Receivers Come Up Big in the Biggest Game

Jordy Nelson caught 10 passes and Randall Cobb returned from a broken leg to score the game-winning touchdown.

CHICAGO -- Jordy Nelson may not fancy himself as much of a prophet.

Yet, it was Nelson's sentiments leading up to the latest clash between his Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears that echoed loud and clear at Soldier Field on Sunday. After the announcement last week that quarterback Aaron Rodgers would finally be back in the starting lineup eight weeks after breaking his collarbone, it was Nelson who cautioned that this game was not going to be on Rodgers' shoulders. Nelson especially pointed out that he and his fellow wide receivers needed to step up and do their part if the Packers were to extend their season and win the NFC North title.

Boy, did they ever.

Nelson led the way with 10 catches for 161 yards - 1 yard shy of his career high. Rodgers, who completed 25 of 39 passes for 318 yards, with two touchdowns and a pair of picks, spread the ball around all afternoon. James Jones caught six for 41 yards, and Andrew Quarless, Eddie Lacy, Jarrett Boykin and Randall Cobb -- in his first game back since breaking his leg against Baltimore -- each caught two passes.

"It was a big win," a smiling Nelson said. "Aaron's the best quarterback in the league and to be gone for that many weeks and come back to play the way he did, it was great to have him back. It was huge. Him and Randall both came in and had a huge part in this game.

"I think our guys played great. We made a few mistakes here and there but, for the most part, we made plays across the board. Aaron's the best quarterback in the game, but just because he runs out of the tunnel doesn't mean we're going to win the game. Everyone else has to do their jobs. The offensive line did a great job keeping him upright. He did a good job getting the ball out and being smart, and it was fun to watch Randall out there, as well."

Rodgers and Cobb delivered when the team needed it most. Both of Cobb's catches were for touchdowns. First, he caught a 7-yard toss from Rodgers with 7:27 left in the third quarter to put Green Bay ahead, 20-14.

"I actually had a corner route on that play, the DB was playing outside, so I was trying to run my corner and he was right there," said Cobb. "So, I knew nobody was going to be in the area and Aaron was able to find me."

Then, with the game on the line and just 38 seconds left, Cobb somehow got behind the Bears' secondary to snag a beautiful 48-yard pass from Rodgers for the game-winning touchdown.

"When I came off the ball, as soon as I came off the ball, I actually had a hook route about 10-12 yards, saw the safety was flat-footed so I just threw my hand up and stayed on the move and Aaron was able to find me," Cobb explained. "I have a, it's kind of a lap route and I knew with the play call that there was nobody going to be in the area that I was running to, so I just communicated by throwing my hand up, Aaron was able to find me."

The ball hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity before it finally came down to the speedy Cobb.

"Oh, my gosh, it was in the air for so long, I had so many thoughts going through my head. ‘You better not drop it. If you drop it, they're going to kill you, everybody,'" said Cobb. "‘You better catch it. Just catch the ball, body catch it if you have to, do whatever you have to do,' and I was able to make the catch."

Bears cornerback Tim Jennings explained the play this way.

"Well, we had a little miscommunication but we had an opportunity as a defense to make a play," he said. "We brought it but that was Aaron Rodgers being Aaron Rodgers. He found an open receiver down the field and that was definitely what it was. Every guy has to be held accountable for what their job is and we just didn't get it done. It wasn't man-to-man, it was one of those check zones, fire zones. I think we blitzed everybody. We need to make a play in the back end. We can't allow that. But, like I said, that was Aaron Rodgers buying time, finding an open man. That is one thing about when you blitz. There is going to be somebody open if you can buy enough time."

Nelson made the point that the Packers practice for just this kind of moment as a matter of routine.

"Those are extended plays that we practice all week," he said. "Once that quarterback breaks the pocket, guys on the defense are scrambling around trying to find somebody to cover and, a lot of times, guys are running free. Cobby was blessed to be running free, get a touchdown and help our team win the ballgame.

"At first, I didn't think about who it was. It was just a touchdown and we get to move on. But both of those guys have battled and Randall's worked extremely hard in the training room trying to get back. His injury is the kind that's still up in the air and we didn't know if he'd have an opportunity to continue to play. To get both of those guys back and to have them play a huge part in the win says a lot about them. They were prepared, were into the offense and knew what to do.

"Those dudes are special players. You're talking about the MVP of the National Football League and you're talking about one of the most elusive players in our game today. You expected that out of them. It sucks that they got hurt but they came back and didn't miss a beat."

Rodgers and Boykin also combined for some heads-up play on a freak second-quarter touchdown. Starting in the shotgun, Rodgers was sacked for a 6-yard loss by Julius Peppers before Rodgers could get off his pass. The ball popped free just before Rodgers' arm went forward and the ball fell seemingly harmlessly to the ground. After a couple of seconds, Boykin picked up the ball and Rodgers urged him to run it to the end zone.

"I didn't know it was a TD until they started challenging it but we're taught in practice to cover the ball always," said James Jones. "Offense, defense cover the ball, pick it up because you never know what may happen and it paid off for today and gave us seven. The refs didn't blow their whistle, Boykin advanced it and got himself a nice little rushing touchdown."

Coach Mike McCarthy pointed to receivers coach Edgar Bennett for yelling, "Keep running. Keep running."

The Bears argued that it should have been an incomplete pass because Rodgers' arm moved forward. However, replays showed the ball came loose before Rodgers' arm went forward and the touchdown ruling stood.

"I think there was a lot of help on that one," said Nelson. "This season hasn't been drawn up the way we'd like it but it continued through this game. The whistle wasn't blown and I think a lot of people on the sideline were yelling. He picked it up and still didn't know what to do with it. It was great that he finally ended up in the end zone. Hopefully, it will count for his first career rushing touchdown."

For Cobb, coming up the with the winning touchdown catch was an exclamation point after weeks of frustration and hard, dedicated work in the training room, to come back from the broken leg he suffered against the Baltimore Ravens. It also reaffirmed just how much the game of football means to him.

"Oh, yeah, definitely," said Cobb. "Definitely. Just when I woke up this morning, just laying in bed, actually I don't even think I slept last night, I was just so excited to play again, kind of like a little kid. I'm grateful. I'm grateful for the opportunity to put the green and gold back on and be able to play. It was kind of a surreal day for me."

And a surreal day for the Packers in this most improbable of seasons. They have new life in the postseason after being nearly written off several weeks ago.

"All season, this team showed heart and guts, man," said Jones. "It all came down to the last game and the last drive. Everybody believed in each other and we made plays when it counted. That final drive was big. Aaron's one of the best players in the league. He did his job, came in there and took control and he made plays. He was Aaron. At the end of the game, we were NFC North champions. There was a lot of yelling in here and a lot of excitement. That was a great accomplishment because we won the division. The thing is, we aren't done. We'll enjoy this one for a little bit but the goal is not to win the NFC North Championship. The goal is to win the Super Bowl. We've got to get back to work and we've got to get ready for the 49ers."


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