Rapid Reaction: Bears 35, Seahawks 24

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears stomped out whatever magic the Seattle Seahawks possessed, beating the visitors 35-24 behind stellar performances in every facet of the game.

Quarterback Jay Cutler won his first playoff game, throwing a 58-yard scoring strike on his first attempt, in addition to rushing for two more scores.

The game sets up the dream scenario for which fans clamored: The Chicago Bears versus the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship at Soldier Field.

So let’s get to it.

What it means: The Bears advance to the NFC championship to meet the Packers in the postseason for the first time in 70 years next Sunday at Soldier Field. The NFL couldn’t have asked for better in terms of potential television ratings. The teams split their regular-season series, with the Packers taking the last victory, a 10-3 decision in the regular-season finale at Lambeau Field.

Green Bay appears to be one of the NFL's hottest teams, and have won four consecutive games that could have ended the club’s season.

Playoff monkey gone: Skeptics can now cross off the no-playoff wins criticism of Cutler. Having just completed his first winning season since high school, Cutler started off his postseason career in resounding fashion.

The quarterback fired a 58-yard bomb for a score to Olsen on his first attempt of the game, and followed that up with a pair of touchdown runs.

Cutler’s comportment became a topic of discussion throughout the week. But critics tend to notice such things less and less when a quarterback starts to win big games. So Cutler took the first major step toward quieting some of the critical comments made about him in the national media.

The criticism won’t disappear completely, but Cutler definitely proved the doubters wrong against the Seahawks.

Trick play tricky: Offensive coordinator Mike Martz broke out a trick play in the fourth quarter that he probably should have been kept in the playbook.

The coach dialed a tailback pass featuring Matt Forte, but the running back threw an interception to Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry. The play led to Seattle scoring a late touchdown. But given the fact the game wasn’t on the line and the Bears already led by a comfortable margin, what’s the point?

There was no need to show any plays the team could possibly use in a crucial situation. So there’s a good chance the team eliminates the tailback pass from the playbook moving forward.

What’s next: An entire week of blow-by-blow breakdowns of the Chicago-Green Bay rivalry, which dates all the way back to 1921. The Bears lead the series 92-83, and there have been six ties. Bears coach Lovie Smith is 8-6 against the Packers, dating back to 2004.