Packers Playoff Bound with 10-3 Win Over Bears

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4th Quarter

6:01 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive continues  2:00 left
Cutler has been here before.  He knows how to lead a tea mto a win late.  This is scary.

Another completion to Davis, this one for a first down, but Chicago stays in bounds and the clock drips down.  59 yards to go.

It is just dink and dump to death...this time with Forte.  Another first down, now in Green Bay turf.

Nerves.  Nerves.  The relationship of increased nerves is inverse to the amount of fingernails left when a game is this close.

This time, the dump-off gains nothing and Chicago has to use a time out - their second - after a minute.  Credit Cutler for going lefty on the throw to avoid a four-yard loss.

Six sacks for Green Bay on Cutler.  Wow.  They and Masthay won this game...if it turns out to be a win.

Uh oh.  Hester to the 32.  The first down field throw he's had.  But it's in bounds, and Cutler's wasting time.  Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Aromishadu nearly got nailed for offensive pass interference on Williams on the deep pass.  20 seconds left after the incompletion.

Cutler....PICK!!!  Put the Packers in the playoffs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Collins with the playoff clincher.

5:53 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  4:49
Again, Masthay may earn that game MVP after pinning Chicago deep at the three yard line.  A field position game in the final minutes sounds nice to me, as long as Chicago doesn't score.

3rd-1 at CHI 12, about 4:00 left: Olsen made the kind of catch that Chicago drafted him for, a clutch money catch to keep Chicago's drive alive.  Nothing Williams could have done.

Again, Olsen keeps Chicago alive with catches as the Packers blitz and try to make Cutler's life miserable.  The Packers feel more miserable as Chicago stops the clock with Olsen stepping on a wide white stripe near Green Bay's bench.

GREAT tip by Woodson at the line of scrimmage.  Interesting to see him play de-facto linebacker.

3rd-4 at CHI 24: Cutler's step up in the pocket created the running lane that allowed him to get the first down.  Some Packers thought there was a false start, or they might have been even more aggressive in gettnig to Cutler.

The season is at stake, boys, with 2:30 left.

Again, Olsen.  It's pitch and catch and it could be a slow water drip torture Chicago is putting on Green Bay at this point.  They're content to run it down to two minutes.

5:50 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  7:02
Green Bay is just 20 yards and a Crosby kick from owning this game, thanks to the field position the Maynard punt created for Green Bay, inside Chicago territory.

Green Bay FINALLY gets a good run on first down with Starks.  But what they did there was use misdirection to open up holes.  You can't win much against this defense if you go hat-on-hat.

That was proven on 2nd down, creating danger.

3rd-5 at CHI 41: BULAGA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   Your fourth penalty of the game!  Did you not get the memo from the first meeting?  Stop the yellow hanky industry from thriving!

3rd-10 at CHI 46: and Rodgers tried a rollout pass which netted nothing, because again, Chicago's defensive backs have complete clamps on the Packers' receivers.

Defense, you'd better win it.  The Packers' offense can't clinch it.

5:44 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  9:58
Masthay may deserve MVP of the most critial game of the season.  He again pinned Chicago deep, this time at their three yard line.

Defense, the season is at stake.  You have 97 yards to defend.  Do your thing and you'll play next week.

Forte gets slammed into a cameraman by A.J. Hawk.  No damage to Forte.  Severe damage to the camera, I would guess.  Worst damage: 1st down Chicago.

I'm impressed with Chicago keeping their guys in.  It means more if the Packers win this game and they didn't get it cheap.

It means the most because it's against a fully stocked, playoff bound Bears team, at home.  Of course, that's if they get it done.

They're a step closer after a Woodson blitz and sack.  He leaped right into Cutler and made him cringe.

3rd-17 at CHI 8: no safety.....but Claymaker got him down at the 1 yard line.  Safety time?  Not on the punt.

5:39 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  11:46
Rodgers wants it all on 1st down, but Tim Jennings puts clamps own on Greg Jennings again.  Save three throws, the Bears have owned Green Bay's receivers.

10-3 may have to hold up.

NICE SPIN MOVE BY STARKS to get the first down on an outside run....but it's negated by another holding call on Bulaga.  He tackled Chicago's outside linebacker, which let Starks have a chance to go free.

3rd-15 at GB they have to get a screen pass and Nelson is two yards short.  He gamely tried to slither past defenders...WHOA!  Was that a face mask on the tackle?  What?

5:32 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  12:42
The Packers defense has the lather.  They have the loud.  They have the lead.  It's now in their hands.

More their shoulder pads popping Matt Forte's as they hold him to a half yard...more accurately, 17/32nds of a yard.

NEAR game-clinching pick by Bishop.   If he had pick-sixed that one, there's no way Chicago comes back from 14 down in 12 minutes or less.,

3rd-9 at CHI 20 15/32nds: Another near pick, but the Packers still get the ball back.  Now, a clock-controlling march is big.

5:24 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  15:00
Green Bay 10, Chicago 3
Rodgers-Lee 1 yd TD pass
This feels like a traditional Packers-Bears game.  In 1927.

With the way the defenses are dominating, any help such as neutral zone infractions like what Chicago just committed will help.

Running Kuhn or someone without speed in the middle against Chicago's defense is useless.  No running game for Green Bay at all.

3rd-3 at GB 32: WIDE OPEN!  Driver.  He got underneath a rocket throw after getting to the seam of the Chicago defense.  2nd guy open over the middle all day.

JENNINGS!  The first DEEP opening all day long.  Finally, they're doing what they couldn't do the first three quarters.  He just snuck behind his receiver.

1st-goal at GB 1: play action!!!!!  LEE!!!!!!!  At last, the lock on the end zone is broken.

3rd Quarter

5:18 p.m.  Bears' 4th Drive  2:39
Chicago just got themselves a four-point win.  And now, there is another win afer a short kick by Crosby, with Manning going to midfield.  Pathetic special teams.

Cutler, with all day, but finally the Packers' defensive backs match Chicago's productivity there, and a coverage sack.

The Packers' defense must take over, and another immediate tackle of a short Bears completion forces a 3rd and long.  Smart

3rd-15 at CHI 45: good step up by Cutler after the rush got Taylor the ball for a first down...but not until after Chicago called a time out!  Relief.  Nice.

3rd-15 at CHI 45, take 2: ANOTHER COVERAGE SACK!  Credit three guys for forcing Cutler underneath...and the Packers' defense is owning this game now.

5:11 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  6:05
Packers 3, Bears 3
Crosby 23 yard FG
WILLIAMS!  That's called getting field position.  That was a game changer as he shook, baked, and did what he had to to change a pinned-inside-the-20 situation to great field position.  Inside Chicago territory.

Must take advantage.  MUST take advantage.

THERE'S THE FLAG!  Jennings of the Bears gets called for pushing on both sides of Greg Jennings.  OH did Clifton get away with illegal hands to the face there.

WIDE OPEN!  JENNINGS TO THE ONE!  For the first time all day, Rodgers had time, and Jennings finally broke free from being an unwilling dance partner.

1st-goal at CHI 1: WHY DO YOU BUNCH EVERYONE UP AND RUN KUHN?  You need to CREATE space for him when he can't slither past defenders.

2nd-goal at CHI 1: backward pass to Jackson and that was one of the worst short passes I've ever seen.  It was a fake sneak, and Rodgers had no mustard on it.  At least Jackson had enough to keep control after he dropped it.

3rd-goal at CHI 3: AGH!  Tommie Harris the Packer killer, ending the touchdown threat by snagging Rodgers' left leg. 

5:07 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  7:07
Thank you, Devin Hester, for helping Masthay's average rise even more, as he blasts one inside the Chicago 25. 

ANOTHER near pick.  Knox had to stick his hand up to not allow Williams to make a pick.  Knox played a better d-back than Williams.

Davis gets decleated on a one-step throw...better, the ball got de-caught.

3rd-10 at CHI 24: ANOTHER not-enough-for-a-first-down catch.  Davis had to grab a ball that went far behind him.

5:03 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  8:39
The Bears' defensive backs have dominated this game.  Rodgers has had time.  He's scrambled for more time.  He just hasn't had open receivers who have held on to the ball.

3rd-2 at GB 28: Jennings had a half step on his defender, but Rodgers had a one-and-a-half steps on that defender with his throw.  Too much.

4:59 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  10:14
The defense now has major, major work to do, 15 yards from allowing a two-score lead.

Matthews starts it off, with a holding call to boot on the Bears.

A.J. Hawks turns 1st and 20 into 2nd and 21 with a beautiful chase down of Forte on a swing pass.

Walden shows speed in chasing CUtler and holding him to a one-yard gain.  Cutler made the mistake of running toward the sideline ahead of the line of scrimmage...thinking he could throw the ball.

3rd-19 at GB 24: HUGE PICK BY PEPRAH!  If there's a turning point to this game, that could be it.

4:53 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  10:33 in 3rd quarter
Aaron Rodgers has got to do something with the Packers 60 yards from the lead.

He did.  A pick by Tillman to the 15...uh, wait.  Did the ball bounce off the ground when Tillman corralled it?

I think the tip of the football touched the ground...but the refs disagree.

4:43 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  15:00 left in 3rd quarter
Oh, it's getting cold there.  I'm glad...at least for this Packers game...that I'm warmer here in the L.A. area.

The problem: the temperature is still higher than the Packers point total.

The other problem: the Bears' offensive line is dominating, and getting Forte enough running holes for first downs.

Olsen!  Thank goodness you grabbed whatever slithery stuff that Jennings and Jones had right before the half, to set up the drop.

3rd-6 at CHI 43: Davis was wide open for the pass to get the first, because the Packers schemed a defensive back far back of the first down mark.  Bears took advantage of a defensive back blitz.  They have to account for a receiver at the line of scrimmage on a 3rd and middle-distance play.  Bad defensive scheme.

3rd-9 at GB 47: A.J. HAWK!!!!!!  Tha tackle in open field of a receiver before the first down marker deserves all the credit in the world.

4th-2 at GB 40: and the slant pattern gets tipped and the ball harmlessly falls to the frozen tundra.  HUGE STOP!

2nd Quarter

3:29 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  :33
The Bears' defense has absolutely earned this game.  Give them credit.

4:23 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  1:43
After a Rodgers scramble for a first down....wow.  The Bears' defensive coverage s tight.  Very tight.  So tight it's interference on the guy guarding Jennings, but there's no flag.  Yeeeeeeeeeeesh.

Rodgers AGAIN scrambling for his life....and Quarless snagged the football....oh, I don't know if this is out of bounds, as ruled (after Rodgers getting slammed with a helmet hit, as well.)

It looks like he got the flag.  Nice.

JENNINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You had the ball on your fingertips, and if you just take it in, it's six points.

(And based on the isolated camera on him after the replay, he  knew it.)

3rd-4 at 50: 2nd straight throw that's dropped.  First down if Jones holds on to it.

Pathetic.

4:17 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  2:55
We're seeing why the Bears are where they are in the NFL hierarchy right now.  They've earned it, and they're earning it today.

3rd-1 at CHI 34 at 2-minute warning: GREAT job of staying with Johnny Knox after a heck of a play fake.  Tramon Williams...though that pass could be challenge-able.  It was not reviewed, and the Packers have to go 83 yards to get the lead before halftime.

4:13 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  4:31
Pat Lee is proving more and more that he could be the return guy the Packers need.  He made a fantastic lateral move to get to the near sideline and reach the 40 yard line.

Low passes like the one Jennings had in his hands from Rodgers are meant to avoid interceptions...but they should be caught, too...and this one wasn't.

3rd-9 at GB 41: make that 3rd-14 at GB 36.  BULAGA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And Rodgers won't get 14 yards after a scramble.  Agh.  The Bears' zone defense has given Rodgers fits.

4:02 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  9:41
Chicago 3, Green Bay 0
30 yard field goal
Another field position loss thanks to a great slant pattern by Davis and a solid throw by Cutler right in Davis' breadbasket. Nothing you could do about that one.

3rd-2 at GB 45: UGH!  Forte sneaks inside the 20 with a great check-down throw.  Cutler bullrushed a rookie and plowed over him, and he came within an inch of Cutler and a sack.  Now the Packers are in trouble.

Now, it's Rasheed Davis slamming inside the nine yard line, and Packers fans' fearful emotions turn into volume at Lambeau.

Cutler is getting success in the short, underneath throw, and another one gets the Bears four downs from the four yard line.

Not the first time.   B.J. Raji bodyslammed Forte after he ran into his own blocker.

Not the second time: Cutler throwing into triple coverage to Knox.  (With the help of an uncalled jersey stretch by a defender.)

Not the third time, thanks to a crunching sack by Walden.  Blindside corraling, and Cutler nearly lost the ball.  Mike Martz looked inconsolable.

3:51 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  15:00
Packers choosing to establish the "****ing running game" (as a fan next to me put it) with Starks slamming for a first down.  You rarely establish a running game, expletive or otherwise, against Chicago.

The second straight pass to Driver was, shall we say, a lot more worthy of praise than the first.  THe first one, just a yard after a stumble.  The second - first down yardage.

Uh oh.  Holding penalty which wipes out a deep pass to Jennings.  That's due to Rodgers being forced to scramble for his life, and Bulaga...um, wait.  That wasn't a hold.  It was a push to the back, even though he also had a hand on the defender's chest..  He's shaking his arms in disbelief.  If I had room here to do so, I'd do the same.

It's now 2nd and 24....that after a coverage sack.  Had he been able to avoid early pass rush, Jennings was open.  Otherwise, NOTHING open.

3rd-21 at GB 31: Check down....and Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn is not going to get 21 yards on a check down throw.

1st Quarter

3:43 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  2:28
Well, there's that field position win the Packers just got back.  He showed Brad Maynard he can also pull off a directional punt.  To the 16.

And Forte just killed the field position the Packers had just won.  24 yard sweep.  Just like Hornung and Taylor used to run it.  No outside containment.

Run left again.  Similar result again.  22 yards.  Ugh.

3rd-8 at GB 36: after a timeout,...

(In the meantime: from vikingupdate: Favre: “It’s time. I know it’s time. And that’s OK. It is. I hold no regrets.” )

SACK TIME!  A.J. Hawk and Wynn collaborate to stop a drive.

3:38 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive 
Uh oh.  Maynard just turned the field position battle to his side.  11 yard line where the Packers have to start.  Man, that turnover would have meant so much.

WOW!  There's field position for ya with a "heave-it-in-desparation-but-you-know-where-it's-going" pass to Nelson for 24 yards as Rodgers had a guy grabbing his shoulder.  That's strength on a QB's part.

Smart short throw to Jones to get a few yards on a catch-and-run and get 3rd and short....and the fans automatically start screaming Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn.

But the Packers go four-wide on 3rd and two.  They make no pretenses taht they'll run.  Until the Bears control the pass rush and Rodgers is forced to run and slide before the first down line.

Better to have a healthy QB or a first down in a must-win game?  Interesting question.

3:34 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  5:52
The Bears are 3rd in the NFL at takeaways...but the Bears could have been victimized if Raji gets his paws in control of Cutler's 1st down pass.

Near turnover #2: Desmond Bishop was falling away from the football as the errant delivery was coming to him.  If he's better in control of his body, it's 1st down Packers at the 40.

3rd-10 at Bears 35: good job of Woodson tackling Davis immediately after the catch.  6 yard passes on 3rd down are perfectly OK.

3:29 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  8:07
There's nervousness among fans here whenever Tramon Williams receives a punt, like they're expecting disaster.  I don't think there should be so much worry.  Williams is as fumble prone as anyone else, but he's more prone to make a big play; if Shawn Slocum's schemes ever allow it.

Chicago is SO solid against the run; a delayed handoff did nothing on 1st down.

Screen pass: WAY to slam for a first down by Jackson after getting caught in a combo pincer by his own lineman and Bears defenders.

Rodgers WANTED to go deep on the next play...you could see him angle his shoulder like was going for it all...but the check down to Starks netted a smart first down.  I wonder if Rodgers does that purposely.

OOOOOGH.  Adkins tipped a pass away from Starks, and it could have been curtains had Adkins' paws controlled the ball.

Another 2nd down pass.....are you kidding me?  Fumble/  Driver had the handle, but D.J. Moore did a fantastic job of controlling him, then snagging the football.

Turnovers can kill.

3:23 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  10:47
14 yard line to start the drive.  Make that the 13 and a half after the Claymaker ate up Forte on 1st down like me knocking down shrimp tacos here in Calfornia.

Nothing like sending a mesage on play 1.

3rd-7 at GB 17: time to send a greater message, defense - expect three and outs.  Especially after you turn it into 3rd-13 with a delay of game.

Wide open receiver for Chicago, but Hawk, Bishop and company flew to the football to create that three-and-out.

3:15 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  15:00 left in 1st Quarter
Green Bay's explosive offense begins about 72 yards away from paydirt.  I know it's not the most critical score, but it helps to worry about tempo establishing if you have the lead.

THERE'S that impotent running game, Brandon Jackson spinning and curling his way for seven yards to start the game.  Scott Wells was the right side blocker on the main hole, and the green space was enough to start a park.

3rd-1 at GB 37: to power rush against that set of tanks the Bears have is sometimes not a smart move, but Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn got it done.  (Imagine putting that on a jersey.)

PERFECT slant pattern the next play to Jennings for 12 yards.  That's so hard to defense, because there's no time for pass rush, and Jennings at full sprint can get to first down territory in two seconds.

Quick movement - free play - and Jennings was one hand away from breaking about a 40 yard bomb.  The Chicago cover two defense saved them on that one.  Rodgers has no qualms immediately going home run in that situation.

Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn and company are not going to get too much with the inside slam running game against this Bears defense. 

3rd-2 at CHI 42: perfect play call, but Brandon Jackson wasn't ready for the underneath throw.  Fail.

Pregame

3:12 p.m.
From @billmichaels620: Aaron Rodgers needs 307 passing yards for 4,000 yards in each of his first 3 seasons as a starter.

3:06 p.m. 
The Packers say the temperature at Lambeau Field is 19 degrees; -5 wind chill.  Perfect for the Packers' aerial circus.  (You'd say run game, but that's the Packers bread and butter.  Do what you do in any weather.)

2:53 p.m.
After the Vikings-Lions game ends, Brett Favre is sprinting to the locker room, waving at fans at Ford Field.  Perhaps the last time we'll ever see him as a quarterback...even in street clothes?

2:28 p.m.
With the win over the New York Giants, you would think the Packers have the right mindset to handle not only Chicago but every other challenge the playoffs could bring.  They proved they can beat anyone...staying within 4 points of ever challenge proves that.  Now, it's a matter of simply doing it.

This team should win today, and they're like the proverbial boxer with a "puncher's chance" of winning it all.  Now, it's "the second of six playoff games."

2:04 p.m.
With Atlanta crushing Carolina in the "Bird Cage," it's unfathomable to think Carolina could come back.  Bears have no reason to play for anything in terms of playoffs now, but this is Packers-Bears.  It's pride.  They'll still bring it.

1:37 p.m.
Today, we are bringing our live online coverage out from the studio and to a remote location; with Packers fans in Los Angeles.

We'll certainly give you the usual game give you more of what the fans are feeling as they experience the game, including many who are transplants from Wisconsin to the area and a lot who have traveled here for the Rose Bowl.

I know.  It's 50 degrees warmer where I'm sitting.  But I'm sure for most of you, the warmth of a Packers win will help bear the ill wind chill you're feeling.

Pregame Story

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy doesn't want to hear about what would have to happen for his team to make the playoffs if they lose to the rival Chicago Bears in Sunday's regular season finale at Lambeau Field.

And McCarthy hasn't spent much time wondering whether Bears coach Lovie Smith will stick to his repeated public pronouncements that he will play his starters even if the game doesn't mean anything for Chicago's playoff seeding.

The Packers know they're in with a win Sunday. McCarthy said thinking about anything else is a "polluted mindset," and told his players to leave such thoughts at the door when they came to work this week.

"We're focused on beating whoever comes out that gate on Sunday," McCarthy said. "They are going to have white jerseys on and we're going after them. That's our mindset. We need to get to 10 wins and we've been focused on that for quite some time."

Green Bay (9-6) still could get in the playoffs with a loss Sunday, but they would need Tampa Bay and the New York Giants to lose -- and the Giants' game at Washington also is a late-afternoon kickoff, so the Packers won't have a complete picture of their playoff possibilities going into their own game.

Chicago (11-4) clinched a first-round playoff bye when Philadelphia lost to Minnesota on Tuesday night, but Sunday's game could still matter for the Bears' playoff seed. If Atlanta and New Orleans both lose and Chicago wins Sunday, the Bears would have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Falcons and Saints both play early afternoon games, so the Bears should know their chances for a No. 1 seed before kickoff.

Smith insists Chicago will go all-out for a victory Sunday regardless of the circumstances.

"We plan on playing our guys this week," Smith said. "I don't know what else I need to tell you besides that. That's the plan."

Strategy aside, Brian Urlacher would like nothing better than to knock the Packers out of the playoffs.

"That would be great," Urlacher said.

And if the Bears need any extra motivation for a game that might not have any big-picture ramifications, there's this: Nationally, the Packers seem to be regarded as a dangerous playoff opponent, while people still seem to have questions about the Bears' legitimacy.

"There's always going to be doubters, and I think that's just because of how we won last week," linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said of last week's 38-34 victory over the New York Jets. "We're supposed to be a good defensive team and we get 34 points put up on us. There's always going to be doubters, but that's why we're going to keep on playing as hard as we can and try to win this championship because I think that's the only true way you can really convince people that you are the best."

For now, the Packers figure they'll get the Bears' best shot.

"Lovie said he's going to play his guys," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "I trust him, believe him, I'm sure they want to go to the playoffs on a high note and they still have a chance to be the top seed I believe, so we're expecting their best shot."

Assuming Julius Peppers doesn't get an afternoon off, Rodgers' pass protection could go a long way toward determining the Packers' playoff fate.

If Green Bay's offensive line plays as well as it did in last Sunday's blowout win over the Giants, there's a good chance the Packers will still be playing next week. But if they get beaten up front like they did in a miserable 7-3 loss at Detroit less than a month ago, Green Bay could be going home.

Rodgers is expected to manage a short passing game against a Bears defense that looks to take away deep routes -- and take away the football.

"Just be patient, dink and dunk and go the length of the field," Rodgers said. "Lovie Smith is in the Tony Dungy style of defense where they want to force you to go 10 or 12 plays and they figure they're going to be able to cause a turnover or you're going to slip up and make a mistake in that drive. Unfortunately, we did those things last time."

The Packers' defense has been the team's most consistent group this season, a tribute to the efforts of defensive coordinator Dom Capers in the wake of injuries to several key players. On Sunday, they'll face an offense that can throw deep with Jay Cutler but also has run the ball surprisingly well in the second half of the season.

And Green Bay's special teams will have to be ready for Devin Hester, who McCarthy singled out this week as the Bears' best player.

The Packers also will have to avoid a repeat of their 18-penalty performance in a loss at Chicago on Sept. 27. McCarthy said this week that watching tape of that game "made me sick."

Both teams have changed dramatically since, and the Packers are filled with confidence after trouncing the Giants.

"We played our best game of the season on offense and defense played very well," Rodgers said. "So yeah, there's a lot of confidence, but you can't carry that over into the game. You've got to kind of start your own momentum up."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)