In securing the NFC North title and a playoff berth, the Bears extinguished the Packers' faint hopes.
They did it by forcing Aaron Rodgers into a rare bad game in the rivalry, preventing him from completing the kind of off-schedule throws that have been back-breakers for the Bears far too many times over the last 11 seasons.
When Rodgers did have a few opportunities to make plays, he was off. Free safety Eddie Jackson's interception in the end zone to effectively seal the game in the fourth quarter was the final example. If Rodgers had led tight end Jimmy Graham on the throw, it was probably a touchdown. But the throw wasn't perfect and inside linebacker Roquan Smith had excellent coverage, able to get his left arm in and deflect the throw to the waiting Jackson.
Rodgers completed eight of his first nine passes, mostly short, quick throws, before struggles set in. He completed only 17 of his next 33 to finish 25 of 42 for 274 yards with no touchdowns, the one interception and a 68.9 rating, his second-lowest against the Bears. He had a 62.4 rating in the Bears' 17-13 upset at Lambeau Field on Nov. 26, 2015.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio sent more than four pass rushers on only three snaps, all in the second half. Rodgers threw incomplete to Davante Adams on one of them with defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris bearing down on him. Nickel cornerback Sherrick McManis had tight coverage on Randall Cobb on a shot at the goal line for a second incompletion. Finally, with cornerback Kyle Fuller coming on a rare blitz, Rodgers went the other direction for a 28-yard completion to Adams despite blanket coverage from Prince Amukamara.
All five sacks came on four-man pressures, and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd had probably his best game of the season. He finished with two sacks, and his pressure up the middle on center Corey Linsley prevented Rodgers from stepping up in the pocket to avoid Khalil Mack and Bilal Nichols on a shared sack. Mack was too much for fill-in right tackle Jason Spriggs to handle, and he did a great job diagnosing a screen pass to Jamaal Williams in the second quarter, forcing Rodgers to scramble.
Rodgers missed some throws he usually hits, and the combined effect of the pressure no doubt took a toll. He sailed a ball well over an open Cobb in the third quarter on what would have been at least a 25-yard gain. On the next possession, Marquez Valdes-Scantling had two steps on Fuller on a deep shot, but Rodgers badly overthrew him. A perfect throw would have resulted in a touchdown; instead the Packers punted on the next play.
Those are throws Rodgers doesn't usually miss — or hasn't seemed to miss often versus the Bears — but the defense is playing at a high level, surging as the postseason approaches.
On the other hand: If the Bears keep getting the kind of efficient outing Mitch Trubisky provided Sunday — 20 of 28 for 235 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions plus 16 yards on scrambles — they will be a tough out in the playoffs.
Trubisky bounced back from his three-pick start against the Rams by making decisive reads to sharp throws. He made a good read on the 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Trey Burton when rookie cornerback Tony Brown came charging up to the line of scrimmage pre-snap. With no sink by Brown, that put safety Josh Jones in an impossible spot to cover the corner route.
Trubisky knew defensive back Tramon Williams was coming unblocked on his back side when he fired a perfect pass to Josh Bellamy on an 18-yard skinny post before the touchdown toss to Tarik Cohen just before halftime. He had to get the ball out and knew where to go with it. Trubisky also made nice plays on the move such as the 23-yard pass to tight end Adam Shaheen after eluding the rush.
Mismatch: The Packers had dime personnel on the field for Jordan Howard's 9-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. It was an odd choice by defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as the Bears had three running backs (Howard, Cohen and Taquan Mizzell) and two tight ends (Burton and Shaheen) in the formation.
Maybe the Packers were expecting something exotic, but it was a dressed-up inside zone play. Left guard James Daniels washed down lineman Dean Lowry, and left tackle Charles Leno came off a combination block to easily seal off Jones.
Special stuff: Wide receiver Anthony Miller is the third kickoff returner to get a shot, and his 31-yard runback of the opening kick is tied for the Bears' longest of the season. He looks like the most dangerous returner they've used after trying Benny Cunningham and Mizzell.
Punter Pat O'Donnell turned in another solid effort with a 44-yard net average and two kicks inside the 20. Cohen sparked the offense with a 44-yard punt return.