The Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears 17-9 on Sunday to clinch a playoff berth. Led by quarterback Jordan Love in his first year as a starter, the Packers leaned on their strong defense to come away with the pivotal late-season victory.
Playoff Hopes Come Down to Final Week
Entering Week 18, the Packers controlled their own destiny but needed a win to ensure a spot in the playoffs. Sitting at 8-8 and second in the NFC North behind the 12-4 Vikings, Green Bay faced a must-win game against their division rivals, the 3-13 Bears.
The leadup to the game was filled with drama concerning former Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After an underwhelming 2022 season for Green Bay in which friction developed between Rodgers and the front office, the team made the decision in the offseason to trade the future Hall of Famer and hand the reins to 2020 first-round pick Love.
Additionally, the New Orleans Saints needed a Bears win to keep their own faint playoff hopes alive. This raised the stakes even higher for the Packers entering the contest.
“We had a chance to lock up a playoff spot, which was the main emphasis all week,” said head coach Matt LaFleur. “I’m just really proud of our guys.”
Dominant Defensive Performance Sets Tone
Facing second-year Bears quarterback Justin Fields, the Packers defense came ready to play. They held Chicago to just 9 points and 86 rushing yards while forcing two turnovers.
“Our defense was lights out,” LaFleur said. “They’ve carried us all year.”
The run defense was particularly stout, limiting Fields and the Bears to just 3.1 yards per carry. Defensive lineman Jarran Reed set the tone up front as the Packers controlled the line of scrimmage.
“We knew the only way they’d move the ball efficiently was running,” Reed said. “Stopping the run was most important.”
Offense Does Just Enough Behind Jordan Love
While the defense dominated, the offense did just enough to come away with the win. Love completed 15 of 23 passes for 205 yards and added another 47 rushing yards. The Utah State product spread the ball around to eight different receivers.
“Jordan played his ass off,” LaFleur said proudly. “He played confidently, aggressively. That’s what we need from him.”
Rookie receiver Christian Watson came up with some timely catches totaling 61 yards. Veteran Randall Cobb also delivered in a few key moments.
On the ground, A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones combined for 114 rushing yards on 31 physical carries to move the chains and burn clock when needed. Ultimately the Packers didn’t need to score many points thanks to their suffocating defense.
Celebrations Ensue As Packers Punch Playoff Ticket
The locker room scene after the pivotal victory was one of pure jubilation. Players puffed victory cigars and dumped Gatorade buckets on the coaches while celebrating the franchise’s first playoff trip since 2020.
“I loved the celebration after,” said LaFleur. “The locker room was pretty special.”
The win marked the Packers’ eighth playoff appearance in LaFleur’s four seasons since taking over in 2019. Clinching a berth despite trading their Hall of Fame quarterback proves this team’s resilience.
“What this team has done fighting through adversity all year long, it’s pretty special getting back to the tournament,” LaFleur noted. “These guys earned it on both sides of the ball.”
What’s Next For The Packers
Having punched their ticket to the postseason, the Packers now look ahead to facing the Cowboys on the road next weekend. The NFC matchup on Sunday at 4:30 PM ET will be a tough draw for Green Bay, as Dallas secured the top wild card spot with a 12-5 record.
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If Green Bay manages to topple the Cowboys, they would advance to face the #1 seeded Eagles in the divisional round. Getting by Dallas won’t be easy though.
“We are ready for the challenge against Dallas,” said left tackle David Bakhtiari. “Bring on the Cowboys. The mission continues.”
While this season had its fair share of turmoil, the Packers overcame the adversity and criticism to accomplish their goal of making the playoffs. Riding a five-game winning streak entering the tournament, Green Bay looks to keep things rolling with a solid performance against the Cowboys. Backed by a fierce defensive unit and an emerging leader in Jordan Love, the Packers feel good about shocking the world in these playoffs.
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