Packers beat Bears 35-21, clinch No 1 seed
Updated: 2011-12-27 08:01
GREEN BAY, Wis. - With the first five-touchdown game of his NFL career, Aaron Rodgers ensured the Green Bay Packers' playoff road will go through Lambeau Field.
He also made sure the rival Chicago Bears will be spending the playoffs at home.
Rodgers broke a close game wide open by leading three quick scoring drives in the second half, and the Packers beat the Bears 35-21 on Sunday night.
Rodgers noted he once threw six touchdowns in junior college - also in a rivalry game - but acknowledged this one was a little bit bigger.
"Yeah, this one's pretty special," Rodgers said.
With the win, the Packers (14-1) nailed down the No 1 seed in the NFC and claimed another round of bragging rights in the NFL's most storied rivalry by knocking the Bears out of the playoff chase.
"We wanted the path to go through Lambeau," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Rodgers threw a pair of touchdown passes to Jordy Nelson, another two to James Jones, and found tight end Jermichael Finley for a score. Rodgers was 21 of 29 for 283 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions when backup Matt Flynn took over for Rodgers with 7:54 left in the game.
Rodgers surpassed Lynn Dickey's single-season franchise record of 4,458 yards passing with one game left, although it's unclear how much Rodgers will play in the Packers' finale against Detroit.
The loss eliminated the Bears (7-8) from playoff contention and put the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs.
Third-string running back Kahlil Bell rushed for 121 yards for the Bears, who trailed by only four early in the third quarter. But Rodgers drove the Packers for touchdowns on their next three possessions to put the game out of reach.
"When you play the Super Bowl champions, you have to be on top of your game," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "Offensively, we did enough things to keep us in the game and have a chance to win the game at the end. But defensively we just didn't have it."
McCarthy said the team's run defense will be examined after the big performance by Bell, but said the final score told the story.
"We won big," McCarthy said. "That's the bottom line."
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 Bell, who started because of injuries to Matt Forte and Marion Barber.
Rodgers' second-half fireworks proved to be too much for Chicago.
"Thirty-five points on that defense, that's a good night," McCarthy said.
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