  Chicago needs to set up play action, I think.

3rd-1 at CHI 33: Bell bounced outside, and bad pursuit on the Packers' right side defense led to a 13 yard run.

Bell's 5th straight run...almost nothing.  Bishop sticks him.  Where's that play action trigger?

Drop-back pass play to Williams who beat Sam Shields.  That's just size beating lack of size.  Plus a hand to push Shields away.  17 yards. 

McCown bombing deep for Bennett, and Woodson plus Burnett didn't allow a tie game to happen there.  Larry: "An Earl Bennett sandwich."

3rd-8 at GB 33 becomes 3rd-13 at GB 38, thanks to delay of game.  It also becomes out-of-field-goal-range if it's an incomplete pass.

Flaggage again as Sanzenbacher gets to the 25 yard line with the crossing pattern...and it's an illegal shift.

3rd-18 at GB 43: Bell with a cutback run and he gets to the 31 on a screen pass.  A three-point play, probably.

Nope.  Pushed right.

7:30 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  15:00 left in first quarter
Green Bay 7, Chicago 0
Rodgers-Finley 2 yd TD pass

Green Bay starts a game with the ball for the first time since the Mesozoic era, thanks to the Bears winning the toss and deferring.

Packers start with play action, and ARod dumps to Crabtree for seven yards.  The old keep pass, and Crabtree was the open option.

3rd-3 at GB 27: don't want to give momentum to Chicago immediately, folks.

ARod finds Finley who juggled, caused heart palpatations across the state after his drops last week, but held on for the first down.

Swing pass to Grant...of to the races!  Fantastic blocking downfield by the big uglies.  Idonije smelled the screen, but Sitton took care of him.  32 yards.

ARod downfield - Nelson deep in the red zone!  Fabulous in-cut and he beat the safeties and got 1,000 yards.

1st-goal at CHI 8: Wright halts Finley from the end zone after another beautiful short pass.  Keep pass, of course.

2nd-goal at CHI 2: ARod to Finley - MONEY!  Quick slant.  Unguardable.


7:28 p.m.
Coin toss time: Packers logo is heads.  Bears call tails...and they get it.  No way they'd ever pick a Packers logo as heads.

The Bears defer, and own the momentum for the 2nd half.

7:22 p.m.
Packers enter the playing field from the southeast end zone. 

Not a horrible night by any stretch of the imagination, in terms of temperature.  37 degrees.  But wind gusts could make the passing and kicking games interesting.

6:20 p.m.
Clifton and Bulaga are both out at tackle, as expected.

Marion Barber will not play for Chicago tonight, but Devin Hester, Lance Briggs and Henry Melton will.  Almost a full arsenal amongst the Bears most important cogs.

6:02 p.m.
For the first time in team history, the Packers hope to get a win on Christmas Day as they face Chicago tonight.

More importantly, the Packers hope to clinch home advantage through the NFC playoffs today.

The key to watch tonight: that patchwork offensive line that Packers Coach Mike McCarthy says should perform better than they did in the loss to Kansas City, due to a week of practicing together at the positions they'll be at tonight.  (They did go through major shuffles last week during the game.)

"The opportunity to practice a full week together, to play the position you're going to play in the game, to practice the techniques that are required to play against your opponent's scheme and the individual you're getting ready to play against is so important," said McCarthy earlier this week on Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News."

"It's such a technical position. Things happen so fast. It's right there at the line of scrimmage. I think we'll have more continuity this week with the week of preparation."