2011 NFC championship:Green Bay Packers beat Chicago Bears, 21-14, to advance to Super Bowl
Monday, January 24, 2011; 12:05 AM
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 come when he managed to get the opposing middle linebacker to the turf following an interception.
The Green Bay Packers allowed the Chicago Bears to 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 AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers in Arlington, Tex., in 13 days.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn't at his best, throwing two interceptions and failing to produce a touchdown pass. But Rodgers 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 game's 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 by Urlacher, 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 during the regular season, the Packers won their third straight game on the road during these playoffs. They beat the Bears at Lambeau Field in the regular season finale to reach the playoffs as the NFC's sixth seed, then proceeded to eliminate the conference's top three seeds by beating the third-seeded Eagles in Philadelphia, the top-seeded Falcons in Atlanta and the second-seeded Bears in Chicago.
"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 to take place during the postseason. The Bears had won the previous playoff matchup in 1941.
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 the game one series into the third quarter with what the Bears said was a knee injury suffered on their final possession of the first half.