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Packers squash Bears’ playoff hopes with 35-21 victory

Packers' Jermichael Finley catches touchdown pass front Bears' Nick Roach.  |  Mike Roemer~AP

Packers' Jermichael Finley catches a touchdown pass in front of the Bears' Nick Roach. | Mike Roemer~AP

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Updated: December 26, 2011 12:17PM

GREEN BAY, Wis. — About a year ago, with the home team on the brink of elimination at Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers edged the NFC North champion Bears 10-3 and snagged the sixth and final NFC playoff spot.

The Packers then plowed through the playoffs and upended the favored Pittsburgh Steelers to win Super Bowl XLV.

On Sunday, the roles were reversed, but the Packers delivered the knockout punch.

Actually, in boxing parlance, the Packers steadily peppered the Bears with jabs in a 35-21 victory before 70,754 fans, securing the NFC’s No. 1 seed and eliminating the Bears.

“It’s very disappointing. We were in good shape,” Bears cornerback Zack Bowman said, referring to the team’s 7-3 a little more than a month ago. “We lost I don’t know how many in a row. But it’s tough.”

For the record, the Bears lost their fifth consecutive game.

And while everyone else wonders, “What if?” the Bears refused to consider that question following a strong performance by veteran quarterback Josh McCown.

He wasn’t perfect, by any means, and he didn’t outplay likely MVP Aaron Rodgers, who tossed five touchdowns against no turnovers. But McCown was competent, with his miscues Sunday more palpable than many of the ones committed by his predecessor, Caleb Hanie.

McCown had command of the offense. McCown looked comfortable. And he completed the routine throws.

For the game, he was 19 of 29 for 242 yards with one touchdown and those two interceptions. His passer rating was 76.8, far better than Hanie’s 56.9, 23.8 and 33.3. And although Hanie posted a 79.9 against the Denver Broncos, Hanie attempted just 19 passes in that game, and his lone attempt in the fourth quarter was a misfire to a wide-open Marion Barber for what likely would have been a touchdown.

“It’s hard. That’s hypothetical,” McCown said, when asked if he could have performed this way several weeks ago. “All I know is what I have right now, this night. I don’t want to speculate on that. I just know my number was called tonight, and I played as hard as I could.

“And the bottom line is, we still came up short.”

Bears receiver Roy Williams, who led his team with six catches for 81 yards, also downplayed that game.

“If we’re going to play the ‘What if?’ game, we can go all the way back to when we lost [Gabe] Carimi, our right tackle, or Chris Williams,” he said. “The what if game doesn’t count.”

Added running back Kahlil Bell, “I’m not worried about that, man.

“I’m not talking about the past. Green Bay was tonight. We lost. Now we have to get ready for Minnesota.”

The season finale against the Vikings, though, is rendered meaningless. All that’s on the line is pride for two clubs who have endured disappointing seasons.

The Bears defense once again lamented an abysmal display, giving up 21 second-half points. Against the Seattle Seahawks the week before, the Bears – not just the defense because of two pick-sixes – gave up 24 unanswered points in a 38-14 loss.

“I think our offense did a hell of a job moving that ball. Josh gave us an opportunity,” Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said. “Kahlil Bell ran hard. Armando [Allen] ran hard. They played well.

“The receivers caught balls. Defensively, we had our struggles. We didn’t play good, and when you play like that on defense, you deserve to lose.”

Now, the Packers ponder what they’ll do next week, whether they’ll rest starters against the Detroit Lions or finish out the season strong, before a bye week during the postseason. The Bears, meanwhile, will play one last game then head into the offseason.

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