START Donald Driver, WR, Packers.
Updated: January 3, 2011 9:18AM
In terms of playoff positioning, the Bears’ season finale was rendered meaningless before kickoff.
The Atlanta Falcons clinched the NFC’s top seed by dominating the Carolina Panthers 31-10 and pushing its record to 13-3.
In terms of pride, though, the Bears -- as they stated throughout the week -- wanted to win, regardless of the circumstance. At stake was an undefeated run through the NFC North, a 12-win season and a chance to add another defeat over the rival Green Bay Packers.
But the Packers came to life in the second half, and the defense thwarted a last-minute drive by the Bears, when safety Nick Collins intercepted a pass from Jay Cutler, to hold onto a 10-3 victory that secured their position in the playoffs.
The Bears defense rebounded from a forgettable performance against the New York Jets in a 38-34 win.
They made the Packers one-dimensional, eliminating the run, and pressured quarterback Aaron Rodgers for much of the day. In the first half, the Packers were shut out, and they lost a fumble when receiver Donald Driver was stripped by cornerback D.J. Moore.
But the Bears offense could only muster a field goal. They did get inside the Packers’ 5-yard line but couldn’t score the touchdown, settling for a 30-yard field goal after left tackle Frank Omiyale gave up a sack to linebacker Erik Walden.
Afterwards, Omiyale extended a hand to his befallen quarterback, but Cutler rolled and got up by himself.
It was unclear, though, if Cutler snubbed his lineman.
Either way, the Bears offense has had better days.
And they seemingly got worse throughout the game.
Running back Matt Forte gained 54 yards on his first six carries, and receiver Rashied Davis – stepping in for Earl Bennett – caught four passes for 41 yards. But the offense struggled badly in the third quarter and early fourth, most notably with Cutler throwing an interception in the end zone.
The Bears defense gave the offense a short field, after cornerback Charles Tillman made a difficult diving interception, and he returned it 42 yards to the Packers’ 15-yard line. But the offense had an immediate holding penalty, on guard Roberto Garza, and they managed just one yard to set up 3rd and 19.
Instead of a makeable field-goal, though, Cutler forced a pass to receiver Johnny Knox into double coverage, and safety Charlie Peprah picked it off.
Remarkably, the Bears’ other three offensive series in the third quarter were three-and-outs.
Cutler finished the game 21 of 39 for 168 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked six times. Rodgers was 19 for 28 with 229 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Forte reached two milestones in the first half. A 25-yard run late in the first quarter helped Forte surpass 1,000 rushing yards for the season. It’s the second time in his three-year career that he has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Later, a twisting, 27-yard catch and run on third down in the second quarter pushed Forte over 500 receiving yards, which makes him the first Bears player since Walter Payton to have 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the same season.