Super Bowl Frenzy: Packers 21, Bears 14

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Next game: February 6th at Super Bowl XLV vs. Pittsburgh
Packers Gameday at 3:00 p.m. on Newsradio 620 WTMJ with coverage on Live at 10 on TODAY'S TMJ4 and Super Bowl Frenzy coverage online here.

Postgame

Monday, 7:00 a.m.
Nice get by Lance Allan with Charles Woodson: "If Obama isn't going to come see us, I guess we'll have to go see him."

6:32 a.m.
I think the gauntlet has been laid down by Packers defensive tackle Ryan Pickett.

"(We're) going to Dallas and (we're) bringing back the Lombardi Trophy," said Pickett after the win.

5:05 a.m.

Packers Super Bowl Frenzy Coverage:
Packers 21, Bears 14 
45 Ways To Win Super Bowl XLV: Ways I-IV
Analysis: Most Beautiful Ugly Win Ever
Packers To Face Steelers in Super Bowl 
Raw Video: Dejected Bears Fans at Soldier Field
Super Bowl Gear Selling
Dallas Welcomes Packers, Steelers Fans
Raw Video: Packers Fans Ride Victory Train Back
Expensive Tickets, Flights
Packers Coach Four Quarters from Fulfilling Prediction
Rodgers "Loss for Words"
Big D Delivers Packers To Big D
Punter Hems In Hester
Cutler Struggles
Fans Party in Chicago
Brothers Planning Trip to Super Bowl
Packers House Party in Hales Corners
Packers Bar in Dallas Preps for Invasion
Packers Fans from Around World See Win in Chicago

Blogs: 
A Falcon's Eye View: Destination : Dallas!
  
Sports Glance with Lance: Things Heard Round The Locker Room  

More
Click here for complete Packers Super Bowl Frenzy coverage from 620WTMJ and TODAY'S TMJ4
Click here for complete Packers-Beras "Super Showdown" coverage and links

Melissa McCrady of TODAY'S TMJ4 talked to Vinny, a fan who was first in line at the Sports Authority in Greenfield.

Sunday, 9:23 p.m.
The airport has turned into a happy madhouse in Green Bay as the Packers arrive in Green Bay.

When asked how it felt, "Great.  Dallas," said Desmond Bishop.

Click the video link at left to see video of the Packers' arrival at Austin Straubel Airport.

9:04 p.m.
When the Packers arrive at Austin Straubel Field, expect a party that hasn't been heard in this state in a decade and a half.  They'll also get their mind right for Pittsburgh.

8:20 p.m.
Wow.  Packers Coach Mike McCarthy is one win from fulfilling a prediction he made three years ago.

4th Quarter

5:02 p.m.  Bears' 5th Drive  2:53
Masthay punting 54 yards and the Packers' special teams on Hester just saved Green Bay...for now.

Now, the defense must do its job and hold Chicago from going 71 yards.  Biggest defensive stand I can think of.

Hanie....through Forte's hands.  Thanks for eating a Chicago hot dog and having all that nuclear green relish on your hands.  Very timely.  Desmond Bishop clocking him helped.

3rd-9 at CHI 30: Hanie beats a blitz and finds Olsen for a first down to keep Chicago alive.  Olsen is such a huge advantage because he can beat almost any linebacker that has ever strapped on a uniform.

(Why do they say strapped on a uniform?)

WOW!  Intentional grounding on Hanie!  I'm not sure I'd throw that ball...loss of down.  I think there was a Bear within a bit of Hanie's location, but he wasn't out of the tackle box.

2nd-20 at CHI 30: Hanie...Forte...beats two guys but only gets 10...you must wrap up when it's critical.

3rd-10 at CHI 40: Forte gets right...right...to the first down marker.  Almost the whole offense this quarter, except for Bennett's TD throw.

1:54...4th-1 at CHI 49, or 4th and probably your season if you're Chicago....

....Taylor off right tackle and the Bears still have life.  The tell-tale heart is beating faster.

Forte with room....and another first down really deadens the mood after that swing pass.  The underneath throws to the Bears' setbacks have been killing Green Bay in this 2nd half.  They're keeping it simple for the 3rd stringer.

1:21....tick...tock...tick...tock....

Olsen inside the 30 yard line...but worse, out of bounds.

Packers are just rushing 3.  Blitz!  Get to this guy!  (Wait, isn't that how Bennett got free earlier?)

Way to use that time out, Chicago, when you didn't need to!  Lovely.  Thanks, Lovie, for helping out.

Larry McCarren: "If your stomach is doing flip flops right now, you've got company."

Bennett...REVERSE...FRANCOIS AND BISHOP!  Awesome...-2....and he stayed in bounds!  Tick...tock...

4th-5 at GB 29: Hanie....INT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   SHIELDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   DAGGER #2!!!!!

4:58 p.m.  Packers' 4th Drive  4:43
And the most important drive in the last 14 yars for the Packers - take 3.

Green Bay will have to go 79 yards to clinch it.

Whoa boy.  The pressure is on more than ever.

I think Rodgers has not been himself since the Peppers helmet-to-helmet.  The Packers' offense has been nothing since the early 2nd quarter.

Starks on two runs gets absolutely diddly squat, and Rodgers now has to get the biggest 3rd down that any of our younger fans have ever seen in Packers history.

3rd-12 at GB 23: Briggs stuffs Rodgers.  Ugh.  Palpatations.  Heart medicine for some of you.

4:55 p.m.  Bears' 4th Drive  6:04
Green Bay 21, Chicago 14
Hanie-Bennett 35 yard TD pass

The image of 340-glub-glub pound B.J. reaching paydirt in Chicago will go to my grave as one of the most ugly-beautiful I've ever seen!

Forte gets a first down reception at the 35...though it seems academic.

Earl Bennett just un-daggered this game.  35 yard TD pass.

4:49 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  7:22
Green Bay 21, Chicago 7
Raji INT return TD

The defense will have to get it done.   Hanie had to scramble to stay alive to get a 3-yard pass completion.

3rd-5 at CHI 15...another HUGE 3-and-out if you get it done...

...pretty please?....

...with sugar on top?.....

Wayne on a Bears comeback by Hanie: "They will canonize him in five different religions."

BJ RAJI!  PICK SIX!  DAGGER!  "PACKERS ARE SUPER BOWL BOUND!!!!!"

Thanks, "Freezer" for the most clutch INT in team history - since the 1966 NFL title game, at least.

4:42 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  8:34
A 24 yard punt gives Green Bay less than 50 yards to a critical score. 

44 yards from victory, people.

Rodgers...another drop.  Quarless' 2nd drop, but it wasn't the textbook throw Rodgers usually gives.  He's not as accurate as normal: 16-28, 2 picks.

Jennings to the 35...OK, that's not so bad.  Managable 3rd down. 

3rd-1 at CHI 35: this is another one of those "get this 1st down and you'll get points" plays if you get it....

.....Rodgers - incomplete throw on play action as he missed Crabtree.  I really think something is wrong; granted, a Bears blitzer was all over him.

Field position punt.  Hester back in for the Bears.  Out of bounds at the 10.  Masthay is your MVP so far.

4:38 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  9:36
Ball inside the five...but Bush's body seemed to be in the end zone when he touched the ball on punt coverage...or was it?  He touched the goal line, but his body wasn't on it.  McCarthy may want the challenge flag on this one.

Defense....we need you.

It's 3rd stringer Hanie in again.  This would be an insane story if it happens.

A.J. HAWK AND SAM SHIELDS!  They ate Forte like he was a Chicago hot dog on 1st down.

3rd-10 at CHI 20: oh what a 3-and-out this would be....and with the Packers in nickel, Hanie throws the ball into the lake.  Phew.

4:29 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  12:02
And the most important drive for the Green Bay Packers in the last 14 years is about to begin. 

76 yards from probable victory, with the volume three times as high as it's been all game.

Starks...gets...nothing.  The Bears' defense has woken up.  Urlacher was the only guy who was doing anything spectacular all game, until now.

Good news: illegal contact to the helmet on the Bears.  Bad news: Rodgers is VERY slow to get up.  Peppers clocked him with the front of his helmet hitting Rodgers' left earhole.

Whoa boy.  ARod spits blood.  Whoa boy.  False start.  1st-15...whoa boy.  Need big play now.

ANOTHER FLAG!  This one on Chicago.  Pass interference on Jennings.  Thank you, refs.  You may need to get the ball moving for the Packers if Rodgers' blood stream has more of it going out his mouth than up his throwing arm.

ARod...Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn....six yards.  That's good field position, and do they need it.

3rd-2 at CHI 43.  This is a "get the first down and you'll score points" first down, I think.....

.....if they get this first down, they'll win.

Nope.  Rodgers misses Quarless.  Momentum REALLY on Chicago's side now.  Defense, do your job.

4:24 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  Continued from 3rd Quarter
Green Bay 14, Chicago 7
Chester Taylor 1 yd TD run

23 yards by Forte in three plays.  He's their only real offensive weapon left.

And he breaks tackles, stiff arms people, gets to the Green Bay 35.  This is the first offensive momentum they've had all year.

Has Chicago finally woken up?  Uh oh.  Don't get the beast angry.

Chester Taylor isn't the guy...after a three yard loss.  Lovie Smith forgot what got him there.

Knox - inside the red zone...inside the end zone?  Nope.  Out at the one yard line.  This is getting scary.

Taylor.  Right side.  We have a game.

3rd Quarter

4:21 p.m.  Bears' 4th Drive  :57
Hanie goes in - the 3rd year pro, a free agent from CSU...can he save Chicago? 

Forte gets a first down on 2 runs.

4:13 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  3:16
18 minutes, 16 seconds from Dallas.  Beautiful.  But that 3rd score is critical to get the three score lead.

117 yards for Chicago today.

Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn has the first carry today, and the first long u vowel heard in Soldier Dirt today.  Urlacher tackled him for a two-yard gain after not being blocked.

2nd straight play by Urlacher, but this time a loss of five.  He's the only Bear who seems to be awake at this point.

3rd-13 at GB 29: ARod wide of Quarless.  Drive #fail.

First 3-and-out since 1949.

Hester takes the punt...20 yard line...and after bumping into his own guy, it's negative yardage.  Fantastic coverage.

Never mind.  Ineligible man downfield.

Repunt...Hester hurt, and the Bears' 3rd stringer goes in.

4:09 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  4:49
Hester fall down go boom, as Tweety Bird would have put it.  Behind the 20 yard line to start the drive.  Love it.

Pickett and Raji and Hawk swarmed Forte under a pile of 800 pounds of white.  Collins still in this game.  Knee injury. 

3rd-3 at CHI 25: TRAMON WILLIAMS!  Well, maybe not, but it's still the 8th punt of the game.

4:03 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  8:26
I guess that crew that likes to call holding on the Packers when they play the Bears did it again.  Holding on Wells to start the drive.

Soldier Dirt rears its ugly head on the 1st-20 play.  Jennings slipped as he made the catch.  1 yard.

Jennings made a few more yards on the next play.  First down yardage.  Greatest show on dirt.

ARod with a scramble...and the flag goes down with him to the dirt.  Another holding penalty.  Would rather have 2nd-19 than 3rd-10 with this passing game to make up for yellow hankies.

Jordy Nelson to the 38 to make up the holding penalty.  See what I mean?

3rd-9 at GB 38: Rodgers beats a blitz...threw it away.  Better to win the field position battle with a throwaway if the Bears' d-backs win that battle than force a bad throw, a la Mr. Favre.

3:54 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  8:50
Todd Collins in the game.  This sounds like a QB performance decision, unless somewhere a concussion happened.

HUGE PICK!  Nick Collins!  Turnabout is fair play, again.

Thinking about it: Rodgers' picked off by Urlacher was the worst play he made all day.  His tackle of Urlacher may have been the best.  It turned a seven point turn of events (the missed TD) into a situation that didn't become a 14-point turnaround.

Oh well.  Ref overruled the call of the pick.  But Todd Collins leading the comeback?  If he does that, they'll build a statue of him on Michigan Avenue.

3:46 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  13:22
The 2nd half momentum ownership rule now goes into the hands of the Packers' offense.  They have 83 yards to go to get that all-important three score lead that you have to have to really be secure about a game. 

Not like I'd throw the dagger after a 21-0 lead in the 3rd quarter, mind you.

ARod...Jennings...overthrown, along with the fact that Charles Tillman was closer to Jennings than Greg's own shoulder pads (but no flag, and rightfully no flag).  Just good coverage.

3rd-8 at GB 19: here's where Rodgers' penchant for converting on 3rd down is huge, though Green Bay is 1-4 so far.

With big 5 formation: NELSON!  First down and then some!  To the 40.  It's like Rodgers goes up and "3rd down?  Yawn."

Jennings to the 40 yard line.  This must be 7 or 8 20-yard gains so far in the passing game for Green Bay.

3rd-2 at CHI 31: Rodgers...deep...Jones...yellow hanky.  Tim Jennings nailed for pass interference, though it could have gone either way.  Perhaps this is a symbol of how the Packers have owned this game that the refs - the same who worked the 18-penalty debacle - have kept the flag in the pocket.

3rd-goal at CHI 6: Rodgers...a year to scan the field and Urlacher is about to go pick-6 time...but Rodgers stops him.  That kept the Bears alive.  Whoa.  The guy knows how to force turnovers.

3:41 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  15:00
Uh oh.  Hester gets loose on his first true return opportunity of the game.  Nearly Jordan-esque move. 

Still not to the 40 yard line, so a reasonable success against one of the best field position-creating teams in football.

3rd-4 at CHI 45 and a half: Hester can make fantastic returns, but he can't make shoestring catches. 

Useless great return by Hester. 

Bears 0-6 on 3rd down.

2nd Quarter

3:26 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  :32
Props and respect should go to the Soldier Field music staff who play "Double Vision."  The refs had it right, but any sort of glasses joke toward refs is appreciated.

Packers will play kneel down.

3:23 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  1:27
Bears now get HUGE momentum swing with Forte going inside Packers territory.

HUGE PICK!  Sam Shields with a leaping pick at the three yard line, and momentum just swung back like a pendulum.  Phew.  Big huge phew.

3:19 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  1:44
54 yards to a 21-0 lead.  Bears get the ball to start the 2nd half.  If I'm a Packers fan, I want a three score lead desperately.

3rd-1 at CHI 43: Rodgers sneaks for the first down over Wells.   No huddle time.  Packers know it's a big need to get three scores ahead.

ALMOST A PICK...wait, is that a pick by Briggs?  Oh, I don't know about that one.  The pass hit Driver's shoe.  Ugh.

3:10 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  4:17
Forte gets covered like a blanket by Desmond Bishop.  Larry: "Desmond Bishop darn near ran the route."  That's Dave Robinson-good.  (He was the pass coverage specialist linebacker for Lombardi who was maybe the best LB ever at pass coverage.)

And Williams gets nailed for holding. 

DARN!  A wounded duck that Clay Matthews could have picked off, but Nick Collins broke up the pass.  Larry: "I think Jay Cutler pooch-passed that one."

Draw plays.  Hate draw plays that let the Bears out of a field position hole. 

3rd-7 at CHI 33: Cutler FUMBLE!!!!   Forte gets a handle on the ball at the 24...and that means the probability of a three-score lead has just increased big time.

3:02 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  7:40
This just seems too easy.  Way too easy.  It's like the Packers are having their way because the real Bears are asleep, in hibernation, and they're not awake yet.

Starks gets WIDE OPEN gaps to run through, and he advances for 10 yards.  Scott Wells owned Anthony Adams with a de-cleating block.

Rodgers scampers into Chicago turf for 25 yards!  This team has 91 yards on the ground, on Chicago.

A touchdown here and Green Bay owns this game.

3rd-1 at GB 36: and Lance Briggs keeps Starks behind the line of scrimmage.  The guy was unblocked.

Still, it's OK with a field position punt...kick goes to the two and it bounces like a 9-iron to the 12 yard line.  Could have been a better pinning job, but it's still darn good - 89 yards to go to the end zone.

2:53 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  11:33
Manning with a return inside the 30.  But again, it's not Hester.

Well, the 24 yards that Knox just advanced with the throw from Cutler proves that Green Bay does not have exclusivity to long pass plays today.

The swing pass to Taylor proves that Chicago can move the ball in the air.  He had about 20 free yards in front of him and he advanced it 12 of those yards.

Previous to the drive, it was Packers 186, Bears 33 in the yardage category.  I should just shut up when it comes to stats.  Ugh.

Thanks, Chicago O-line, for taking the Bears out of the red zone after a Packers d-back left Davis wide open.

No thanks, Cutler, for that 9 yard scramble.

3rd-12 at GB 32: and a Cutler slide looked like Mickey Morandini sliding into second for one yard.  Field goal time for Chicago?  Nope...Maynard comes on to a chorus of boos.

2:45 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  14:06
Green Bay 14, Chicago 0
Starks 4 yd TD run

Ugh.  False start.  Quin Johnson flinched.  The referee crew that called 18 Packers penalties in week 3 rears its ugly head.  It must have stock in a Brazillian flag company.

Fantastic move by Brandon Jackson to make Brian Urlacher freeze like Han Solo in carbonite to go for a 16 yard gain.

Starks then pounds for 13 more yards!  This Bears defense is seemingly shell-shocked so far.  He has 42 rushing yards so far.  Amazing.

NELSON!  Inside the 5!  The Green Machine continues its dominance.

Starks?  YES!!!!!!!!!   Reaching for the end zone on an off-tackle play and Soldier Field is silent, except for a few Go Pack Go chants.

2:41 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  Continued from 1st quarter
Pickett barely missed making it a 9-0 game as Cutler barely got his 2nd down pass off in the end zone.

3rd-8 at CHI 4: Forte slammed back right at the goal line...CULLEN JENKINS!  Forte's scrambling for his life kept him out of safety zone.

Maynard is right along the back of his end zone...punt time...WILLIAMS!  Stop muffing it....at least you recovered.  Could have been much worse, though much better, too.  45 yards to control of the game.

1st Quarter

2:39 p.m.  Bears' 3rd Drive  :22
Forte slams for two yards, doubling the distance from a safety.

2:35 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  2:48
Oh my goodness.  Another 20-yard rocket throw to Jennings.  Rodgers: 6-9 for 107 yards.  Slash.  Chop.  Like a ginsu.

Starks keeps a run alive on 2nd down, keeping Green Bay from 3rd and usually unmanagable, making it 3rd-7 instead....

...and thanks to great secondary coverage, Urlacher eats Rodgers outside the 35 yard line.  That's a three-point sack, because it takes Green Bay out of normal field goal range.

Masthay pops it up and Bush keeps this punt inside the five!!!!!  More field position nightmares...that plus a penalty means Chicago has to go 98.5 yards.

2:27 p.m.  Bears' 2nd Drive  4:49
Drive starts at CHI 16 after Hester's four-yard return.  Do that all day and you should win, Packers.

3rd-6: CULLEN JENKINS!  Welcome back to the sack attack  Huge field position gain, too, sending Cutler back to the 15.

Williams gives Green Bay fantastic field position, about 51 yards from a 14-0 lead.

2:23 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  7:53
Starks with another great field-position helping run for 16 yards to start the drive.  Position punters become useless with those kinds of plays.

T.J. Lang in for Clifton.

Rodgers: 5-5 to Jones, near the first down marker.  Rodgers is insanely hot.  36-41 since the start of the Atlanta game.

Delay handoff and Jackson!  There's some productivity with a guy who hasn't had much recently.  10 yard gain, and that will keep the pass rush off of Rodgers - maybe with more guys in the box?

Rodgers with two incompletions?  I guess I need to stop mentioning his passing stats.

3rd-10 at GB 47: even if the drive stalls here, it's "pin Chicago deep territory."

Three straight incompletions, as Kuhn dropped Rodgers' pass.

Clifton: neck injury.  Uh oh.

2:14 p.m.  Bears' 1st Drive  10:50
"The game could not have started any better from a #Packers perspective." - Larry McCarren.  True. True.

Line drive short kickoff - Davis stopped at the 37.  Don't let Hester change the momentum.  We can live with that.  Not great, but better than Hester in the end zone.

Forte for two yards.  1/11th of the productivity of the Packers' 1st offensive play.  That's a pretty good idea if the Packers' D can keep it that way.

Never mind.  Forte sprints for 24 yards with a swing pass.  I guess Chicago can go pass for pass.

3rd-7 at GB 34: Cutler misses Hester near the 10 yard line, and Hester had Peprah beaten.  I saw an interesting preview by Brian Billick which showed how Cutler's footwork stinks.  I wonder if that played a part.

Punt goes to the 11.

2:05 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  15:00 left in 1st Quarter
Green Bay 7, Chicago 0
Rodgers 2 yd TD run

19 degrees, wind gusts going up to 20 - which is not good for the passing game of Green Bay.  But sunshine in Chicago.  Ideal for history-making.

James Starks doesn't even get to the 20 yard line on the opening kickoff because of a slip on Soldier Dirt.  I refuse to call it a field, because it's dead grass.  Browner than the Packers' pants were in that throwback game against San Francisco.

But a completion to Jennings downfield, beating the injured Chris Harris, takes care of that field position problem.  22 yards.  Who needs field position when you can do that?

JENNINGS!  Broken tackle.  To the 35.  47 yards on two plays.  Where's that Monsters of the Midway defense?  Packers are killing the cover-2 zone early.

Starks establishes that he can be a beast.  6 yard slammer in the tradition of Jim Taylor, though he wasn't biting on Brian Urlacher's leg like Taylor did to Huff in the 1962 title game.

Starks again, through the air, for first down yardage thanks to the legs of Rodgers.  His legs will be a huge key to evade Chicago's fearsome rush.

NELSON!  To the two!  Rodgers 4-4 for 74 yards on the first drive.  You never win games on the first drive, but you can shut up the crowd.

On 2nd down, the Packers go with Raji in the backfield...Rodgers - himself!!!!!!!!!!

Pregame

2:02 p.m.
Toss....Packers call heads...Bears win the toss.  Chicago will defer.  Ugh.

2:00 p.m.
The Chicago opera guy won the battle with Fox, who wanted Lee DeWyze, for the national anthem.  Bad omen.

1:58 p.m.
Games like this are prone for overindulgence in analysis, so I will fall into the trap.  I absolutely think the Packers should defer if they win the toss. 

Get the 2nd half momentum.  Much more critical than getting 1st half momentum.

1:54 p.m.
John Kuhn is in short sleeves.  That deserves a "Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn."

Larry McCarren talking about the field: "It's not perfect.  It's not bad."

1:51 p.m.
Wayne Larrivee: "It doesn't get any more traditional than this."

1:06 p.m.
OL Jason Spitz is active for the Packers, while DB Chris Harris will play for the Bears.

1:01 p.m.
My boy, Jeff Falconio, gives his Falcon's Eye View with Three Keys on Packers-Bears and Jets-Steelers

12:52 p.m.
Today, the Packers will play on dirt.  Almost purely dirt.  That's what Soldier Field has become, and the ground-and-poundish, defense-oriented Bears tend to love it.

However, I recently checked out a video of a pass-oriented team that had to play its playoff games on dirt, and won a Super Bowl.

It can be done.

11:58 a.m.
Our Bill Michaels tells us from Soldier Field that the wind is not Windy-City like, and really is not that bad.  That BIG TIME helps the Packers' explosive passing game.  I'm sensing something similar to the 1988 NFC Championship Game, where the finesse team - the 49ers - tore the more physical Bears up and down the field, and beat them en route to a Super Bowl championship.

8:29 a.m.
It's Packers-Bears.  It's cold in Chicago this morning.  It's single digits.  Snow's on the ground.  It's the way it should be when a Super Bowl berth is at stake.

Pregame Story

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -- Aaron Rodgers, get ready for Julius Peppers. Jay Cutler, have fun dodging Clay Matthews.

With their rocket arms and fleet feet, both quarterbacks have a chance to cement themselves among the game's best when the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears take their historic rivalry to a new level in Sunday's NFC championship game at Soldier Field.

This will be the 182nd meeting between these teams -- none more anticipated than this one. Only once have they played in the postseason and that was a week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when the Bears beat the Packers at Wrigley Field.

The men behind center will certainly be under the spotlight, but the guys on the other side just might steal it. After all, both defenses ranked among the league's stingiest.

"It's probably the best defense we've played to date, just fundamentally sound in the way they're playing," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said, "Right now, the best thing we can do is out-execute their defense."

It won't be easy.

The Packers boast the league's fifth-ranked defense and tied for second with 47 sacks, the highest ranking in franchise history. Matthews was fourth in the league with 13 1/2. That doesn't bode well for Cutler, who got sacked a league-leading 52 times.

Yes, the protection improved down the stretch, but containing the blitz won't be easy.

"I would expect them to be aggressive," said Cutler, who got sacked six times in a loss at Green Bay to end the regular season. "They have in the past four or five games, you know with Charles (Woodson) blitzing a lot and Clay Matthews and those guys. We've just got to be on our keys and our tips, hit our hot routes and do what we do in the offense."

Rodgers figures to have his hands full, too, against a team that seemed like a longshot at best to reach the playoffs not too long ago.

The Bears were a mess at 4-3, with three losses in four games heading into their off week. Cutler had little protection and there was no balance on offense, but they fixed that, sparking a 7-1 run that gave them the NFC North championship and a first-round bye.

The defense was never an issue, though.

The Bears made a big investment after missing the playoffs for three straight years when they signed Peppers to a six-year deal worth potentially $91.5 million. The return to form of healthy Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher after he missed almost all of last year with a wrist injury provided a major boost, too.

Throw in another Pro Bowl season from Lance Briggs, and it's not hard to see why the Bears' defense ranked ninth this season. But it's not all about the stars.

Packers center Scott Wells mentioned Anthony Adams and Israel Idonije, not exactly the first names that come to mind when you think "Monsters of the Midway." Then again, the Bears have never played that way under coach Lovie Smith. They've always been more about speed, technique and creating turnovers than bone-breaking hits, and they're looking more like the defense that led the way to the playoffs in 2005 and 2006 than the one that struggled in recent seasons.

"Their starting four, they're outstanding up front," Wells said. "They do a great job holding their gaps and playing their scheme."

Adams and Idonije are two important pieces on a defense that ranked ninth overall and second against the run. The same goes for D.J. Moore, who had two interceptions in an early win at Dallas and emerged as the Bears' nickelback.

That gave the secondary a boost, as did the return of safety Chris Harris after three years in Carolina. He had five interceptions and tied Charles Tillman for the team lead, but it all starts up front.

Specifically, with Peppers.

Even if his eight sacks put him in single digits for just the third time in his nine seasons, he's creating all sorts of problems whether it's drawing false starts or double and triple teams. That leads to openings for teammates when he's not making the big plays himself.

One beneficiary has been Idonije.

He wound up with a career-high eight sacks, tying Peppers for the team lead, in his seventh season with the Bears -- and his first as a starter.

"When Izzy steps up and makes the plays that he's been making this year, you start to understand why some of those decisions were made," Briggs said. "I'm happy that Izzy got a chance to start and I'm happy with what he's been able to do with it. He's going to be key in our success this week and onto the Super Bowl."

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