26

January

Lost in Chicago: My NFC Championship Game Excellent Adventure (Packers vs. Bears)

My wife and I moments after the Packers punched their ticket to the Super Bowl.

My wife and I made the trek to Chicago last weekend to watch the NFC Championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. In addition to seeing the Packers win and go back to the Super Bowl, we met some new friends, discovered a Packers bar in the heart of Bears territory and left with memories that will last the rest of our lives.

This is the uncut and unedited story from our trip. Enjoy.

Never Get in a Car With Strangers (unless they’re Packers fans)

It was about 6 p.m. on Saturday when I realized this trip was going to be a fun one. That’s when I piled into John Rehor’s car with my wife, Corey Behnke and Wally Pingel to try and find Will’s Northwoods, a famous Packers bar in Chicago.

In most situations, getting into a car with three people you know only through Twitter and met in person just an hour ago is a bad idea. But these people were Packers fans — fun Packers fans! What’s the harm in climbing into a car with the co-founder of Cheesehead TV, one of the most well-known Packers bloggers out there, and a man responsible for designing Packers-themed web sites?

We didn’t think anything of it, so I made my wife sit in the back between Behnke and Pingel and I took shotgun next to Rehor. Somebody’s iPhone told us that Will’s Northwoods was only 7 minutes away so off we went, hoping to arrive in time to see Jermichael Finley (and his hot wife).

Will’s Northwoods

One hour later, we finally found the place.

Yeah, we took a few wrong turns along the way. One time we thought we were there, only to learn that Behnke typed the wrong address into Google. We also had to stop at a gas station – one of those gas stations where the cashier is surrounded by bullet-proof glass – to pee. Also, Rehor almost ran over a horse (yes, there was a horse on a random side street in Chicago at night).

But we finally got there, and it was more than worth the trip.

24

January

Packers Game Balls and Lame Calls: NFC Champions Edition -On to Super Bowl XLV

First of all let me get one thing out of the way:

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, with that out of my system let’s move on.

Green Bay Packers 21, Chicago Bears 14. The Packers are headed to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 6.

As thrilling as the spoils of victory have been, the game turned out to be a near 60 minute heart attack for Packers. The game wasn’t over until a Sam Shields interception with under a minute to play after the Packers let the Bears back into the game after getting out in front 14-0.

So who gets a Game Ball and who gets a Lame Call for the NFC Championship?

Let’s take a gander.

Game Balls


RB James Starks

Starks didn’t break the century mark, but his ability to break some big runs opened up a lot of playaction opportunities for the passing game.
As the sudden “star” of these 2010 playoffs, “Neo” (as Starks is called) has given much needed life to what was a lifeless Packers rushing attack and finally helped bring the Packers” offense into balance at the most critical time of the year.

His touchdown run put the Packers up 14-0 and the Packers were able to remain aggressive on defense the rest of the game, allowing Dom Capers the chance to work his magic to ensure the Bears had no chance.

CB Sam Shields

His two picks were crucial to sealing the Packers win, with his second one being the obvious dagger to the heart of the Bears’ hopes of advancing to the Super Bowl.

Not bad for an undrafted rookie free agent. Not bad at all.

NT B.J. Raji

The Bears had “The Fridge,” now we have “The Freezer.”

Raji showed off his underrated pass coverage ability picking off Caleb Hanie deep in Bears territory and taking it in for the touchdown.

After nearly channeling his inner Leon Lett by holding the ball out in celebration before reaching the end zone, Raji put an exclamation point on his emergence this season as one of the most athletic nose tackles in the NFL.

QB Aaron Rodgers

23

January

Packers 21 Bears 14 – Jekyll & Hyde Packers Hang on, Next Stop: Super Bowl

The Packers and the Bears met today in what was expected to be a classic game – it wasn’t. The first half was total domination by the Packers’ defense, knocking Jay Cutler out of the game in the process. They really only had one thing to worry about – Matt Forte

The Packers’ offense had little trouble moving the ball against the Bears, but their age-old problem of leaving points on the table reared it’s ugly head once again. This, of course, kept the Bears within striking distance the whole game.

Had Aaron Rodgers not tackled Brian Urlacher after throwing the ball right to him, this would have been a one score game and just a Devin Hester return away from being tied.

But the Packers special teams were also at the top of their game. Tim Mathsay had another fantastic day against the Bears. Using an assortment of different types of kicks and various placements, the Packers kept the Bears off-balance and were able to pin them deep on many occasions.

In the second half, however, the Packers seemingly forgot everything they did right in the first half. Either that, or the Bears just finally showed up for this game.

The play calling got conservative and the defense lost it’s swagger, allowing Caleb Hanie, a 3rd string QB to lead the Bears on two touchdown drives.

Only two huge interceptions by the Packers saved the day, a pick-six by BJ Raji and the now-traditional game ending INT, this time by Sam Shields.

Exhale…

My game day impressions:

PREGAME:

I’ve tried very hard to avoid a “polluted mindset” this week, not reading any outside articles about the Packers Bears matchup. While normally I devour that stuff, this week seemed different. After all, it’s the third time the Packers are playing the Bears. I already know how I feel about both teams and this game.

My simple feeling is that the Packers are the better team and will win the game. Unless they kill themselves with mistakes, as they did in the first meeting this season.

MY KEY TO THE GAME: If I had to pick JUST ONE thing, it would be this: Stop Matt Forte. And that doesn’t just mean on the ground. He is arguably more dangerous to the Packers catching passes than running.  Force Cutler and the Bears into third and longs and the INTs will follow.