What it means: As it turned out, the Packers needed this win in order to qualify for the playoffs. After a nervous afternoon at Lambeau Field, the Packers put together enough of a surge late in the third quarter and early in the fourth to win it. It wasn’t over until safety Nick Collins clinched the game with a red zone interception with 10 seconds remaining. As the No. 6 seed, the Packers will play at the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC’s wild-card round. The day and time will be announced soon.
What I was surprised by: Bears coach Lovie Smith played his starters for the entire game despite having nothing tangible to play for in this game. Before kickoff, the Atlanta Falcons had clinched the NFC’s No. 1 overall playoff seed, leaving the Bears locked in at No. 2 no matter the outcome of this game. Two Bears players left with injuries -- linebacker Nick Roach and safety Major Wright -- but both probably would have been on the field even if Smith had rested his starters. I don’t necessarily disagree with Smith’s decision. As we discussed earlier in the week, there is something to be said about maintaining a winning mindset. But it’s just a matter of fact: The Bears’ good fortune when it comes to health continued Sunday.
Turning point Part I: With the Packers trailing 3-0 more than halfway through the third quarter, Tramon Williams broke off a 41-yard punt return to put the ball at the Bears’ 44-yard line. The play energized the crowd and ultimately led to Mason Crosby's 23-yard field goal.
Turning point Part II: The Bears appeared to have converted a third-and-15 late in the third quarter to put the ball on the Packers’ 40-yard line. But Chester Taylor's 15-yard reception was wiped out because Smith had called a timeout just before the snap, apparently to avoid a delay of game penalty. Ouch.
Turning point Part III: Much like last Sunday against the New York Giants, the Packers’ winning push got a huge boost from a long pass down the right sideline to receiver Greg Jennings. This time, quarterback Aaron Rodgers found Jennings past cornerback Zack Bowman for 46 yards early in the fourth quarter. Safety Danieal Manning was late to help but tackled Jennings at the Bears’ 1-yard line.
Turning point Part IV: Normally first-and-goal isn’t a high-stress play, but the Packers had botched an earlier goal-to-go series after Williams’ punt return. This time, however, Rodgers found tight end Donald Lee for a play-action touchdown pass that looked pretty similar to the one he threw to Lee last week against the Giants.
What's next: The Bears have a first-round bye. The Packers will be in Philadelphia either Saturday or Sunday.