By Tray Wetherell
With a botched Hail Mary pass made by third string quarterback Caleb Hanie, the Green Bay Packers secured their flight to Arlington, Texas to play in Super Bowl 45 winning the AFC Championship over the Chicago Bears 21 to 14. In a game that appeared to be one sided at times, the Green Bay Packers proved their ability in both defense and offence, while the Chicago Bears struggled with an offense that appeared to lack direction and seemed confused at times. Early on, Green Bay scored first with a 1 yard touchdown run from quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first quarter and then a 4 yard touchdown run from running back James Starks in the second quarter. Rogers eventually went on to go 17 for 30 with only 244 yards passing with no offensive points scored in the second half, showing that the Bears defense was at work, but could only do so much to help win the game.
Unable to answer back, the Bears, led by Jay Cutler suffered from penalties, missed opportunities, and long bomb passes that went nowhere. Cutler left the game with a knee injury after going 6 for 14 with 80 yards, backup quarterback Todd Collins only survived two series before he was replaced with unknown quarterback Caleb Haney who showed promise going 13 for 20 with 153 yards bringing some offense to an otherwise lack luster performance.
In the second half things did start to turn around for the Bears with an interception by linebacker Brian Urlacher at the beginning of the third quarter, but Chicago couldn’t capitalize on it. In the fourth quarter, the Bears, under Haney scored on a 1 yard hand-off touchdown from Charles Taylor. However after a 18 yard interception returned for a touchdown by defensive tackle B.J. Raji for Green Bay, it seemed the strength left the Bears offensive line.
By no means perfect, both Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Caleb Haney relied on their defenses to make up for their lack of performance offensively. The difference in the game came down to time of possession and moving the chains forward which Green Bay was able to do.
While Chicago’s performance was not completely unexpected by the experts, questions remain as to who could be the quarterback choice for them next year. In a team that that is strong in defense, offense is still needed in order to win games, and whether or not Cutler is the right choice remains a mystery.
Final Score: Packers 21 – Bears 14
In the NFC matchup the Pittsburg Steelers in the first half made short work of the New York Jets scoring 24 unanswered points and signaling a blowout. However the Jets, having victories over two other heavily favored teams, the Colts and Patriots wouldn’t go down without a fight. Led by quarterback Mark Sanchez, the Jets fought back furiously in what appeared to be personal at times to offensive line creating a few heated moments between the lines after a play or two. The first half was all Steelers with two touchdown runs by Rashard Mendenhall, Ben Roethlisberger, and by corner back William Gay off of a questionable fumble by Mark Sanchez. Roethlisberger was 10 for 19 with only 133 yards passing, showing the Steelers running game was in full effect. For the Jets, the first half was full of frustration with the fumble late in the second quarter only putting 3 points on the board with a 42 yard field goal by kicker Nick Folk.
In the second half, Sanchez and company came roaring back, changing up their offense and creating opportunities that while brought them close, wasn’t enough in the end. In the third quarter Sanchez threw a pass touchdown to Santonio Holmes and the Jets defense got a rare safety off of the Steelers. However even with a 4 yard pass touchdown to Jerricho Cotchery late in the fourth quarter and a Steeler offense that stopped producing points, they still came up short.
For the Jet’s though, one could get a sense that they accomplished something that New York is grateful for. Perhaps defeating not only the Colts but Tom Brady and the Patriots is enough of a victory for Jet’s fans to savor until next season begins.
Final Score: Steelers 24 – Jets 19
The bottom line is that while the experts are picking the Steelers to win, it is unclear about which Steelers team we will see at Texas Stadium. An organized and amped Packer team, might just have enough edge to knock a potential dynasty that has been at the top of their game for the last four years. Pittsburg for its part needs to address consistency issues it has with the offensive line and being one dimensional in their defensive line. Roethlisberger, for his part does a great job scrambling for that first down, but needs to focus on his passing abilities and see those opportunities that the armchair generals see after the fact.