by Mark Metzler
As long as the Green Bay Packers keep winning, the NFC Championship will have to go through Lambeau Field, as the Packers defeated a much-improved Chicago Bears team, 35-16. That is cause for celebration. At least a small one.
Unlike the first game against the Bears, this game was much closer than the score indicated. Give the Bears credit, the team controlled the ball and controlled the tempo. They played a good game and would have beat most teams, but those teams don’t have Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers finished the game with four more touchdown passes, giving him 48 for the season.
His season really was historic, setting a personal high for touchdown passes and nearly setting a new NFL high for quarterback rating, a record which he holds. That is all after the team took a quarterback in the first round. Apparently, it was motivating. Rodgers should win his third MVP award.
The game really was up for grabs until the Packers finally stopped the Bears on fourth and one early in the fourth quarter. The Bears had converted five fourth down plays in the game before that. The Packers then drove down the field, with Aaron Jones taking in a nice run to put the Packers up 28-16.
It was a big game for the Packers offensive line, as well. David Bakhtiari’s injury during practice in the week leading to the game was devastating for the Packers. He’s the best left tackle in the NFL and maybe the best lineman. Still, the Packers have rotated their linemen well during the season, and Bakhtiari’s injury, which has knocked him out of the season, may be manageable for the team as long as no other linemen get injured.
Billy Taylor played well at left tackle. Lucas Patrick played well at right guard, filling in for Taylor. And Rick Wagner was solid again at right tackle, bouncing back from an injury last week. Center Corey Linsley and left guard Elgton Jenkins are among the best at their positions. So, realistically, the line might be as good as 95 percent of what it would be with Bakhtiari. That’s still pretty good.
The defense played another good game, bending but not breaking. If the Packers defense can hold opponents under 20 points per game in the playoffs, the Packers will win the rest of the way out.
It was almost a game of what Marquez Valdes-Scantling gives, he takes away. He ran away from the Bears on a 72-yard touchdown in the first half, and dropped a bomb at the beginning of the second half that would have been another touchdown. The drop let the Bears back into the game. Honestly, it would have been over at that time. But the Bears converted a long pass and were able to make a field goal to make the game 21-16.
Then, the Bears held on the Packers’ next possession and drove the ball down the field again, only to get stuffed on that key fourth and one.
The Bears played as if they had everything on the line, and it was for them. Thankfully for Bears’ fans (some of whom are decent people), the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals, letting the Bears into the playoffs.
As far as the playoffs, it’s good to see the Bears have a chance to play again. They will play the Saints, and I think the Bears actually might have a chance against the Saints. The Seattle Seahawks will play the Los Angeles Rams, which should be a win for the Seahawks because the Rams will be without injured quarterback Jared Goff. The Washington Football Team will host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You can expect the Buccaneers to move on.
Still, it’s possible for any team to win on any given Sunday, but I am thankful that the Packers will have Sunday off to rest and get ready. Three more wins to go. Then, a bigger celebration.