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Green Bay Packers defeat Chicago Bears 21-14 for NFC title

Sam Shields, a rookie who only played one year of cornerback in college at Miami, runs after making the game-sealing interception in the final minute in Green Bay’s victory.

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Sam Shields, a rookie who only played one year of cornerback in college at Miami, runs after making the game-sealing interception in the final minute in Green Bay’s victory.

CHICAGO — It was a less than artful game in which the decisive touchdown was scored by a nose tackle and the winning quarterback's most significant contribution might have been to tackle the opposing middle linebacker after an interception.

Green Bay let Chicago remain in contention until the final moments of the NFC Championship Game on Sunday even after the Bears were left with third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie directing the offense.

But the Packers weren't fretting about any of those aesthetic shortcomings, not after advancing to their first Super Bowl of their post-Brett Favre era by beating the Bears, 21-14, at Soldier Field.

"We've always felt that we're a very good football team," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Now we have the opportunity to achieve greatness."

The Packers will face the Pittsburgh Steelers, who beat the New York Jets 24-19 in the AFC title game, Feb. 6 in Arlington, Texas.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn't at his best, throwing two interceptions and failing to produce a touchdown pass. But he ran for a touchdown on the Packers' opening drive. Green Bay got a rushing touchdown by tailback James Starks in the second quarter to build a 14-0 lead.

The Packers led only 14-7 when nose tackle B.J. Raji made the key play, dropping into pass coverage to intercept a short throw by Hanie. Raji went 18 yards for a touchdown with just more than six minutes remaining, and the Bears never quite recovered.

Earlier, Rodgers made an open-field tackle on Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher on an interception return, saving a potential touchdown.

"I don't get paid to tackle but that was probably one of my better plays of the day," Rodgers said.

After going 3-5 on the road in the regular season, the Packers won their third straight game on the road during the playoffs. They beat the Bears at Lambeau Field in the regular season finale to reach the playoffs as the NFC's sixth seed, then eliminated the conference's top three seeds: in order, the No. 3 Eagles, No. 1 Falcons and No. 2 Bears.

"I'm a believer that whoever gets hot at the right time wins championships," Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said.

It was the 182nd meeting between the Bears and Packers, but only the second in postseason.

The potential passing duel between Rodgers and his friendly rival, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, never materialized. Cutler threw an interception and completed only 6 of 14 passes for 80 yards before exiting one series into the third quarter with a knee injury (see notebook).

Veteran backup Todd Collins lasted only two series before giving way to Hanie.

"I felt real good about what Caleb was able to do," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "As the third quarterback, you don't get a lot of reps."

Hanie's second interception, to Packers cornerback Sam Shields in the final minute, sealed it.

"We felt we had them on the ropes there for a while," McCarthy said, "and just couldn't get it to a three-score game. … To me, it was a typical Green Bay-Chicago game with everything on the line."

Packers 21

Bears 14

.fast facts

Roadies

The Packers are the fourth team to win three straight road playoff games en route to the Super Bowl:

2010 Packers*: Eagles 21-16, Falcons 48-21, Bears 21-14

2007 Giants: Bucs 24-14, Cowboys 21-17, Packers 23-20 (OT)

2005 Steelers: Bengals 31-17, Colts 21-18, Broncos 34-17

1985 Patriots: Jets 26-14, L.A. Raiders 27-20, Dolphins 31-14

* First NFC No. 6 seed to reach the Super Bowl.

Green Bay Packers defeat Chicago Bears 21-14 for NFC title 01/23/11 [Last modified: Sunday, January 23, 2011 11:29pm]
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