Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Packers lead Bears 28-10 after third quarter (AP)

GREEN BAY, Wis. ? Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes, Clay Matthews made a critical interception to stop a drive, and the Green Bay Packers led the rival Chicago Bears 28-10 after three quarters on Sunday night.

With the Packers nursing a four-point lead, and the Lambeau Field crowd nervously quiet early in the third quarter, Rodgers found Jordy Nelson for a 55-yard touchdown pass to give the Packers a 21-10 lead.

Chicago came into Sunday on a four-game losing streak and beset by injuries. But the Bears were able to stay in the game with solid defense and tough running by third-string running back Kahlil Bell, who had 89 yards on 14 carries in the first half.

With the Bears trailing 14-3 at halftime, quarterback Josh McCown found Earl Bennett wide open for a 49-yard gain to set up first-and-goal on the 1. Bell fumbled just short of the goal line on the next play but offensive lineman Edwin Williams recovered the ball for a touchdown, and the Bears cut the lead to 14-10.

Rodgers answered by dropping deep and throwing a rainbow pass to Nelson, who blew past Bears safety Major Wright and hauled in the ball for the long touchdown.

Rodgers then showed his running ability on the Packers' next possession, juking his way between Bears linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs on a scramble. Rodgers finished the drive with a 7-yard touchdown to James Jones, giving the Packers a commanding 28-10 lead.

Packers safety Charlie Peprah came up with an interception, and the Packers were driving again at the end of the third quarter.

Rodgers started the game quickly, driving the Packers 80 yards on their first possession and finishing with a 2-yard touchdown to Jermichael Finley.

Finley had three touchdown catches in the Packers' 27-17 victory at Chicago on Sept. 25, but was coming off a rough outing in Green Bay's loss at Kansas City a week ago.

Playing with a patchwork offensive line because of injuries, the Packers used their no-huddle offense and bootlegs by Rodgers to keep the Bears' pass rush off balance early.

The Bears responded with a run-heavy drive featuring Bell, who started with Matt Forte and Marion Barber out injured. Chicago drove into Green Bay territory, but then committed back-to-back penalties. Robbie Gould missed a 49-yard field goal wide right.

The Packers' offense slowed down from there, and some more hard runs by Bell had the Bears threatening to score again early in the second quarter. Matthews picked McCown's pass out of the air for an interception on a second-and-5 play at the Green Bay 22, ending the drive.

Chicago then put together another drive behind the running of Bell and Armando Allen, and Gould hit a 35-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3 with 1:56 left in the half.

The Packers then shook off their offensive struggles in the two-minute drill as Rodgers threw a 32-yard pass to Jones, a 17-yard pass to Nelson and an 11-yard pass to set up the short touchdown to Jones.

Green Bay came into Sunday night's game playing for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Packers could clinch home-field advantage by beating Chicago on Sunday night or by beating Detroit in next Sunday's regular season finale at Lambeau Field, or if San Francisco loses at St. Louis next week.

The Packers were without three of their top four tackles on the offensive line.

Chad Clifton returned to practice this week after sitting out since October because of hamstring and back injuries, but isn't ready to play. Bryan Bulaga was inactive Sunday because of a left knee sprain, and backup Derek Sherrod is out for the season with a broken right leg.

Green Bay also was missing wide receiver Greg Jennings, because of a sprained left knee, and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett because of a concussion.

The Bears have lost four straight games since losing quarterback Jay Cutler to a broken right thumb in a Nov. 20 victory over San Diego. Chicago was 7-3 after that win, but came into Sunday's game barely hanging onto a chance to make the playoffs.

Chicago would be eliminated with a loss Sunday night.

The Bears started McCown on Sunday after backup Caleb Hanie struggled to fill in for Cutler. McCown's most recent start came with the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 23, 2007. He was completely out of the NFL last season.

To make matters worse for the Bears' offense, Barber was inactive because of a calf injury and was listed as doubtful going into the game. Chicago already was without Forte, who missed his third straight game because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

Chicago did have Devin Hester, who was active despite an ankle injury.

The Packers were trying for their fourth win over the Bears in 2011. Green Bay beat Chicago in the 2010 regular-season finale, the NFC Championship game, and at Soldier Field on Sept. 25.

Source: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/sports/*http%3A//news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20111226/ap_on_sp_fo_ga_su/fbn_bears_packers

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