Packers bounce Bears to clinch NFC North

Updated: December 17, 2012

James Jones caught three touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers wrapped up the NFC North with a 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday.

Rodgers finished the game 23-for-36 for 291 yards for the Packers (10-4), who have won three straight and eight of their last nine to roll to their second straight division crown.

“It’s all about how you’re playing in late December and your team’s health,” said Rodgers on his Twitter account. “We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity. We want to peak at the right time.”

Kicker Mason Crosby continued to struggle for Green Bay, missing both of his field goal attempts as he is now just 9-for-18 in his past seven games. Randall Cobb had six catches for 115 yards in the game.

Jay Cutler passed for just 135 yards on 12-of-21 attempts with a touchdown and an interception for the Bears (8-6), who have lost three straight games and five of six to see their division title hopes end and have their postseason chances placed in jeopardy.

“Of course there’s a lot of disappointment when you lose six straight to your rival,” said Chicago head coach Lovie Smith. “We had opportunities throughout the game that we didn’t take advantage of. We were up there at first, but we had some things there that changed momentum. Again, it’s very disappointing and we have to find a different way to make it to the playoffs now.”

Holding a 14-7 lead, the Packers started the second half with the ball and went on a lengthy drive that took up almost seven minutes of the clock. After converting two third downs and a fourth down on the drive, the team had a 1st- and-goal at the 1-yard line after a pass interference call on Chicago. A delay of game moved the ball back five yards, but Rodgers was able to find Jones on the back-left side of the end zone for a 14-point lead with 8:08 to play in the third quarter.

After recovering a Ryan Grant fumble on the Packers’ next possession, Chicago was able to get down the field thanks to some other Green Bay miscues. After an illegal contact call on Green Bay on the first snap, Cutler went deep for Alshon Jeffrey, who was run into by Morgan Burnett for a 53-yard pass interference call down to the 5-yard line.

Matt Forte then ran for four yards before being stuffed on the next two plays. Cutler hit Jeffrey in the end zone on fourth down, but the rookie receiver was called for offensive pass interference and the Bears ended up with a 34-yard field goal from Olindo Mare to make it a 21-10 game with 12 seconds left in the third.

Green Bay came back with a march down to the Chicago 24, but Crosby missed his second field goal try of the game, this one a 42-yarder that hit off the left upright.

Chicago was held to a three-and-out and had to punt, with Cobb fielding the ball at the Green Bay 20 to the left side. However, he attempted a lateral back to the other sideline and it was never handled, with Chicago recovering the fumble at the Green Bay 16.

Three straight plays went for no gain, though, and a 34-yard field goal from Mare made it a 21-13 game with 7:04 to play.

Green Bay then converted a first down and was able to kill off a little over three minutes of the clock before having to punt.

Facing a 3rd-and-10, Cutler and Jeffery got together on a 36-yard play, but again Jeffery was called for offensive pass interference. After an 11-yard completion to Brandon Marshall, the Bears faced a fourth down and Cutler’s pass to Jeffery fell incomplete with 2:07 remaining.

Chicago got the ball back one last time, but it was at its own 3-yard line with 56 seconds to play and the time having no time outs. The Bears were unable to get anything going before the clock expired.

Chicago got down to the Green Bay 31 on the opening drive of the game, but was called for a false start on 3rd-and-1 and Cutler’s ensuing pass fell incomplete, forcing a punt.

Neither team could get anything going for the rest of the first quarter, but the Packers got into scoring position on their first drive of the second. Green Bay lined up for a 43-yard field goal attempt from Crosby, but he missed it well to the right and Chicago took the ball back at its own 33.

Facing a 2nd-and-7 at his own 46, Forte ran the ball around left end for 22 yards, with a face mask call on Green Bay moving it another 15 yards down to the Packers’ 17. Two plays later, Cutler hit Marshall on a short pass and he broke one tackle before stiff-arming another player on his way to a 15-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 8:03 to play in the first half.

Green Bay quickly faced a 3rd-and-6 on its next touch and the Bears brought pressure on Rodgers, but he rolled out to the right and went deep down the right sideline where Cobb made a leaping catch for 31 yards. Three plays later, Rodgers hit Jones in stride near the 10, and the wideout took it in for a 29-yard score that tied the game with 4:19 to play in the half.

After an exchange of punts, Cutler was picked off by Casey Hayward, who took the turnover 24 yards down to the Chicago 26.

Five plays later, Crosby hit Jones near the end zone for an 8-yard score to give the Packers a 14-7 lead heading into the halftime break.