Over the weekend, every game impacting the Bears' playoff dreams went exactly the way they needed it to go.
All the Bears had to do Monday night against the 5-9 Packers on national TV in the Arctic cold of Soldier Field was hold up their end, and somehow, some way they did, defeating their biggest rivals 20-17 in overtime.
"We still have a heartbeat," said Robbie Gould, whose 38-yard field goal with 11:28 left in overtime won it. "We're still alive."
The 9-6 Bears still have to win in Houston on Sunday and hope the Vikings lose to the Giants, which would give them the NFC North title; or win and hope the Cowboys and Buccaneers lose, which would get them in the playoffs as the last wild-card team.
Last Saturday night, the Cowboys lost to the Ravens, dropping them to 9-6. On Sunday, the Vikings also fell to 9-6 by losing at home to the Falcons, who clinched a wild-card spot at 10-5; the Bucs were pounded at home by the Chargers and also dropped to 9-6; and the Eagles lost to the Redskins, falling to 8-6-1. All four losers entered their games as at least 3-point favorites.
For much of the night Monday, the Bears didn't seem as if they would hold up their end of the bargain, as they were badly outplayed. After tying the game with 3:11 left, they allowed the Packers to advance to their 20 on a drive fueled by Will Blackmon's 32-yard kickoff return with a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty against Adrian Peterson tacked on. But Alex Brown blocked Mason Crosby's 38-yard field goal with 18 seconds left, setting up overtime.
"The season was on the line," Brown said. "We were like, 'This is it.' We got a great push, and I was the one who got my hand on it."
The Bears won the toss in overtime and elected to receive.
Greg Olsen's 18-yard reception plus a 15-yard horse-collar penalty on the Packers' Aaron Rouse got the Bears to the Packers' 35, and on third-and-9, Kyle Orton connected with Matt Forte for 14 yards, setting up Gould's 38-yard, game-winning field goal and a wild celebration among half-frozen fans. The Bears' playoff hopes were still flickering.
Orton said he knew it would be a second consecutive overtime victory for the Bears as soon as Gould stepped on the field for the final kick.
"There's not too much doubt about it when he comes out there," Orton said. "He's money."
The game-time temperature of just 2 degrees was the coldest for a Bears home game since 1963, when official records were first kept. The wind chill of minus-13 was the second coldest.
The Bears offense was just as cold, managing only 48 yards of total offense in the first half to the Packers' 221 and two first downs to Green Bay's 14. The Packers controlled the ball for 20:07 in the first half and led 14-3 at halftime. Forte had just 14 rushing yards on eight carries, running tentatively and finding little running room. Through three quarters, the Bears were outgained 291-92 and dominated in almost every phase of the game.
"I could understand why we were getting booed at halftime," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. "But you have to play two halves. Offensively, we didn't get a lot done until we had to."
NOTES & QUOTES
Peterson, Portis and the Falcons' Michael Turner were voted to the Pro Bowl last week, leaving Forte out, but he isn't bothered by the voting results.
"I wasn't really worried about it," Forte said. "I just go out there, and what happens is what happens. I can't control the votes."
Forte entered the Monday night game accounting for 35.2 percent of the Bears' yards from scrimmage, which would be fifth best for a rookie in the NFL since 1965.
Forte leads the Bears in rushing touchdowns with seven and is tied with Olsen in receiving touchdowns with four. Only three other NFL rookies have led their teams in both categories since 1965, when Gale Sayers led the Bears with 14 rushing TDs and six receiving scores.
Forte also improved his rushing yardage to 1,188, surpassing Anthony Thomas' previous team rookie record of 1,183 yards set in 2001.
His 28-yard run late in the game seemed to ignite a Bears offense that was sluggish most of the night.
"It was just time to take care of our business," Forte said. "Sometimes you just have to make a play. That seemed to jump-start the run game."
Forte said he was bothered some by his toe injury, but he dealt with it.
"You have to play through the pain sometimes," he said. "I did it last week, so I figured I could do it again." …
As one of the Bears' elder statesmen, TE Desmond Clark was asked who he would choose as this year's offensive MVP.
"Can I vote for myself?," Clark joked. "I guess you could have a debate between Kyle Orton and Matt Forte. Between those two, it's a toss-up I think. If you pick one of those two, you can't be wrong." …
The Bears are 10-1 in the 11 games they've played at home with the temperature 32 degrees or less since Smith became head coach in 2004. Since losing to the Texans on Dec. 19, 2004, the Bears have won 10 straight with the temperature below freezing, including victories the past three weeks.
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