Packers-Bears Clash: 'Doesn't Get Any Bigger'

After dispatching Seattle with relative ease on Sunday, Chicago began to look ahead to the NFC Championship Game against Green Bay. It's a matchup that doesn't surprise Bears coach Lovie Smith.

Jay Cutler grew up rooting for the Chicago Bears. So, he knows that Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers means just a little bit more.

"Yeah, doesn't get any bigger than this," Cutler said after throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for two more scores in a thorough 35-24 beating of Seattle on Sunday. "To be in an NFC Championship, playing at home and to bring Green Bay on top of it just adds to it. These next couple of days, I'm going to take a look at a lot of film. They're a really good football team, they're really hot. To go to Philly, to go to Atlanta and now to come to us in Chicago, they're used to the road and I'm sure their confidence is sky-high."

Cutler's four total touchdowns matched Aaron Rodgers' output in the Packers' 48-21 dismantling of the top-seeded Falcons on Saturday night. Cutler and Rodgers are friends, and Cutler helped recruit Rodgers' brother, Jordan, to play quarterback at Vanderbilt.

"I texted him after the game (yesterday) and said good game," Cutler said. "We'll have a friendly little banter. Impressive win they had last night. What they did to Atlanta on the road, is hard to do. So, we're going to have our hands full."

This matchup of longtime rivals wouldn't have happened had the Bears beat the Packers in the regular-season finale at Green Bay. Even with nothing to play for in terms of playoff seeding, Bears coach Lovie Smith kept his starters in for the entire game. Green Bay prevailed 10-3 to clinch a playoff spot on the strength of Rodgers' 1-yard touchdown pass to Donald Lee and a last-minute interception by Nick Collins.

Walking off the field that evening, Smith considered the possibility of a rubber match to a series that the teams split 1-1 with the Packers holding a scant 27-23 scoring advantage.

"I thought that after we played them up there, I thought it could easily come down to us," Smith said. "I knew what seed they would be, knew they were a good football team. A lot of people probably though it could happen this way."

The Packers have won four consecutive elimination games, and Rodgers' completion percentage of 86.1 against Atlanta is the highest in NFL playoff history by a quarterback with at least 35 passing attempts. Rodgers entered the game with the highest postseason passer rating in NFL history and the only quarterback with ratings of 120 in his first two playoff starts. Rodgers one-upped himself with a rating of 136.8, lifting his career mark to a record 129.4. His 10 touchdown passes also is a record for a quarterback with three playoff starts.

"He just knows where to go with the football," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "I think the Falcons had a backup guy in there (at cornerback with Christopher Owens), so they took advantage of that. He knows where to go with the football, he knows what coverage you're in, you're not going to trick him. They change up personnel a lot, too, run a lot of guys on, off the field, trying to get you off balance, get you thinking about what they're doing. You're not going to trick him, he knows where to go with the football, right when the ball is snapped and he doesn't make bad throws."

However, the Bears' defense has given Rodgers fits, as evidenced by the 13.5 points per game average this season. For his career, he is 4-2 against Chicago, with seven touchdowns, four interceptions and rating of 92.6.

"Aaron Rodgers was on fire," cornerback Charles Tillman said. "His receivers, they we're amazing last night. I think it will be a good game. Secondary-wise, we've got our hands full. If Green Bay comes out and plays like they played last night against Atlanta, it's going to be a tough day for us. We've got to lock-in on what we have to do and just play good defense."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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