Green Bay advanced by winning in Atlanta and eliminating the Falcons, the top seed in the NFC. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes (86.1 percent) for 366 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 136.8 passer rating in Green Bay’s 48-21 victory. Rodgers is the first player in NFL history to pass for at least three touchdowns in each of his first three postseason starts and his 129.4 career playoff passer rating is the best mark all-time (minimum 100 attempts).
“Aaron played absolutely phenomenal,” says Pro Bowl wide receiver Greg Jennings, who had eight catches for 101 yards. “It was a treat to play with him during that performance.”
Standing in Green Bay’s way is a familiar foe, the NFC North champion Chicago Bears. The Bears defeated the Seattle Seahawks 35-24 at Soldier Field in the Divisional Playoffs. Quarterback Jay Cutler, making his NFL postseason debut, accounted for four touchdowns and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Otto Graham as the only players in NFL history with at least two touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns in a playoff game.
“It’s been a fun ride,” says Cutler. “But it’s not over yet.”
It doesn’t get any better than the NFC Championship coming down to the Packers on our turf,” says Chicago head coach Lovie Smith, who will try and claim the George Halas trophy for the second time in the past five seasons. “It’s the Packers and Bears to finish it up.”
The teams will meet for the 182nd time, the most in NFL history, but just the second postseason meeting. The previous playoff matchup was on December 14, 1941 when George Halas’ Bears defeated Curly Lambeau’s Packers 33-13 at Wrigley Field to claim the Western Division.
“They know who we are,” said Jennings. “They know how we operate. And we know who they are. We know how they operate. Obviously we’ve played them twice already. Two close games that could have gone either way. And here we are again, when it really counts this time.”
The two teams split the season series with each club winning at home. Both games were decided by one score.
“We’re a championship-caliber football team,” says Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy. “We’ve had 16 quarters on our mind. We’ve completed eight of them. We have an opportunity to play four more this week. We feel very good about who we are, the way we’ve played, our brand of football in all three areas, and that’s what we’re sticking to.”
In the Divisional round, both teams had impressive quarterback play. The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers threw for three touchdowns and ran for another and the Bears’ Jay Cutler had two TD passes and two rushing scores.
“We’ve got two quarterbacks who have won their first playoff games this year and are now ready to explode on the National Football League scene,” says NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci about Rodgers and Cutler.
The stage is set for a memorable NFC title game between two of the league’s oldest rivals.
“It’s a big deal,” says Bears Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher. “We have a lot of history with them. We don’t like them and they don’t like us. It’s a big challenge and we’re excited.”