The Green Bay Packers advanced to the Super Bowl, beating the Chicago Bears 21-14 in NFC title game. The Bears were outplayed most of the first half of the game, but battled back in the second half.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had to leave with a knee injury in the third quarter. He was replaced by Todd Collins with Chicago trailing 14-0. It was not clear which knee Cutler injured or when it happened.
To many fans, Cutler's absence was a sign he wasn't taking the game seriously. To Cutler's teammates, it's a different story. Bears' longtime Center Olin Kreutz says he knew Cutler's injury was legit.
"It was shaking right after he took the hit and walked back in the huddle," Kreutz said. "It was swinging like this. So I knew that one of his ligaments, lower ligaments, probably went."
Linebacker Brian Urlacher was pointedly direct when asked by a reporter if he questions Cutler's toughness for not staying in the game.
"Jay was hurt," Urlacher said. "I don't question his toughness. He's one of the toughest - he's tough as hell. He's one of the toughest guys on our football team."
Bears' Coach Lovie Smith says the trainers made the decision to keep Cutler out of the game. Cutler is scheduled to have an MRI Monday.
After second-string Quarterback Todd Collins was ineffective, third-string Quarterback Caleb Hanie led the Bears to two touchdowns. But in the final minutes, Hanie threw his second interception. Green Bay took over with under a minute to play, downing the ball and leaving Chicago with a victory.
Cutler was having a rough afternoon, going 6 for 14 with 80 yards and an interception.
The Bears fell behind 14-0 in the first half, but the Bears defense held Green Bay Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers to zero points in the second half. The Packers winning touchdown was off a Caleb Hanie interception by B.J. Raji.
Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji, all 337 pounds of him, picked off the pass that was mistakenly thrown right to him, took off on a short jaunt to the end zone and then held the ball with his big hand right out in front.
Raji's 18-yard interception return for a TD with about six minutes to go Sunday turned out to be the biggest and most important play all day by an aggressive Packers' defense.
Meantime, up and down Clark Street near Wrigley Field, the bars were full of disappointed Bears fans hoping for bragging rights over their Green Bay counterparts.
Ben Rutledge at least looked for the positives.
"I'm disappointed, obviously, because they lost," he said. "But at the same time, I'm very proud of the season we had coming off a season where everyone figured they'd go 6-and-10. You can't go wrong with that."
Inside The Irish Oak, while some Bears fans were already trying to dance their troubles away, Stacey Nuzbach was more worried about what her Wisconsin friends would be saying on her Facebook wall.
"My heart is broken in many, many little pieces," Nuzbach said.
Nuzbach said she's ready to adopt a mantra made famous by a different Chicago spots team: maybe next year.
But at Will's Northwood Inn, which celebrates all things Wisconsin, Tim Fletcher in his Packers gear made it clear there was no love lost between the teams.
"I’m the one guy on the train with the Packers hat on and everybody else giving me dirty looks," Fletcher said. "Next week, when I wear my Packers hat, I might get dirty looks, but I’m the winner."
The Green Bay Packers will play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV in Dallas.
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