The Green Bay Packers will make their fifth trip to the Super Bowl after outlasting their divisional rivals, the Chicago Bears, 21-14, in the NFC Conference Championship game on Jan. 23 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Ranked as the No. 6 seed in the NFC conference playoffs, the Packers needed to win three games on the road if they wanted to reach their first Super Bowl since the 1997 season. But Green Bay proved it was up for the challenge with wins in Philadelphia, Atlanta and an impressive close-out victory Sunday in Chicago. Green Bay (13-6 overall) has now won five NFC titles and will now face the AFC champions in Super Bowl XLV in Dallas on Feb. 6.

Packers’ star quarterback Aaron Rodgers passed for 244 yards and ran for the game’s first touchdown. Rookie tailback James Starks scored Green Bay’s second touchdown, in an effort that totaled 74 yards on 22 carries.

But the Packers were stalled at 14 points for most of the game after Chicago’s defense warmed up. The Bears forced Rodgers to throw two interceptions, including one picked off by star linebacker Brian Urlacher.

With their defensive unit playing well, Chicago was able to keep the score close. But it was Green Bay’s defense that was the deciding factor in the tightly contested game.

Star pass-rusher Clay Mathews of the Packers recorded two sacks and knocked starting quarterback Jay Cutler out of the game. Bears’ third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie stepped in for struggling backup Todd Collins, and led Chicago to two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

But the Packers made big plays against him, too, as Sam Shields and B.J. Raji both intercepted passes from Hanie with less than six minutes in the game. Shields finished with four tackles, two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble.

Bears’ tailback Matt Forte rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, while Hanie completed 13 of 20 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor