CHICAGO - Facing 2-degree temperatures and a windchill of minus-13, the Chicago Bears almost found a way to freeze themselves out of the playoffs last night. But Robbie Gould kicked a 38-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime, giving the Bears a 20-17 victory that kept their postseason hopes alive.
The Bears (9-6) needed to win their last two games and hope the Vikings lose to the Giants this weekend in order to claim the NFC North title. Their wild-card hopes were dependent on even more help, but they moved ahead of the Eagles (8-6-1).
Two second-half interceptions of Kyle Orton passes, a passive pass rush, a barely existent running game and a sharp Aaron Rodgers all spelled disaster for a Bears team fighting for its postseason life.
But the Bears rallied to tie the score at 17-17 on Matt Forte's two-yard touchdown run with 3:21 remaining in the fourth quarter. Forte set up the score with a 28-yard run into Packers territory, then kept the drive alive by picking up a first down on fourth-and-1 carry from the 4.
Will Blackmon's kick return and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Adrian Peterson put the Packers in position for Mason Crosby's try at a 38-yard, game-winning field goal, but Alex Brown stormed through to block it, and the game went into overtime.
The Bears won the toss and scored on their first possession.
The Packers, with nothing to play for but respect, had the Bears on the brink of postseason elimination at frigid Soldier Field.
On a frigid night when fireworks were set off at halftime, the Bears lacked a spark. The offense was held to under 100 yards through three quarters by a Packers defense ranked 24th in the league. Forte was a non-factor for three quarters, hobbled by a right big toe injury. And Orton was off-target, particularly on his third-quarter interception that landed in the hands of Pro Bowl defensive back Charles Woodson.
The second interception was more costly. Orton had the Bears moving and faced third and 10 from the Packers' 34. He stared down Devin Hester, but failed to see free safety Nick Collins creeping over. Collins snatched the ball out of the air, and snatched the air out of the Soldier Field crowd.
Orton wasn't helped by his receivers. On the play before Collins' interception, Marty Booker dropped a pass right in his hands.
Had it not been for their defense, the Bears might have faced the same type of deficit they did in a 37-3 loss at Green Bay last month. Nickel back Danieal Manning had success blitzing off the corner, forcing one bad throw by Rodgers and tipping two of the quarterback's passes, one into the hands of teammate Brown.
Despite trailing by 11 going into the second half, the Bears had a pulse. Early in the third quarter, a Brad Maynard punt bounced off Packers special-teamer Jarrett Bush as Bush was engaged with Rashied Davis. The Bears' Jason Davis recovered, giving the Bears a first down at the Packers' 27.
Orton needed just five plays to lead the Bears into the end zone, finding Greg Olsen with a TD pass.
The Packers got on the board first with a 14-play, 91-yard drive, capped by Rodgers' 7-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings.
The Bears responded with Manning's 71-yard kick return on which he carried Bush 20 yards to the Packers' 29-yard line. But the Bears had to settle for Gould's 31-yard field goal.
The Packers answered to take a 14-3 halftime lead, Rodgers engineering a six-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a quick screen pass to Ryan Grant resulting in a 17-yard touchdown. Grant scooted pass would-be tackler Charles Tillman, barreled over a charging Craig Steltz, then shook off a late attempt by Kevin Payne. Steltz was in the game because starting safety Mike Brown departed with a calf injury.