Sunday, January 23, 2011 D1
The other game Jets travel to Pittsburgh for AFC title game D5
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Rivalry brings back memories The J-S sports staff recalls thier favorite Bears/Packers memories
y favorite moments of the Bear-Packer rivalry are two games, one won by each. The first was a game Brett Favre called ‘the coldest game of his career.’ It was played in freezing temperatures with bitter, harsh winds and was 35-7 Bears. I was at Soldier Field with my dad (a Packer fan) and a packed house of Bears fans. I don’t know what the temperature was, but I do recall my beers freezing on the walk from the vendor to my seat. How cold was it? You could see the whitecaps on Lake Michigan frozen. The wind was blowing in our faces from the walk to the car to the stadium and the walk from the stadium back to the car. The game featured the Packer punter whiffing on two punt attempts because the wind blew the ball away while he was dropping it onto his foot. During a Brian Urlacher 85-yard interception return, my dad grabbed me and walked to the exit. I think we were out of Solider Field and on the interstate before Urlacher reached the endzone. The second was Nov. 5, 1989, and it’s known as the Instant Replay game. I was only eight years old, so my concept of time is probably off, but it seemed like the amount of time to replay whether Don Majkowski’s foot was over the line or not lasted about an hour. My dad and my cousins (all Bears fans) would always call each other and tease each other after each game. It seemed like after every replay shown, the phone would ring, or a call would be made, saying whether or not the game-winning pass was in fact legal. In the end, the pass was called a touchdown and the Packers would beat the Bears for the first time since 1984. — Scott Holland
Putting stock in superstition The most memorable Bears game for me involves something I don’t normally put any stock into: superstition. Six days after Walter Payton died the Bears traveled to Laumbeau Field to play the hated Packers. The Bears held on to a slim 14-13 lead late but didn’t have a lot of hope as Ryan Longwell set up for a chip shot field goal. But Bears defensive tackle Bryan Robinson improbably blocked the kick as time expired. That set off a chorus of people saying Walter had lifted the big man up and helped him block the kick. I’m not a big believer in stuff like that, but it definitely makes for a nice story. — Jeremy Anders memories, page D2
sports history The only 33-14 other time the Chicago Bears and Green
Bay Packers have met in the postseason was in 1941. The Bears won 33-14.
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READY TO RUMBLE
In this Sept. 27, 2010, file photo, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) eludes a tackle by Green Bay Packers linebacker Frank Zombo (58) during the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago. The Bears are scheduled to host the Packers in the NFC Championship on Sunday.
Packers and Bears, NFL’s oldest rivalry, takes center stage in NFC championship For 90 years, from a time of leather helmets to these days of instant-replay challenges and excessive-celebration penalties, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears have played rough. Through cold and wind and snow and bitter winters, these two bloody-knuckled pioneers of the NFL and their founders, Curly Lambeau and George Halas, have left marks on the game that will never go away. Twenty-one NFL championships between them, dozens of Hall of Famers who line the walls in Canton and a combative history of rugged, emotional matchups.
By RICK GANO / The Associated Press
The names alone resonate throughout the game. There’s Lambeau Field and Halas Hall. This Sunday, when the Bears and Packers meet for the 182nd time, they will play for the Halas Trophy in the NFC championship. From there, the winner goes to the Super Bowl to chase the trophy named for legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi. “When I think of Green Bay and Chicago, I think of football at its best,” said former Bears linebacker Mike Singletary, now an assistant coach with the Vikings. “I think that’s what it’s all about. I think the rivalry, the tradition, George Halas, Lombardi, Butkus, I mean all of the names and greatness and Hall of Famers. It’s quite a history there. So it’s going to be very interesting.” Halas of the Bears and Lambeau of the Packers made it a point not to shake hands after games, their competitiveness raging already in those early years, spawning the spirited series that has not diminished over the decades. One season, as former Packers star running back Paul Hornung tells it, Halas knocked on Green Bay’s locker room door, asking to talk to Lombardi and then telling the Packers’ coach who built a dynasty in the 1960s that the Bears were about to whip his backside, a psychological ploy if there ever was one. Dick Butkus defined meanness at middle linebacker with his bone-jarring hits and re-
lentless play. Butkus remembers getting ready for the Packers during a practice at Wrigley Field and said Halas was carefully eyeing the apartment buildings that surround the neighborhood home of the Chicago Cubs. He was making sure no one from up north was watching his team. “The old man (Halas) would get a security guy there. We were always worried about spies during Packers week,” Butkus said. “I’m sure Green Bay did the same thing.” Hornung, the centerpiece of Lombardi’s famed Packers sweep that featured the ominous pulling guards Fuzzy Thurston and Jerry Kramer, recalls a couple of conversations with Halas during a game at Wrigley Field. “Coach Halas paid me the biggest compliment I ever had,” said Hornung, adding that he initially hoped to join the Bears after winning the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame. Hornung pointed out to Halas that he had strayed too far down the sidelines from the bench and, according the Packers’ star, the coach was almost in the end zone while he was “raising hell” with the referees. Halas’ response? “He said, ‘Shut up Hornung.”’ “I came over and made a block near the Bears’ bench and he said, “Hornung, you SOB.’ And I went up to him after the game and said, ‘Thank you.’ He said, ‘What for?’ I said, ‘You made me the happiest guy in the world, you called me an SOB.”’ Rumble, page D2
D2 Sunday, January 23, 2011
the rivalry Bear down
Chicago Zoological Society
Grizzly bears, Axhi, left, and Jim crush a cheesehead hat sporting the Green Bay Packers’ logo at Brookfield Zoo in Broofield, Ill, Friday, Jan. 21.
Cutler makes his legacy today J ay Cutler comes off as kind of a jerk. His facial expressions and body language don’t endear himself to anybody either. He had 26 interceptions a year ago, a total so mindnumbingly high his 16 interceptions this season caused a sigh of relief among Bear fans. None of that could matter at around 5:30 p.m. this evening. If Cutler has a good — or even merely competent — performance against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game that helps the Bears to a Super Bowl appearance he’ll be beloved in Chicago. Cutler has so much potential — it’s what makes him so frustrating. He has the talent to be one of the best in the game. Instead he’s just been pretty good — and awful at times. The Bears fan base was set abuzz when the Bears surprisingly traded for Cutler. He disappointed in his first season as the Bears went 7-9 and he threw interception after interception — with his worst performances coming in prime time. There will be no bigger stage than Soldier Field this afternoon. I don’t have to lecture anyone reading this about the importance and magnitude of this game so I’ll spare you that. What I surprisingly haven’t seen much of in the media is how important this game is for Cutler. Cutler hasn’t laid very many eggs this season, but if he throws up a four interception day and is the biggest reason why the Bears have to watch the hated Packers celebrate a Super Bowl berth at Soldier Field he might not recover in fans’ eyes. It will be another example of Cutler not coming up big when it matters most, failing when the lights are the brightest — and to add insult to injury — doing it against the Packers. But if Cutler has a good or even great day he can fill a gaping hole in Bears lore. When it comes to quarterbacks, Jim McMahon
memories continued from D1
Hester builds his legacy While there’s a debate as to whether Devin Hester or Gale Sayers is the most explosive returner in Bears history — personally, I’ll take the guy with the return TD record — I think my favorite moment not already taken would be Week 1 of the 2006 season, where Hester’s NFL legacy began. Chicago was already ahead 19-0 against the Green Bay Packers before the fourth quarter, when Hester took back 84-yard punt return to “the crib” as the kids say. The offense was solid in that game and the defense continued right where it
jeremy anders is well-liked for his role in helping the ‘85 Bears to Super Bowl XX. Sid Luckman is widely recognized as the best Bears quarterback of all time. Besides that? Many fans have passing affection for players like Erik Kramer or Jim Miller who had some good times in Chicago but were hardly elite quarterbacks. It would be easy for Cutler and his rocket arm to vault to the top of the list. I don’t even think he needs to be brilliant to make it happen. If he just manages the game well (read no interceptions or maybe one fluky one that isn’t really his fault) throws for a couple touchdowns and leads the Bears to the Super Bowl he instantly becomes a legend. Cutler will either put himself on the road to becoming just another in a long line of bad Bears quarterbacks if he gives the game away. But if he wins it for the Bears he’ll find himself on a much shorter list and be the toast of Chicago. Quick Thanks I don’t normally throw things at the end of this column, but a quick thanks goes out to Forreston’s Colton Scott and Tanner Bronkema. During the snowstorm on Monday I went to Forreston High School to cover a girls basketball game that The J-S was not informed was postponed. I ended up getting myself stuck in the snow, and as I was beginning to dig my way out, those two saw me as they were driving along, got out and gave me a push. It was something they didn’t have to do and a very nice gesture that I appreciate. Jeremy Anders is a sports reporter for The JournalStandard. He can be reached at email@example.com left off as one of the best in the league. But there was something about Hester’s touchdown that just felt special the moment it happened. My initial thought was, if Chicago’s defense can run well enough, Rex Grossman doesn’t screw it up on passing plays, the defense plays at a high level and special teams can produce some good field position, the Bears will be a team to be reckoned with. Hester finished the season with three punt returns and two kick returns for touchdowns. As you know, Chicago went 13-3 and went to the Super Bowl, where Hester had a kickoff return for a TD. There’s no doubt Hester’s role that season was a big reason why the Bears were playing in February. — Joey Baskerville
This Nov. 27, 1967, file photo shows Dick Butkus (51) of the Chicago Bears shaking hands with Jim Grabowski of the Green Bay Packers after their game in Chicago. Butkus and Grabowski were teammates at the University of Illinois. This Sunday, when the Bears and Packers meet for the 182nd time, they will play for the Halas Trophy in the NFC Championship.
continued from D1 Through all their confrontations over the years, the Bears and Packers — their cities separated by about 200 miles — have met only once previously in the postseason, making Sunday’s game at Soldier Field all the more meaningful. The 1941 playoff game, contested one week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, saw the Bears earn a 33-14 victory when they limited Green Bay’s great receiver Don Hutson to a single catch. There are so many memorable games since the series started in 1921. In that initial meeting, the Bears, then known as the Staleys, shut out the Packers 20-0. Among the others: —In one of the most bizarre endings ever, Chester Marcol’s field goal attempt was blocked in overtime by the Bears’ Alan Page and somehow the ball bounced right to the Packers’ place-kicker, who grabbed it and ran into the end zone to give the Packers the 12-6 win in 1980. —In a 1989 game at Lambeau Field, Don Majkowski passed to Sterling Sharpe for a TD with about a half a minute left, but officials ruled the Packers’ quarterback was over the line of scrimmage when he threw. But upon further review, and after a replay, they ruled that Majkowski didn’t cross the line of scrimmage and the Packers ended up with a 14-13 victory. The Bears were so angry they initially marked the score with an asterisk in their media guide, denoting it as the instant-replay game. —One of the wildest games ever at Soldier Field came on Halloween night 1994, with 50 mph winds and driving rain turning the game into a virtual monsoon and making all forms of kicking and most passing nearly impossible. Fittingly, the teams were wearing throwback uniforms and Green Bay’s Brett Favre played like a happy kid on a rainy sandlot, hurdling into the end zone after a long TD run and leading Green Bay to a 33-6 victory. —And how about when the Refrigerator, William Perry, Chicago’s 300-pound plus defensive lineman, was used as a backfield battering ram by coach Mike Ditka? Perry rumbled into the end zone for a TD in a Monday night game to spark a victory over the Packers during the Bears’ run to the Super Bowl after the 1985 season, an anniversary they are celebrating this season. That was the era when the bitterness between the teams really escalated, as did a feud between Ditka and Packers coach Forrest Gregg, both former fiery participants as players. As coaches, they got into a
This Jan. 23, 1947, file photo shows Chicago Bears owner George Halas, left, and Green Bay Packers coach Curley Lambeau , at a meeting in Chicago.
shouting match during an exhibition game at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1984 when both benches were on the same side of the field. The animosity peaked in a 1986 game when Green Bay defensive lineman Charles Martin slammed Bears quarterback Jim McMahon to the turf after he’d released a pass, injuring McMahon’s shoulder and leading to a suspension for Martin. “We always wanted to beat Green Bay. That was part our demeanor,” Ditka said. “They went after a couple of our players. We never did that. It’s part of what happened. Why it happened I don’t know. We had the better team at the time.” Dan Hampton, the Bears’ Hall of Fame defensive end, put it this way: “It was a long time ago. There was a lot of bad blood, and it was fostered by both head coaches. Unashamedly.” Ditka’s earlier memories of the series as a run-over-the-defender tight end centered on how many great players he competed against and some of the tough physical battles with Green Bay’s Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke. “It is what it is. As good as it gets. You’re talking a small town like Green Bay and Chicago. I think our rivalry was never based on dislike, it was based on respect. I really did. I did not hate anybody,” Ditka said.
Butkus said he also held no grudges against the Packers, who were in championship form during his early days. “It’s always a challenge just to see how well you could do against championship teams. Not playing for a championship is no reason not to play hard,” he said. And no complaining about the field conditions, either, no matter how difficult they might be. “You could drop a ground ball on the pitcher’s mound and it would go all the way to the end zone,” Butkus said of winter days at Wrigley Field, where the Bears played before leaving after the 1970 season. “You didn’t hear anybody complaining. You get what you get. That’s why you are a professional. You play in all kinds of weather. Even if it was a corner high school field, it was no big deal.” Bart Starr, the Packers’ Hall of Fame quarterback who led Green Bay to wins in the first two Super Bowls when the NFL’s reputation was riding on a victory over the upstart AFL, remembers games at very cozy Wrigley Field, where the Bears played their first 51 years before moving to Soldier Field for the 1971 season. “That south end zone at Wrigley Field, that was a hazard. Oh yeah,” Starr recalled. “It was a unique competition. The ferociousness of it at times was part of the tradition. Games were just very intense and at a high level.” If Butkus and Ditka and Nitschke were among the toughest players of all time, so was Packers Hall of Fame running back Jim Taylor. “You had to defend yourself and meet the challenge,” Taylor said. “Sometimes it was chilly, sometimes snowy. Whatever the conditions.” Longtime-Green Bay safety LeRoy Butler came to Green Bay in 1990 from the sunshine of Florida State. It didn’t take him long to find out that playing the Bears was a bigger deal than he could ever have imagined, both to fans and participants. Suffering from the flu during a “Bears week” early in his career, Butler said he was approached by then coach Mike Holmgren, who delivered an impassioned getwell speech to his talented defensive back. “Put on 10 pounds, they’re going to run the ball. This is the black-and-blue division,” Butler said he was told. “I said, ‘OK.’ He said, ‘You don’t understand. This is the most physical game you are ever going to play in. Get well, because we don’t lose to the Bears.” ———— AP National Writer Nancy Armour and AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this story.
The rivalry continues
‘Caveman football’ for the new century By JIM LITKE Sports Columnist
In this photo taken in 1995 and provided by KC’s Cabin, John Cochara of Twin Lakes, Ill., is seen duct-taped to a stop sign in Spring Grove, Ill., for a little too much celebrating after the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears in an NFL football game. Cochara, now 44, says he’s not about to stop rooting for the Packers. But, he said, the bar where he was duct taped after he played “We are the Champions” following the Packers win has never been the same. The Bears host the Packer Jan. 23 in the NFC Championship.
Fans say it’s the biggest game ever By DON BABWIN The Associated Press
CHICAGO — The Green Bay Packers are headed to town for the NFC championship game and Chicago Bears fans are starting to become, well, a bit unbearable. Turn on the radio in Chicago and you’ll hear no shortage of jokes about Packers fans, many of which have something to do with low intelligence. There’s been plenty of laughs over a Green Bay newspaper headline that read “On To Chicaco.” Many more center on the dietary habits of fans north of the “Cheddar Curtain,” like this one: What do you call a 400pound Packer fan? Anorexic. All of this sniping, fun or otherwise, makes sense since the NFL’s oldest rivalry has had 92 years to simmer. Vince Lombardi, Don Hutson, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Bronko Nagurski, Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka and Walter Payton — all of those names and more add to the rich history, but so does the relationship between the loyal fans in the two states. John Cochara has been hearing from his so-called friends who decided he was celebrating a Packers win over the Bears a little too much in 1995 and duct-taped him to a stop sign. “They’re saying, ‘You better watch out, there are a lot of stop signs out there,”’ said Cochara, whose punishment outside a bar just south of the Wisconsin-Illinois state line included a sign over his head that read “Packer Fan.” The Super Bowl Shuffle video by the 1985-86 Bears is getting tens of thousands of fresh clicks on YouTube. At least one Chicago TV station got texts imploring them to ask Packers fans to swear off cheese or, at least cheeseheads, cheese ties and, honestly, cheese bras. A sign outside the Crystal Lake Rib House not far from the Wisconsin line warns that prices for Packers fans are twice the menu listing. “They say, ‘We really don’t have to pay double, do we?”’ said owner Dave Faccone, who insists it’s a joke. Still, some Bears fans have chimed in. “I got a text saying, ‘You big troublemaker, charging them
Sunday, January 23, 2011 D3
In this photo taken Jan. 18, John Cochara of Twin Lakes, Ill., poses by a stop sign outside a bar in Spring Grove, Ill., near the Illinois/Wisconsin border where 15 years earlier he was ducttaped to the sign after the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears in an NFL football game.
double. It should be triple,”’ he said. On the other side of the state line, Packers fan Frank Emmert Jr. of Superior, Wis., reminisced this week about the time he survived a small plane crash in 1995 thanks to the foam cheesehead he put over his face seconds before impact. “The FAA credited it, not me,” said Emmert, 52. Mike Pyle, who played center for the Bears for nine years, including the 1963 championship season, recalled how his coach and owner of the Bears, George Halas, brought a message over to Packers coach Vince Lombardi before a game. “He went to the locker room door at Lambeau and said, ‘We’re going to whip your (expletive),”’ said Pyle, 71. Yet, with all that bad blood all those years, you’d have to go back to the week after the attack on Pearl Harbor to find the last time the Bears and Packers met in a playoff game. (The Bears won on their way to the championship). This time around, the winner of Sunday’s showdown goes to the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium. “There have been some highly hyped games that went splat, but this, they’re playing for the Halas Trophy, to go to Dallas to win the Lombardi
Trophy,” said Marc Silverman, the co-host of a radio show on ESPN 1000, Waddle and Silvy, with former Bears receiver Tom Waddle. Not that the Super Bowl seems to matter much: Packers fans said beating the Bears at Soldier Field would be a wonderful cake, with a Super Bowl victory serving as the frosting. “There would be nothing sweeter than to watch the Packers take that George Halas trophy at Soldier Field,” said John O’Neill, whose outfit at Packers games is a green bishop’s costume and mitre, with Lombardi’s face on it. He’s appropriately known as St. Vince. It’s the same story in the birthplace of the Bears: Decatur, Ill. “I can’t think of a bigger Bears game,” said 76-year-old Charley May, whose family and the team have been intertwined since his dad, Walter “Red” May, took Halas up on an offer to play for the Decatur Staleys. Halas later moved the team to Chicago and changed its name. “For guys who have followed the Bears all their life and truly hate the Packers, yeah, this is their Super Bowl,” said Mark Foster, 54, who plans to erect a 5-foot inflatable Bears helmet outside his home in Lansing, south of Chicago.
“We can lose 50 to nothing in the Super Bowl to Pittsburgh or the Jets, but if we beat the Packers, who cares?” Scott Wiese understands what Foster is talking about. “The only thing I can compare it to is if the Cubs played the Cardinals in Game 7 for the pennant,” said Wiese, 30, who grew up in the Decatur area and now lives in St. Louis. “It’s the biggest game for me as a Bears fan my whole life, and that includes the Super Bowl.” Don’t expect Wiese to do something crazy. Again. It was Wiese who, before the Super Bowl in February 2007, vowed in writing to change his name to Peyton Manning if the Indianapolis Colts beat his Bears — which they did. He went to court to keep his promise, but the judge tossed out his request. As for the 44-year-old Cochara, he’s not about to stop rooting for the Packers. But, he said, the bar where he was taped up after he played “We are the Champions” following that Packers win has never been the same. “Packers fans are scared about what happened,” he said. ——— Associated Press Writer Carrie Antlfinger contributed to this report from Milwaukee.
he NFL’s first ejection for fighting came in a Bears-Packers game. No surprise there. That was 87 years ago, just three years after they first met, back when just about everyone played “caveman football.” So while the league’s oldest rivalry may no longer be its nastiest — that title belongs to Ravens-Steelers now — next Sunday’s NFC championship should remind us that this one still might be the least evolved. In the intervening years, a parade of skilled offensive players named Payton, Sayers and Ditka on the Chicago side, Starr, Hornung and Favre in Green Bay, lasted long enough to make their mark on the series. But a succession of coaches, beginning with franchise founders George Halas and Curly Lambeau, never forgot their Midwestern towns were buffeted by some of the worst that winter had to offer. So they rarely got caught without monsters named Butkus and Urlacher, Nitschke and Matthews on the other side of the ball, ensuring the games never got too pretty. The Bears and Packers have played 181 times, with Chicago holding a 92-83-6 edge. Between them, they’ve won 21 NFL titles and sent four dozen players to the Hall of Fame. Incredibly, they met only once before in the postseason, in cozy Wrigley Field in December 1941, a week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. “I’m still learning some of the stories and I’m already five years in,” cornerback Danieal Manning said after Chicago clubbed Seattle 35-24 to seal the home game against Green Bay. Manning was one of the few players even willing to acknowledge that he’d invested some time learning the lore. Not so Julius Peppers, the Pro Bowl end who was lured to Chicago this offseason with a $91 million deal to shore up the Bears’ defense. “At the end of the day, it’s not going to come down to how many Hall of Famers, or whatever, played in the past,” Peppers said. “It’s going to be about the guys in this locker room and the one across the way.” No kidding. Players used to go out of their way to deliver messages in the series, but they no longer fight over livelihoods; they all make plenty of money win or lose, playoff bonus or not. They also swap congratulatory text messages, training tips and even restaurant and nightclub reviews. The nastiness rarely spills over into public anymore. Yet scratch any middleaged Bears fan — even this week, when they should
be celebrating — and what you’ll hear is a decades-old complaint about how Walter Payton once got run over by the Green Bay defense even though he was 15 yards out of bounds. Or how quarterback Jim McMahon was body-slammed to the turf by Charles Martin a good three seconds after the whistle, separating his shoulder and costing the Bears — “at least three” — more Super Bowls. Then drive the 184 miles north from Soldier Field to Lambeau Field and you’ll think you’ve arrived at an alternate universe. All the stories about overzealous chases and late hits sound familiar, but this time the villains are always dressed in orange and blue. Chicago coach Lovie Smith grew up in Texas, so none of those grudges seem quite so personal. But he went out of his way to keep faith with the fans. He made a point of targeting Green Bay almost from the day he arrived seven years ago. Earlier this month, with both a playoff spot and first-round bye already locked up, but a chance to knock the Packers out of the postseason, Smith played his starters until the bitter end of a 10-3 loss to Green Bay. After the Packers beat Atlanta to book their spot in next Sunday’s game, cornerback Charles Woodson said it didn’t matter whether the Bears intended to knock out Green Bay. “I just look at it that it was a rivalry game. They wanted to beat the Packers and we wanted to beat the Bears,” he said. “I don’t know if they wanted to get us out of there so they didn’t have to play us or not.” Smith was just as careful. “You want to beat whoever you are playing, of course, and you know our rivalry with them,” he said after the Seattle win. “You want to beat the Packers whenever you get an opportunity. Then, it was just about us playing to improve as a football team, that as much as anything.” Right. After all, it’s not like the Bears were pouring it on at the end against Seattle to get ready for the Packers — or anything like that. “I think once the game got out of hand, scorewise, I felt like they were just doing stuff to do stuff,” Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “Just trying to get all their coverages, all their blitzes on film for their next opponent. I didn’t think it made any sense, really, to do what they were doing.” Wouldn’t be the first time one or the other team in this rivalry did something that hardly made sense. ——— Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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D4 Sunday, January 23, 2011
Don’t punt to Hester GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers have devised and tested the ideal solution to stopping dangerous punt returners such as the Chicago Bears’ Devin Hester. And it worked perfectly in their playoff rout of Atlanta: Just don’t punt. Thanks to a dominant performance by the Packers’ offense, punter Tim Masthay wasn’t called into action against the Falcons in the divisional playoffs. That doesn’t seem likely to happen again in Sunday’s NFC championship game in Chicago, especially against a tough Bears defense. That means the Packers’ special teams will once again have their hands full with Hester, the NFL’s career leader in combined punt and kick returns for touchdowns with 14. From one punt returner to another, Green Bay’s Tramon Williams is impressed. “Natural ability,” Williams said. “From watching film, everything he does is great. He has the vision and the ability, everything ... Coach said he’s the best ever, so I feel the same way.” Indeed, Packers coach Mike McCarthy called Hester the “best player on their football team” before playing the Bears in the regular season finale — a significant statement, given the fact that defensive end Julius Peppers and linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs anchor the Bears’ defense. The Packers allowed Hester to break free for a 62-yard touchdown on a punt return during the teams’ first meeting, a 20-17 Bears victory in Chicago on Sept. 27. But the Packers did a much better job bottling Hester up in the teams’ second meeting of the season, allowing Hester only two punt returns for 35 yards in a 10-3 Packers victory in the regular season finale at Lambeau Field that allowed the Packers to clinch a playoff spot. McCarthy said the Packers’ improved effort was a combination of good ball placement by Masthay — who has improved after a shaky start to the season — and good coverage by the Packers’ special teams. “Our special teams played extremely well in that football game,” McCarthy said. “And that will be a big part of going into Soldier Field and being successful.” But one blown assignment or sloppy arm tackle on Sunday, and Hester could make a momentum-changing return. “He’s right at the top of the list, I would say,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “For sure. He can do everything. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he’s tough to stop.” Hawk says Hester is at his most dangerous when he’s not dancing around. “When he gets the ball, he might make a few moves, make the first guy miss,” Hawk said. “He gets vertical quick. When a guy does that — as you’ve seen against us, he got one earlier this year on us — they can crease you pretty quick and he can get in the end zone fast.” And the Packers have some coverage concerns on special teams after allowing a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Atlanta’s Eric Weems. “Frankly, the kickoff return was a combination of ball placement and coverage,” McCarthy said. “And that’s the reason why you practice those things and you have different types of calls. And so that’s something I’m sure Chicago will be taking a close look at. We’ve been playing very well on special teams but can’t let it happen this week.” The Bears have one of the best special teams units in football, coached by Dave Toub. In addition to Hester’s ability to return punts, Hester and Danieal Manning are dangerous on kickoff returns, while punter Brad Maynard showed Sunday that he can control field position — playing perfectly into the hands of a Bears defense that tries to make opposing offenses drive the length of the field, hoping to force them into a negative play or turnover along the way.
nfc championship the matchup
Packers vs. Bears Matchups for the NFC championship game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears at Soldier Field:
wants to do from the outset. If Green Bay gets stingy on the ground, WRs Johnny Knox (13), Earl Bennett (80) and Devin Hester (23) need to win matchups with top-notch CBs Charles Woodson (21) and Tramon Williams (38), whose 70-yard interception return helped do in Atlanta last Saturday. That’s a very tough chore for Chicago. One key could be backup RB Chester Taylor (29), who along with Forte can be dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. Checkdowns could provide a lifeblood for the Bears, except that sensational LB Clay Matthews (52) is certain to be nearby. Matthews is the Pack’s difference maker on D.
When the Packers have the ball Until the playoffs began, the Packers were a pass first, second, third and all the time team. QB Aaron Rodgers (12) did not have a go-to running back all season after Ryan Grant was hurt. Rodgers even was the second-leading rusher during a 10-6 season. But in Philadelphia for the wild-card round, rookie RB James Starks (44) emerged with 123 yards rushing, and he had 66 tough yards against Atlanta. The Bears must be aware that Green Bay will Special Teams try to run, although Rodgers not only is the Packers’ main The edge here belongs weapon, he’s been the top to Chicago. Atlanta’s Eric quarterback in the playoffs. Weems returned a kickoff A pass rush is a must for for a TD against the Packers the Bears, which means DLs last week, and Chicago has Julius Peppers (90) and Israel a superb punt returner in Idonije (71) have to be factors the record-setting Hester. early and often. LBs Brian He ran back three punts for Urlacher (54) and Lance scores and could see action Briggs (55) had strong years on kickoffs, too. Danieal AP and need to get after Rodgers. Manning (38) normally is In this Sept. 27, 2010, photo, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears fans wait for an NFL football game between the teams in Chicago. The teams are scheduled to play for the third Greg Jennings (85), Donald used on kickoffs. time this season when he Bears host the Packers on Sunday for the NFC championship. Driver (80), James Jones (89) Chicago also covers well, and Jordy Nelson (87) are a Green Bay not so much. formidable receiving corps, Robbie Gould (9) made but Rodgers will find anyone 25 of 30 field goals and has in a Packers uniform. He also range. The tricky winds at has scrambling skills and will Soldier Field won’t bother take off when a play breaks him, but they also shouldn’t down, making something out be a factor for Green Bay’s of nothing. Again, Urlacher Mason Crosby (2), who hit 22 and Briggs will be the keys of 28 tries. Both have made CHICAGO (AP) — Aaron NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME N F CRodgers’ C H A M P I O Nplenty S H I P of GA M E kicks. to short-circuiting clutch Rodgers and Jay Cutler are runs. Both punters, veteran Brad )TGGP$C[2CEMGTUat %JKECIQ$GCTU )TGGP$C[2CEMGTU at %JKECIQ$GCTU two young quarterbacks on Green Bay’s offensive line Maynard (4) for Chicago and 10-6 • (2-0) 11-5 • (1-0) 10-6 • (2-0) 11-5 • (1-0) the rise, blessed with slingshot has improved throughout the first-year player Tim Masthay Sun. • 3 p.m. EST • FOX • 3 p.m. EST • FOX arms and nimble feet. Both season, with RG Josh Sun. Sitton (8) for Green Bay, are efficient Regular-season • postseason stats Regular-season • postseason stats can handle postseason pres(71) the standout. He’ll see if not spectacular. Maynard sure, earning their first caOFFENSE lots of DTs Tommie HarrisOFFENSE certainly has the edge in reer playoff victories in recent Total yards (avg.): 358.1 Total yards (avg.): 289.4 Total yards (avg.): 358.1 Total yards (avg.): 289.4 (91) and Anthony Adams experience. Passing Rushing Passing Rushing Passing Rushing Passing Rushing weeks. (95). Coaching They’re friendly off the field, 257.8 100.4 188.4 101.0 257.8 100.4 188.4 101.0 The Bears need to be exchanging congratulatory Postseason: 375.0 Postseason: 437.0 Postseason: Postseason: 437.0 aggressive in 375.0 coverage with Smith and the Packers’ text messages when their re258.5 117.0 261.0 176.0 258.5Tillman 117.0 CBs Charles (33), Mike261.0 McCarthy each176.0 should spective teams won last weekTim Jennings (28) and D.J. get support in Coach of the DEFENSE DEFENSE end to set up what might be Moore certain be busy. Yards Yearallowed balloting. Yards allowed (avg.): 309.1 Yards allowed (avg.): 314.3 Yards (30) allowed (avg.):to 309.1 (avg.): 314.3 the juiciest conference chamChicago’s Not much was expected Passing Rushing Passing Rushing Passing best secondary Rushing Passing Rushing pionship game ever. player194.2 is safety Chris from224.2 the Bears 90.1 this season, 224.2 90.1 194.2 114.9 114.9Harris. And both men have a chance If Postseason: Harris is able to roam even after they started 3-0. Postseason: 273.0 Postseason: 276.0 273.0 Postseason: 276.0 to cement a place among the despite210.0 a hip injury, he could But their play in the34.0 final two 210.0 63.0 242.0 34.0 63.0 242.0 NFL’s top quarterbacks when be a difference maker. months of the schedule was the Green Bay Packers and SCORING (PPG) SCORING (PPG) impressive as they showed When have Chicago Bears revive their hisPoints for Pts. allowed Points for Pts. allowed Pointsthe for Bears Pts. allowed Points theyfor canPts. winallowed with offense or the24.2 ball toric rivalry in Sunday’s NFC 24.2 17.9 complemented by 15.0 20.9 17.9 15.0 20.9 defense, championship game at Soldier Postseason Postseason Postseason Chicago was 4-3 going into Postseason strong special teams. Field. 34.5 18.5 35.0 34.5 35.0 24.0 24.0 its off week,18.5 and the offense Martz, in particular, For fans, it’s a passionate got something of an overhaul. deserves some credit for fight for ultimate bragging SOURCE: National Football League AP SOURCE: National Football League Coordinator Mike Martz and taming his own gambling AP rights. For players, the game coach Lovie Smith reined in instincts and, in turn, will likely be decided by the quicker with the new offense Soldier Field could disrupt the QB Jay Cutler (6), cutting down taming those of Cutler. The two quarterbacks’ ability and Mike (Martz). You’re al- <AP> Packers’ receivers, hinder NFCwide CHAMPIONSHIP 011811: Graphic compares Editor’s Note: It is mandatory include all his erratic play;regular-season revamped the improvement on thetooffensive sources that accompany this graphic when to make big plays and keep ways seeing different defenses and for the Green andline, Chicago Bears; 2c x 3 thepostseason quicknessstats of Bears defen-Bay Packers offensive where C Olin line also stems from the repurposing or editing it for publication inches; mmPeppers x 98 mm; — withor related stories; ED; ETA 4 p.m. </AP> drives alive against two top and always critiquing yourself 7/8 sive end 96.3 Julius Kreutz (57) is the leader; and coaching. defenses. and if you’re not, you’re not go- both. Clay Matthews and the became more dependent on RB Rod Marinelli might get “Once you get to these ing to get any better.” Packers’ blitz schemes could Matt Forte (22). ridiculed for overseeing the games, it is a quarterback’s But Packers linebacker A.J. prove to be too much for a Forte responded with only 0-16 team in NFL history game,” Bears coach Lovie Hawk says Cutler has a “huge” still-shaky Bears offensive line, 1,069 yards rushing and while he was the Lions’ Smith said. “When they have arm and seems to have his or Chicago’s resurgent running six touchdowns. Cutler also head coach, but he’s a fine open receivers, hitting them. teammates behind him. game with Matt Forte could responded and the Bears won defensive coordinator who got Standing in the pocket, tak“I think they love having a keep Green Bay’s defense off seven of nine to win the NFC the most out of Peppers, not ing a couple hits if you have to, guy like Jay Cutler, because he balance. North ahead of Green Bay. always an easy assignment. just being that leader that the brings a lot of energy and bigThe Bears could capitalize Cutler, who like Rodgers McCarthy and his staff team sees is out front making play capability to the field,” on what appears to be a sigis mobile — he had two TDs have dealt with an unfair plays.” Hawk said. “And I think he’s nificant edge on special teams, rushing and two passing number of injuries — 15 on But any similarity between done a really good job all year beginning with returner Devin against Seattle last week, injured reserve including six Cutler and Rodgers ends when of kind of capitalizing on the Hester. tying a record set in 1954 key defensive players, Grant it comes to public perception. defense’s mistakes that are But quarterbacks come first, and ‘55 by Otto Graham and TE Jermichael Finley Rodgers is the guy who made against him and what he even in a historic rivalry built — has advantage over his — yet found the kind of depth gracefully scrambled out of can do. He seems like he just on toughness, and Packers quarterback buddy (they that carries teams deep into Brett Favre’s shadow. has great command of the of- cornerback Tramon Williams text each other frequently, the playoffs. Green Bay has Cutler is Favre 2.0, minus fense, great command of the said the Packers will be in for although presumably not peaked in the last month, much of the homespun coun- game. That’s what you want a long afternoon if they don’t this week). Greg Olsen (82) with Rodgers playing the best try charm. out of a quarterback.” get pass rush pressure. is an elite tight end, even if football of his career. Rodgers remained poised Given Cutler’s risky tenden“Hopefully, we can get to he doesn’t get much notice. Dom Capers’ defense is fast, and quietly confident after Fa- cies, and his at-times aloof de- Cutler and make him make Olsen was unstoppable smart and aggressive, led by vre was traded in 2008 — even meanor off the field, he hasn’t some quick decisions back against the Seahawks. second-year LB Matthews, after Rodgers was booed by completely won over some there,” Williams said. “When The Packers can be run veteran Woodson and NT B.J. some of his own fans. Since Bears fans. That could change you watch film, if you let the on and that’s what Chicago Raji (90). then, Rodgers has won over Sunday. guy sit back there he can be just about everyone with his “I think everyone in the a nightmare. If you get presstellar play and likable per- locker room knows the magni- sure on pretty much anybody president sonality. tude of this game, knows what you’ll make them make quick If anybody in Wisconsin is we’re going up against,” Cutler decisions and you can make still pining for Favre in green said. “But at the same time plays.” and gold, they’re doing so very we’re going to enjoy it, we’re Rodgers, meanwhile, was quietly. going to be loose, we’re going fairly productive in two games “He’s playing his best foot- to play our game and we can’t against Chicago this year — the ball of his career at this point, worry about what is going to Bears won in Chicago in Sepand that’s what you want, happen afterward if we win, tember, and the Packers beat WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is especially this time of year,” we lose. We just have to go out the Bears in their regular-seapredicting that his hometown Chicago Bears will defeat Packers coach Mike McCarthy there and play.” son finale to make the playoffs said of Rodgers. “He’s definitetheir rivals, the Green Bay Packers, 20-17 in Sunday’s Rodgers said Sunday’s game — but the Bears generally do a ly a big-time quarterback. He’s “takes the rivalry to the next pretty good job containing the NFC championship game. everything we hoped he’d be.” level,” creating the kind of at- Packers’ offense. But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says Obama Cutler remains a talented mosphere he’s dreamed about Rodgers said he’s looking won’t hold a grudge against the state of Wisconsin should work in progress. playing in since he was a kid. forward to facing the Bears, the Packers pull off a win. Gibbs says Obama will travel His throwing mechanics “It’s great that there’s so especially linebacker Brian to Manitowoc, Wis., on Wednesday, regardless of the sometimes break down, and much history, the longest-run- Urlacher. outcome. he relies on arm strength and a ning rivalry in the National “I don’t know how he feels Obama set off speculation this week that he would gambling mentality that some- Football League,” Rodgers about me. He said he voted for times leads to head-scratching said. “To have one of us, the me for the Pro Bowl — I don’t attend the Super Bowl if the Bears make it in. After being interceptions. winner of this game, go to the know if he’s lying or not,” Rodasked about his plans for the big game, Obama said with a “I think you’re always grow- Super Bowl is pretty special.” gers joked. “A lot of respect on laugh: “Oh, if the Bears are in the Super Bowl, we’re going.” ing,” Cutler said. “You’re always Sure, the quarterbacks won’t this side for the way that he Gibbs tried to back away from that, saying that as a trying to get better. You’re al- determine Sunday’s game by plays, the way he’s played this superstitious fan, it was too soon to be making Super ways learning new stuff. Obvi- themselves. season. But (he’s) somebody I Bowl plans. ously I had to learn a little bit Sloppy field conditions at really enjoy playing against.”
Packers vs. Bears, what else could be better want?
Obama predicts win for Bears over Packers
Rex and Ben big focal points
Pittsburgh fans celebrate during an NFL divisional football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Pittsburgh on Jan. 15.
Jets vs. Steelers M
atchups for the AFC championship game between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field: When the Jets have the ball Don’t be fooled by the Jets’ claims they need to pound the ball on the ground to win. For one thing, nobody pounds the Steelers, who allowed the fewest yards rushing, a mere 1,004, this season. For another, the Jets have thrown the ball well recently, particularly in last week’s shocker at New England. QB Mark Sanchez (6) has completed 60.7 percent of his passes, had three TDs against the Patriots, and his 91.6 rating is nothing to ignore. He also has dynamic receivers in former Steelers star Santonio Holmes (10), the MVP of Pittsburgh’s February 2009 Super Bowl triumph, and Braylon Edwards (17), and reliable ones in Jerricho Cotchery (89) and TE Dustin Keller (81). New York’s offensive line is a strength even without injured RT Damien Woody (Achilles’ tendon). Nick Mangold (74) is a Pro Bowl center and RG Brandon Moore (65) probably deserved to go to Hawaii. Still, the defense New York faces is far more fierce and formidable than what it saw in Indianapolis or New England the last two weeks. Neither the Colts nor the Patriots have playmakers like S Troy Polamalu (43), who could wind up anywhere on the field at any time, and LBs James Harrison (92) and LaMarr Woodley (56). The Jets must get solid performances from tackles D’Brickashaw Ferguson (60) and Wayne Hunter (78), plus dependable blitz pickups from RBs Shonn Greene (23) and LaDainian Tomlinson (21), along with steady veteran FB Tony Richardson (49). Tomlinson has had a rebirth in New York. He and Greene have combined for 271 yards rushing in the two postseason games. If they get anywhere near their playoff averages Sunday, it bodes well for the Jets. Regardless, Sanchez must remain consistent and throw in some big plays such as the TD pass to Holmes last week or the one to Edwards that set up the winning field goal in Indy. Keller should expect to be rocked by Polamalu and S Ryan Clark every time he touches the ball, but Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks are beatable. When the Steelers have the ball Don’t be fooled by the Steelers’ claims they need to pound the ball on the ground to win, either. The running game might be a bit more critical for them, and Rashard Mendenhall (34) can be a beast; he rushed for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns during the season, but managed only 46 yards against Baltimore. Pittsburgh’s offensive line, banged up all year, will be tested by a resurgent Jets defense that pressured Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Rookie C Maurkice Pouncey (53) has more than held his own, but QB Ben Roethlisberger (7) doesn’t always get the same support from the rest of his blockers. Of course, few quarterbacks
Sunday, January 23, 2011 D5
can manufacture something out of chaos the way Roethlisberger does — and has done in winning two Super Bowls. He masterfully led the comeback from a 14-point deficit against Baltimore last week. Although Hines Ward (86) is the key receiver in big spots, Mike Wallace (17) figures to get the Revis Treatment. Shutdown CB Darrelle Revis (24) will be a huge challenge for Wallace, Ward, Emmanuel Sanders (88) and Antonio Brown (84), one of the heroes of the win over the Ravens. Just like Manning and Brady, Roethlisberger probably will go after CB Antonio Cromartie (31), and look over the middle for TE Heath Miller (83). New York doesn’t cover tight ends over the middle particularly well. Even if the Jets get penetration similar to what they got against the Patriots from Shaun Ellis (92) and Calvin Pace (97), that doesn’t mean Roethlisberger will be stymied. His ability to take hits, avoid the rush and thrown on the run make him dangerous everywhere. Special Teams A strength of the Jets under coordinator Mike Westhoff, with Brad Smith (16) the main threat. Smith ranked second in the league with 1,432 yards on kick returns, a 28.6 average, and two touchdowns. The Steelers very well remember the 97yarder Smith had to open New York’s 22-17 victory at Pittsburgh on Dec. 19. The Steelers counter mostly with Brown on returns. Brown had one kickoff runback for a score during the season. Both teams are solid on kickoff coverages in particular. Pittsburgh changed placekickers in midseason from Jeff Reed to Shaun Suisham (6) and it worked out nicely. The turf at Heinz field can be problematic, but Suisham went 14 for 15 on field goals. New York’s Nick Folk (2) isn’t quite so reliable, even missing a 30-yarder at Foxborough. He did hit the 32-yarder that lifted the Jets past the Colts. Steve Weatherford (9) gets good hang time and can punt directionally. Having kicked in the Meadowlands all year should prepare him for tricky winds, the kind that Steelers P Jeremy Kapinos (13) knows well. Coaching All the kidding aside about their personalities being so dissimilar, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin and Jets head man Rex Ryan have much in common. Both are superb defensive coaches, albeit with different styles. Tomlin, who won a championship in 2008, is blessed with the likes of Harrison and Polamalu — and coordinator Dick LeBeau, possibly the best the NFL has seen. They get the most out of everyone on D. Tomlin is a terrific evaluator of talent and a strong motivator. Ryan might be bombastic, but he gets results, in great part by letting assistants such as Westhoff and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have freedom. His roster fits the personality Ryan wants for his team: brash, rugged, clutch.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — If there’s a bigger-than-life coach, it has to be Rex Ryan. His outsized personality and outlandish comments — maybe not so absurd given what Ryan’s New York Jets have achieved — draw notice no matter the situation. If there’s a bigger-than-most quarterback, literally and figuratively, it has to be Ben Roethlisberger. Not only because he’s 6-foot-5, 241 pounds, larger than some linebackers and stronger than nearly everyone else at his position, but because his credentials on the field and troubles away from it have been, well, so noticeable. Ryan’s loud and proud Jets (13-5) face off with Roethlisberger’s fearless Steelers (13-4) on Sunday for the AFC championship. Even though both teams are blessed with playmakers galore, the centerpieces will be the bombastic coach and the controversial quarterback. Better have a huge spotlight. “You thought last week was emotional and all that,” says Ryan, referring to a 28-21 victory at New England that improved his postseason record as Jets coach to 4-1 and lifted his team into its second straight AFC title game. “Just wait until this week.” This week, after his team beat Peyton Manning and the Colts, then Tom Brady and the Patriots, it’s all about Roethlisberger. This AFC championship game is Roethlisberger’s fourth in seven seasons, and he owns two Super Bowl rings. But he’s never had a year like the last one, making as many headlines away from the game as he usually does with his playmaking skills. Roethlisberger was accused in March of the sexual assault of a 20-year-old college student, but a prosecutor in Georgia declined to bring charges. Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for four games to start the 2010 season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The Steelers organization, among the most respected in sports, was incensed by Roethlisberger’s behavior. Pittsburghers were torn about supporting him, noting that Manning and Brady never betrayed their fans’ trust in such a way. What did Roethlisberger do? Apparently, he grew up. And he kept winning. “The great thing is that was so long ago I forgot all about it,” he says. “Right now it is not about living in the past for me. It’s about here and now and this game.” Ah, the game. Guess what the game could come down to: Ryan’s defensive mastery against Roethlisberger’s offensive creativity. Both of them know it, too. “Literally everything, from their coverages to their blitzes to rushing two guys and getting sacks,” Roethlisberger says of the challenge the Jets present. “They can go into Indianapolis and beat Peyton Manning and go to New England and beat Tom Brady, who are the best two quarterbacks in the game in my opinion. I don’t know how I have a chance.”
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AFC CHAM for some. Not this bunch. “The fact we’re playing 0GY;QTM,GVUat 2KVVUDWTIJ5VGGNGTU at against the 0GY;QTM,GVU Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5 • (2-0) 12-4 • (1-0) 11-5of • (2-0) with about as rich history as there is in this league,Sun. as •far Sun. • 6:30 p.m. EST • CBS 6:3 Regular-season • postseason stats Regular-seaso as having Super Bowl success, playing them at Pittsburgh, OFFENSE OF we know going to 351.0 be a huge Total yards (avg.): 351.0 Total yards (avg.): 345.3 Totalit’s yards (avg.): challenge for us,” Ryan says. Passing Rushing Passing Rushing Passing Rushing “There’s no202.6 doubt. 202.6 148.4 225.1 120.2 148.4 “But this is, we’ve called it bePostseason: 333.5 Postseason: 263.0 Postseason: 333.5 fore, a triple chin strap game, a 189.0 144.5 192.0 71.0 189.0 144.5 straight-ahead, no-dodging DEFENSE DE game. Both teams are built the Yards allowed (avg.): 291.5 Yards allowed (avg.): 276.8 Yards allowed (avg.): 291.5 same.” Passing Rushing Passing Rushing Rushing NotPassing quite. The Steelers tend to rely on the draft; other 200.6 90.9 214.1 62.8 200.6 90.9 than Farrior, Harrison and Ryan Postseason: 342.0 Postseason: 126.0 Postseason: 342.0 Clark, most of their main103.0 con239.0 103.0 91.0 35.0 239.0 tributors were draft picks. The SCORING (PPG) SCOR Jets do have many key draftees, Points for Pts. allowed Points for Pts. allowed for Pts. allowed from Points DE Shaun Ellis, who had 23.4 22.9 19.0 14.5 22.9 19.0 a monster game in New EngPostseason Postseason land, Postseason to star cornerback Darrelle Revis to 2009 No. 1 Mark 22.5 18.5 31.0 24.0 22.5 18.5 Sanchez, who already has four road playoff winsFootball — twice SOURCE: National Football League AP SOURCE: National League as many total postseason victoDon’t buy it. He’ll have plenty who have never played in a ries as Namath had. A triumph Sundaycompares will set an NFL record AFC CHAMPIONSHIP 011811: Graphic regular-season of opportunities. The Steelers <AP> playoff game, or championship postseason stats for the New to York for Jetsaway and Pittsburgh 2c x 3 victories Steelers; by a quarterare 4-point favorites to avenge and game, and we want them inches; 96.3 mmfeeling x 98 mm; stories; ED; ETA 4 p.m. </AP> back. their 22-17 loss to the Jets at 7/8 experience that of with win-related But the Jets play the freeHeinz Field on Dec. 19, when ning. Roethlisberger drove Pitts“No doubt about it, once you agent game and make trades, burgh deep into New York’s red have been across that line and especially this year in bringzone before throwing two in- won a championship, you al- ing in Holmes, CB Antonio completions at the end. Before ways want that same feeling, Cromartie — no, he has not Roethlisberger that win, the Jets were 0-6 in always striving to get that ring badmouthed or anyone else this week after the Steel City. Pittsburgh didn’t back.” have star safety Troy Polamalu Ryan has no rings. The only cursing out Brady before the or tight end Heath Miller for Jets who do are receiver San- New England game — LB Jathat one; both will play Sun- tonio Holmes, who caught son Taylor and RB LaDainian day. the winning pass from Roeth- Tomlinson. Their idea — Ryan’s The Steelers also won’t flinch lisberger in 2009 that lifted idea — is, simply, it’s time to in the pressure cooker that is the Steelers past Arizona and collect some hardware. “All I want to do is find a way the last step to the Super Bowl. earned him Super Bowl MVP For Roethlisberger, Polamalu, honors; backup QB Mark to win, by one point, whatever,” Hines Ward, James Harrison, Brunell, who held a similar Ryan says. “We want to be a part James Farrior and many oth- role with New Orleans last of that. I want that green and ers, this isn’t new territory. It’s year; and right tackle Damien white confetti coming down. where they expect to be. Woody, now on injured re- We want to hold the trophy, the Lamar Hunt Trophy. “It doesn’t change. The goal serve. “We want the hat, we want every year is to win the chamOtherwise, the Jets haven’t pionship and this year is no played for the biggest prize the T-shirts. That’s our mission. different even if we have two since Joe Namath guaranteed That’s what we want to accomplish.” under our belt,” Farrior says. it a mere 42 years ago. In a big way, of course. “We have guys around here That might be intimidating AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
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D6 Sunday, January 23, 2011
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Packers at Bears Sunday, Jan. 23, 2 p.m. CST, Fox
Overview In their first playoff matchup since seven days after the attack on Pearl Harbor more than 69 years ago, bombs once again could fill the air if these arch NFC North rivals’ offenses are as productive as they were in the divisional playoff round (879 total yards combined). In Week Three in Chicago, the Bears came back from an early 10-0 deficit to sneak past the Packers 20-17 on Robbie Gould’s game-winning 19yard field goal. A team-record 18 Packers penalties had a lot to do with the outcome. Green Bay turned the tables in the regular-season finale, clinching a playoff spot.
Slick new video
Cutler’s play does the talking
Prepare for the playoffs and NFL draft by watching our daily videos. ProFootballWeekly.com
WAY WE HEAR IT Greg Olsen was involved in trade rumors during the offseason after offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who had used tight ends primarily as blockers in the past, was hired. It was presumed that Martz wouldn't have much use for Olsen, since blocking was not his strength. After watching Olsen’s numbers dip near career-low levels during the regular season, there’s been some talk that trading Olsen, who has one year left on his contract, to a team with a system that would allow him to showcase his strengths as a receiver would be the best thing for him.
Look for Packers CB Charles Woodson to probably get heavily involved defending Bears TE Greg Olsen, who had a TD catch in the first meeting back in Week Three and was a major force to be reckoned with last week, with a 58-yard TD catch on the Bears’ third offensive play of the game getting the ball rolling.
The Bears’ Jay Cutler ran for two TDs and threw for two other scores against Seattle.
By the numbers Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has 11 a touchdown-interception ratio of 11-1 in his last four games.
Schedule and results Pointspread refers to Chicago
OPPONENT DATE Sept. 12 Detroit Sept. 19 At Dallas Sept. 27 Green Bay Oct. 3 At N.Y. Giants Oct. 10 At Carolina Seattle Oct. 17 Oct. 24 Washington Oct. 31 BYE Nov. 7 At Buffalo Nov. 14 Minnesota Nov. 18 At Miami Nov. 28 Philadelphia At Detroit Dec. 5 Dec. 12 New England Dec. 20 At Minnesota Dec. 26 New York Jets Jan. 2 At Green Bay POSTSEASON Jan. 16 Seattle
SPREAD (-6.5) (+7) (+3) (+3.5) (+3) (-6) (-3)
SCORE 19-14 27-20 20-17 3-17 23-6 20-23 14-17
(-3) (+1) (+2) (+3) (-5) (+3) (-5.5) (-3) (+11.5)
22-19 27-13 16-0 31-26 24-20 7-36 40-14 38-34 3-10
QUOTE OF NOTE
“I’m just glad to be a part of the history it’s going to be, because we’re going to win. It’s going to be a huge game.” — Bears TE Kellen Davis, guaranteeing a victory over the Packers in an interview on Chicago radio station WSCR-AM.
Bears QB responds on the field By Dan Parr Pro Football Weekly
He’s watched as closely as any Bears player, on and off the field, but QB Jay Cutler is not a media darling. It has been well known for a while that he’s not interested in becoming one, either, although he said Sunday that he’s trying to be more friendly during the question and answer sessions. Cutler looks disinterested at times, will offer a few, short words in response to a question that he finds particularly bothersome or trivial, doesn’t smile much and rarely seems to be enjoying his interactions with reporters every Wednesday at Halas Hall. That approach doesn’t sit well with some people. In the days leading up to the Bears’ playoff battle against Seattle, his personality, or at least the one he shows in public — his friends on the team suggest that there is a different side of Cutler — was skewered by a national writer. He has not won any popularity contests since getting traded to Chicago before the 2009 season, even with a fan base that was ready to embrace him from the start. The obsession with analyzing his demeanor is probably not going away, but with his play on the field, Cutler is making all that talk a side story in the background of a more meaningful tale. In his first career playoff game Sunday, he
threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more, and the Bears won, setting up one of the most anticipated games in franchise history against the Packers at Solider Field in the NFC championship. There was an errant throw or two, including one that was nearly picked off by Seahawks S Jordan Babineaux at the Bears’ goal line. Cutler’s game wasn’t flawless, but TE Greg Olsen, who caught the first of his TD passes, was impressed. “I don’t know if you’re going to get any better performance out of a quarterback in the playoffs,” Olsen said of Cutler’s showing against the Seahawks. “I don’t know what he threw for in yards. Who cares? Two runs (for touchdowns), two throwing touchdowns, no turnovers. He was making those decisions and moving us up and down the field. I don’t know what more he could of done from that position in any game, but let alone a huge playoff game. You can’t give enough credit to what he did.” But what if Cutler does do something even better against Green Bay? What will people say if Cutler does not make costly errors, outduels Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and leads the Bears to a win in one of the biggest games they have ever played in, sending Chicago to its second Super Bowl in four years? He’ll go from being the maligned quarterback that didn’t play up to his potential to one on the verge of breaking through to join some elite company in the Super Bowl, and critics of his persona will seem much less relevant.
MATT QUINNAN / PFW
Matchup to watch
If Olsen agrees with that sentiment, he’s not showing it. Olsen said last week that he believes that playing for Martz and doing more blocking has been a good thing. His receiving skills were on full display in the Bears’ playoff win over the Seahawks, however. Olsen had the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, making three catches for 113 yards and a TD. Olsen, however, finished with only two catches and 13 yards more than his career lows in those categories during the regular season. “It’s definitely different as far as in the past, but I really think, and I wholeheartedly believe this, that it’s been a good thing,” Olsen said. “It’s opened my eyes that you can have an impact on the game other than catching touchdowns. “In the past it was always, ‘What can our tight ends do in the passing game?’ We did stuff in the run game, don’t get me wrong, but this year we have a lot more responsibility in blitz protection on third downs. ... You can have a big impact on the game without the ball. “The (TE) position has made some plays and been a factor in the passing game, but I feel like the position has helped in other ways that sometimes can go unnoticed. I think overall, personally and as a position, I think (the tight ends have) all grown a lot this past year as all-around players.”
WHISPERS S Chris Harris had to leave the Bears’ win over the Seahawks with a hip injury, but he vowed to return against the Packers and word is the team expects him to play. “My leg would have to be cut off for me to miss this game,” Harris said.
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DeWyze gets halftime gig at NFC championship CHICAGO (AP) — “American Idol” winner Lee DeWyze will be performing at Sunday’s NFC championship game between Chicago and Green Bay. Just not the national anthem. On Monday, DeWyze tweeted “National Anthem at home, yes. Go Bears.” DeWyze, who grew up in suburban Mount Prospect 25 miles away from Soldier Field, won last season’s “American Idol” contest and a week later sang the national anthem at Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Los Angeles. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Wednesday the league had recently booked DeWyze to perform the national anthem at the NFC championship game, regardless of location. He said “to accommodate the Bears and their fans,” DeWyze will instead perform at halftime and Jim Cornelison will perform the national anthem. The classically trained Cornelison has drawn rave reviews after becoming a regular singing the anthem at home during Chicago Blachawks games.
Bears’ Harris vows to play against Green Bay LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears safety Chris Harris practiced on a limited basis for the first time this week after suffering a hip pointer in a playoff win over Seattle on Sunday. Harris, listed as questionable, says he’s “definitely playing” in this week’s NFC championship game against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers and is feeling “a lot” better. He was injured in the first half against the Seahawks, forcing the Bears to go with rookie Major Wright and Josh Bullocks. Harris tied cornerback Charles Tillman for the team lead with five interceptions in his first season back with Chicago after spending the previous three in Carolina.
Jets’ Ellis sits out, Steelers’ McFadden returns PITTSBURGH (AP) — New York Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis sat out practice Friday with a knee ailment, but coach Rex Ryan said he’ll play in the AFC championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ellis was listed as questionable on the team’s injury report after having two sacks and playing a terrific all-around game in New York’s 28-21 win at New England last Sunday. Wide receiver-kick returner Brad Smith (groin), safety James Ihedigbo (right knee/ankle) and defensive back Drew Coleman (knee) were limited and also listed as questionable. “They’re playing, OK?” Ryan said. “That’s pretty much it.” Steelers starting cornerback Bryant McFadden practiced for the first time this week after sustaining an abdominal injury during a playoff victory against Baltimore last Saturday. McFadden said he will see how he feels Saturday before a decision is made about playing when the Steelers (13-4) host the New York Jets (13-5). Nickel back William Gay would start if McFadden can’t play. Safety Troy Polamalu (Achilles’ tendon) also returned to practice, as expected, and will play Sunday. Special teamers Will Allen (knee) and Arnez Battle (illness) practiced for the first time this week as well. DE Aaron Smith has been limited in practice all week, and it is considered extremely unlikely he will play Sunday. Smith has not played since Oct. 24, when he tore a triceps muscle in a win at Miami.
Sunday, January 23, 2011 D7
the rivalry rosters
1941—Chicago Bears 37, New York 9 1940—Chicago Bears 73, Washington 0 1939—Green Bay 27, New York 0 1938—New York 23, Green Bay 17 1937—Washington 28, Chicago Bears 21 1936—Green Bay 21, Boston 6 1935—Detroit 26, New York 7 1934—New York 30, Chicago Bears 13 1933—Chicago Bears 23, New York 21
NFC Championship Rosters Chicago Bears Head Coach: Lovie Smith No. Player Pos Ht 4 Brad Maynard P 6-1 6 Jay Cutler QB 6-3 9 Robbie Gould K 6-0 10 Todd Collins QB 6-4 12 Caleb Hanie QB 6-2 13 Johnny Knox WR 6-0 19 Devin Aromashodu WR 6-2 20 Craig Steltz S 6-1 21 Corey Graham CB 6-0 22 Matt Forte RB 6-2 23 Devin Hester WR 5-11 25 Garrett Wolfe RB 5-7 26 Tim Jennings CB 5-8 27 Major Wright S 5-11 29 Chester Taylor RB 5-11 30 D.J. Moore CB 5-9 31 Joshua Moore CB 5-11 32 Kahlil Bell RB 5-11 33 Charles Tillman CB 6-1 35 Zackary Bowman CB 6-1 36 Josh Bullocks S 6-0 38 Danieal Manning S 5-11 46 Chris Harris S 6-0 52 Brian Iwuh LB 6-0 53 Nick Roach LB 6-1 54 Brian Urlacher LB 6-4 55 Lance Briggs LB 6-1 57 Olin Kreutz C 6-2 58 Rod Wilson LB 6-2 59 Pisa Tinoisamoa LB 6-1 60 Lance Louis G 6-3 63 Roberto Garza G 6-2 65 Patrick Mannelly C 6-5 67 Herman Johnson G 6-7 68 Frank Omiyale T 6-4 69 Henry Melton DE 6-3 70 Edwin Williams C 6-3 71 Israel Idonije DT 6-6 73 J’Marcus Webb T 6-7 74 Chris Williams T 6-6 75 Matt Toeaina DT 6-2 78 Kevin Shaffer T 6-5 80 Earl Bennett WR 6-0 81 Rashied Davis WR 5-9 82 Greg Olsen TE 6-5 86 Brandon Manumaleuna TE 6-2 87 Kellen Davis TE 6-7 88 Desmond Clark TE 6-3 90 Julius Peppers DE 6-7 91 Tommie Harris DT 6-3 95 Anthony Adams DT 6-0 98 Corey Wootton DE 6-6 99 Marcus Harrison DT 6-3
Wt 188 233 185 223 225 180 201 210 198 218 190 186 185 206 213 183 184 212 198 193 207 202 207 235 234 258 242 292 230 230 305 310 265 360 315 265 313 270 310 315 308 318 204 187 255 295 262 249 283 295 310 270 312
Afc Champions 2009—Indianapolis 30, New York 17 2008—Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 14 2007—New England 21, San Diego 12 2006—Indianapolis 38, New England 34 2005—Pittsburgh 34, Denver 17 2004—New England 41, Pittsburgh 27 2003—New England 24, Indianapolis 14 2002—Oakland 41, Tennessee 24 2001—New England 24, Pittsburgh 17 2000—Baltimore 16, Oakland 3 1999—Tennessee 33, Jacksonville 14 1998—Denver 23, New York 10 1997—Denver 24, Pittsburgh 21 1996—New England 20, Jacksonville 6 1995—Pittsburgh 20, Indianapolis 16 1994—San Diego 17, Pittsburgh 13 1993—Buffalo 30, Kansas City 13 1992—Buffalo 29, Miami 10 1991—Buffalo 10, Denver 7 1990—Buffalo 51, L.A. Raiders 3 1989—Denver 37, Cleveland 21 1988—Cincinnati 21, Buffalo 10 1987—Denver 38, Cleveland 33 1986—Denver 23, Cleveland 20, OT 1985—New England 31, Miami 14 1984—Miami 45, Pittsburgh 28 1983—L.A. Raiders 30, Seattle 14 1982—Miami 14, New York 0 1981—Cincinnati 27, San Diego 7 1980—Oakland 34, San Diego 27 1979—Pittsburgh 27, Houston 13 1978—Pittsburgh 34, Houston 5 1977—Denver 20, Oakland 17 1976—Oakland 24, Pittsburgh 7 1975—Pittsburgh 16, Oakland 10 1974—Pittsburgh 24, Oakland 13 1973—Miami 27, Oakland 10 1972—Miami 21, Pittsburgh 17 1971—Miami 21, Baltimore 0 1970—Baltimore 27, Oakland 17 1969—Kansas City 17, Oakland 7 1968—New York 27, Oakland 23 1967—Oakland 40, Houston 7 1966—Kansas City 31, Buffalo 7 1965—Buffalo 23, San Diego 0 1964—Buffalo 20, San Diego 7 1963—San Diego 51, Boston 10 1962—Dallas 20, Houston 17, OT 1961—Houston 10, San Diego 3 1960—Houston 24, L.A. Chargers 16 ——— NOTE: List includes AFL Championship Games from 1960 to 1969.
Green Bay Packers
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy No. Player Pos Ht 2 Mason Crosby K 6-1 6 Graham Harrell QB 6-2 8 Tim Masthay P 6-1 10 Matt Flynn QB 6-2 12 Aaron Rodgers QB 6-2 16 Brett Swain WR 6-0 20 Atari Bigby S 5-11 21 Charles Woodson CB 6-1 22 Pat Lee CB 6-0 23 Dimitri Nance RB 5-10 24 Jarrett Bush CB 6-0 26 Charlie Peprah S 5-11 28 Brandon Underwood CB 6-1 30 John Kuhn RB 6-0 32 Brandon Jackson RB 5-10 35 Korey Hall RB 6-0 36 Nick Collins S 5-11 37 Sam Shields CB 5-11 38 Tramon Williams CB 5-11 40 Josh Gordy CB 5-11 44 James Starks RB 6-2 45 Quinn Johnson RB 6-1 49 Rob Francois LB 6-2 50 A.J. Hawk LB 6-1 52 Clay Matthews LB 6-3 53 Diyral Briggs LB 6-4 55 Desmond Bishop LB 6-2 57 Matt Wilhelm LB 6-4 58 Frank Zombo LB 6-3 61 Brett Goode C 6-1 62 Evan Dietrich-Smith G 6-2 63 Scott Wells C 6-2 67 Nick McDonald G 6-4 70 T.J. Lang T 6-4 71 Josh Sitton G 6-3 72 Jason Spitz G 6-3 73 Daryn Colledge G 6-4 75 Bryan Bulaga T 6-5 76 Chad Clifton T 6-5 77 Cullen Jenkins DE 6-2 79 Ryan Pickett DE 6-2 80 Donald Driver WR 6-0 81 Andrew Quarless TE 6-4 83 Tom Crabtree TE 6-4 85 Greg Jennings WR 5-11 86 Donald Lee TE 6-4 87 Jordy Nelson WR 6-3 89 James Jones WR 6-1 90 B.J. Raji NT 6-2 93 Erik Walden LB 6-2 94 Jarius Wynn DE 6-3 95 Howard Green DT 6-2 98 C.J. Wilson DE 6-3
Wt 207 215 200 225 225 200 213 202 196 218 200 203 191 250 216 236 207 184 191 190 218 263 255 247 255 230 238 245 254 255 308 300 316 318 318 305 308 314 320 305 340 194 252 245 198 248 217 208 337 250 285 340 290
AFC Championship Rosters New York Jets Wt 222 225 215 215 192 220 212 214 190 215 214 226 198 205 198 202 170 180 210 207 192 245 214 270 240 260 250 245 255 242 242 260 310 325 305 315 305 285 307 308 318 250 265 268 260 220 203 325 290 290 295 265 250
Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach: Mike Tomlin No. Player Pos Ht 4 Byron Leftwich QB 6-5 6 Shaun Suisham K 6-0 7 Ben Roethlisberger QB 6-5 13 Jeremy Kapinos P 6-1 14 Limas Sweed WR 6-4
16 Charlie Batch QB 17 Mike Wallace WR 20 Bryant McFadden CB 21 Mewelde Moore RB 22 William Gay CB 23 Keenan Lewis CB 24 Ike Taylor CB 25 Ryan Clark S 26 Will Allen S 27 Jonathan Dwyer RB 28 Crezdon Butler CB 29 Ryan Mundy S 33 Isaac Redman RB 34 Rashard Mendenhall RB 37 Anthony Madison CB 43 Troy Polamalu S 50 Larry Foote LB 51 James Farrior LB 53 Maurkice Pouncey C 55 Stevenson Sylvester LB 56 LaMarr Woodley LB 57 Keyaron Fox LB 60 Greg Warren C 61 Chris Scott T 64 Doug Legursky C 66 Tony Hills T 68 Chris Kemoeatu G 69 Steve McLendon DT 71 Flozell Adams T 72 Jonathan Scott T 73 Ramon Foster G 76 Chris Hoke NT 79 Trai Essex G 81 Arnaz Battle WR 82 Antwaan Randle El WR 83 Heath Miller TE 84 Antonio Brown WR 85 David Johnson TE 86 Hines Ward WR 88 Emmanuel Sanders WR 89 Matt Spaeth TE 91 Aaron Smith DE 92 James Harrison LB 93 Nick Eason DE 94 Lawrence Timmons LB 96 Ziggy Hood DE 97 Jason Worilds LB 98 Casey Hampton NT 99 Brett Keisel DE
6-2 6-0 6-0 5-11 5-10 6-0 6-2 5-11 6-1 5-11 6-0 6-1 6-0 5-10 5-9 5-10 6-1 6-2 6-4 6-2 6-2 6-3 6-3 6-4 6-1 6-5 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-6 6-6 6-2 6-5 6-1 5-10 6-5 5-10 6-2 6-0 5-11 6-7 6-5 6-0 6-3 6-1 6-3 6-2 6-1 6-5
216 199 190 209 190 208 195 205 200 229 191 209 230 225 180 207 239 243 304 231 265 235 252 319 315 304 344 280 338 318 325 305 324 208 185 256 186 260 205 180 270 298 242 305 234 300 262 325 285
game records NFC Championship Records
Head Coach: Rex Ryan No. Player Pos Ht 2 Nick Folk K 6-1 6 Mark Sanchez QB 6-2 8 Mark Brunell QB 6-1 9 Steve Weatherford P 6-3 10 Santonio Holmes WR 5-11 11 Kellen Clemens QB 6-2 16 Brad Smith WR 6-2 17 Braylon Edwards WR 6-3 20 Kyle Wilson CB 5-10 21 LaDainian Tomlinson RB 5-10 22 Brodney Pool S 6-2 23 Shonn Greene RB 5-11 24 Darrelle Revis CB 5-11 25 Joe McKnight RB 5-11 26 Dwight Lowery CB 5-11 27 Emanuel Cook S 5-10 29 Isaiah Trufant CB 5-8 30 Drew Coleman CB 5-9 31 Antonio Cromartie CB 6-2 33 Eric Smith S 6-1 34 Marquice Cole CB 5-10 38 John Conner RB 5-11 44 James Ihedigbo S 6-1 46 Tanner Purdum C 6-3 49 Tony Richardson RB 6-1 50 Vernon Gholston DE 6-3 52 David Harris LB 6-2 53 Josh Mauga LB 6-1 55 Jamaal Westerman LB 6-3 56 Lance Laury LB 6-2 57 Bart Scott LB 6-2 58 Bryan Thomas LB 6-4 60 D’Brickashaw Ferguson T 6-6 62 Vladimir Ducasse G 6-5 65 Brandon Moore G 6-3 68 Matt Slauson G 6-5 70 Mike DeVito DE 6-3 71 Jarron Gilbert DT 6-5 74 Nick Mangold C 6-4 75 Robert Turner T 6-4 78 Wayne Hunter T 6-5 81 Dustin Keller TE 6-2 82 Matthew Mulligan TE 6-4 84 Ben Hartsock TE 6-4 86 Jeff Cumberland TE 6-4 88 Patrick Turner WR 6-5 89 Jerricho Cotchery WR 6-0 91 Sione Pouha DT 6-3 92 Shaun Ellis DE 6-5 93 Trevor Pryce DE 6-5 94 Marcus Dixon DE 6-4 97 Calvin Pace LB 6-4 99 Jason Taylor LB 6-6
This Jan. 2 file photo shows Green Bay Packers fan John O’Neill watching from the stands during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Green Bay, Wis.
Wt 250 197 241 230 212
SCORING Most Points — 19, Paul Hornung, Green Bay vs. New York, 1961. Most Touchdowns — 3, Otto Graham, Cleveland vs. Detroit, 1954; Gary Collins, Cleveland vs. Baltimore, 1964; Tom Matte, Baltimore vs. Cleveland, 1968; Preston Pearson, Dallas vs. Los Angeles, 1975; Emmitt Smith, Dallas vs. Green Bay, 1995; Adrian Peterson, Minnesota vs. New Orleans, 2010. Most Field Goals — 5, Matt Bahr, New York vs. San Francisco, 1990. Longest Field Goal — 52, Lou Groza, Cleveland vs. Los Angeles, 1951. Most Points After Touchdown — 8, Lou Groza, Cleveland vs. Detroit, 1954; Jim Martin, Detroit vs. Cleveland, 1957. RUSHING Most Attempts — 36, John Riggins (twice), Washington vs. Dallas, 1982; Washington vs. San Francisco, 1983. Most Yards Gained — 196, Steve Van Buren, Philadelphia vs. Los Angeles, 1949. PASSING Most Attempts — 53, Troy Aikman, Dallas vs. San Francisco, 1994. Most Completions — 30, Troy Aikman, Dallas vs. San Francisco, 1994. Most Yards Gained — 381, Kerry Collins, N.Y. Giants vs. Minnesota, 2000. Most Touchdowns — 5, Sid Luckman, Chicago Bears vs. Washington, 1943; Kerry Collins, N.Y. Giants vs. Minnesota, 2000. RECEIVING Most Receptions — 12, Raymond Berry, Baltimore vs. New York, 1958; Michael Irvin, Dallas vs. San Francisco, 1994. Most Yards — 192, Michael Irvin, Dallas vs. San Francisco, 1994. Most Touchdowns — 3, Gary Collins, Cleveland vs. Baltimore, 1964; Preston Pearson, Dallas vs. Los Angeles, 1975; Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona vs. Philadelphia, 2009. INTERCEPTIONS Most — 3, Joe Laws, Green Bay vs. New York, 1944; Ricky Manning, Carolina vs. Philadelphia, 2004.
AFC Championship Records SCORING Most Points — 18, Larry Csonka, Miami vs. Oakland, 1973; Kenneth Davis, Buffalo vs. Los Angeles, 1990; Thurman Thomas, Buffalo vs. Kansas City, 1993. Most Touchdowns — 3, Larry Csonka, Miami vs. Oakland, 1973 and Kenneth Davis, Buffalo vs. Los Angeles, 1990; Thurman Thomas, Buffalo vs. Kansas City, 1993. Most Field Goals — 5, Adam Vinatieri,
New England vs. Indianapolis, 2004; Steve Christie, Buffalo vs. Miami, 1992. Longest Field Goal — 48, George Blanda, Oakland vs. Baltimore, 1970; Jason Elam, Denver vs. N.Y. Jets, 1998; Adam Vinatieri, New England vs. Pittsburgh, 2004; Jay Feely, N.Y. Jets vs. Indianapolis, 2010. Most Points After Touchdown — 6, George Blair, San Diego vs. Boston, 1963; Scott Norwood, Buffalo vs. Los Angeles, 1990. RUSHING Most Attempts — 33, Thurman Thomas, Buffalo vs. Kansas City, 1993. Most Yards Gained — 206, Keith Lincoln, San Diego vs. Boston, 1963. PASSING Most Attempts — 54, Neil O’Donnell, Pittsburgh vs. San Diego, 1994. Most Completions — 32, Neil O’Donnell, Pittsburgh vs. San Diego, 1994. Most Yards Gained — 421, Dan Marino, Miami vs. Pittsburgh, 1984. Most Touchdowns — 4, Dan Marino, Miami vs. Pittsburgh, 1984. RECEIVING Most Receptions — 9, Cliff Branch, Oakland vs. Pittsburgh, 1974; Tim Brown, Oakland vs. Tennessee, 2003. Most Yards — 190, Fred Biletnikoff, Oakland vs. New York, 1968. Most Touchdowns — 2, Don Maynard, New York vs. Oakland, 1968; Haven Moses, Denver vs. Oakland, 1977, Dave Casper, Oakland vs. Denver, 1977; Charlie Joiner, San Diego vs. Oakland, 1980; John Stallworth, Pittsburgh vs. Miami, 1984; Mark Duper, Miami vs. Pittsburgh, 1984; Brian Brennan, Cleveland vs. Denver, 1989; James Lofton, Buffalo vs. Los Angeles, 1990. INTERCEPTIONS Most — 3, Ty Law, New England vs. Indianapolis, 2004; A.J. Duhe, Miami vs. New York, 1982.
Champions NFC Champions 2009—New Orleans 31, Minnesota 28, OT 2008—Arizona 32, Philadelphia 25 2007—New York 23, Green Bay 20, OT 2006—Chicago 39, New Orleans 14 2005—Seattle 34, Carolina 14 2004—Philadelphia 27, Atlanta 10 2003—Carolina 14, Philadelphia 3 2002—Tampa Bay 27, Philadelphia 10 2001—St. Louis 29, Philadelphia 24 2000—New York 41, Minnesota 0 1999—St. Louis 11, Tampa Bay 6 1998—Atlanta 30, Minnesota 27, OT 1997—Green Bay 23, San Francisco 10 1996—Green Bay 30, Carolina 13 1995—Dallas 38, Green Bay 27 1994—San Francisco 38, Dallas 28 1993—Dallas 38, San Francisco 21 1992—Dallas 30, San Francisco 20 1991—Washington 41, Detroit 10 1990—New York 15, San Francisco 13 1989—San Francisco 30, L.A. Rams 3 1988—San Francisco 28, Chicago 3 1987—Washington 17, Minnesota 10 1986—New York 17, Washington 0 1985—Chicago 24, L.A. Rams 0 1984—San Francisco 23, Chicago 0 1983—Washington 24, San Francisco 21 1982—Washington 31, Dallas 17 1981—San Francisco 28, Dallas 27 1980—Philadelphia 20, Dallas 7 1979—L.A. Rams 9, Tampa Bay 0 1978—Dallas 28, L.A. Rams 0 1977—Dallas 23, Minnesota 6 1976—Minnesota 24, L.A. Rams 13 1975—Dallas 37, L.A. Rams 7 1974—Minnesota 14, L.A. Rams 10 1973—Minnesota 27, Dallas 10 1972—Washington 26, Dallas 3 1971—Dallas 14, San Francisco 3 1970—Dallas 17, San Francisco 10 1969—Minnesota 27, Cleveland Browns 7 1968—Baltimore 34, Cleveland Browns 0 1967—Green Bay 21, Dallas 17 1966—Green Bay 34, Dallas 27 1965—Green Bay 23, Cleveland Browns 12 1964—Cleveland Browns 27, Baltimore 0 1963—Chicago Bears 14, New York 10 1962—Green Bay 16, New York 7 1961—Green Bay 37, New York 0 1960—Philadelphia 17, Green Bay 13 1959—Baltimore 31, New York 16 1958—Baltimore 23, New York 17, OT 1957—Detroit 59, Cleveland Browns 14 1956—New York 47, Chicago Bears 7 1955—Cleveland Browns 38, Los Angeles 14 1954—Cleveland Browns 56, Detroit 10 1953—Detroit 17, Cleveland Browns 16 1952—Detroit 17, Cleveland Browns 7 1951—Los Angeles 24, Cleveland Browns 17 1950—Cleveland Browns 30, Los Angeles 28 1949—Philadelphia 14, Los Angeles 0 1948—Philadelphia 7, Chicago Cardinals 0 1947—Chicago Cardinals 28, Philadelphia 21 1946—Chicago Bears 24, New York 14 1945—Cleveland Rams 15, Washington 14 1944—Green Bay 14, New York 7 1943—Chicago 41, Washington 21 1942—Washington 14, Chicago Bears 6
team records NFC Championship Composite (Includes NFL championship games from 1933-69) National Conference W L Pct. PF PA Seattle 1 0 1.000 34 14 Baltimore 3 1 .750 88 60 Green Bay 10 4 .714 323 200 a-Detroit 4 2 .667 139 141 b-Arizona 2 1 .667 60 53 c-Washington 7 5 .583 222 255 Chicago 8 6 .571 325 259 Dallas 8 8 .500 361 319 Philadelphia 5 5 .500 168 160 Minnesota 4 5 .444 163 182 Atlanta 1 1 .500 40 54 New Orleans 1 1 .500 45 67 San Francisco 5 7 .417 245 222 N.Y. Giants 7 11 .389 304 342 Cleveland 4 7 .364 224 253 d-St. Louis 5 9 .357 163 300 Carolina 1 2 .333 41 67 Tampa Bay 1 2 .333 33 30 a-One game played when franchise was in Portsmouth. b-First two games played when franchise was in Chicago. c-One game played when franchise was in Boston. d-One game played when franchise was in Cleveland and 11 games played in Los Angeles.
AFC (Includes AFL championship games from 1960-69) American Conference W L Pct. PF PA Cincinnati 2 0 1.000 48 17 Buffalo 6 2 .750 180 92 Denver 6 2 .750 189 166 c-New England 6 2 .750 205 179 a-Kansas City 3 1 .750 81 61 Miami 5 2 .714 152 115 Pittsburgh 7 7 .500 308 284 d-Indianapolis 3 3 .500 125 133 e-Tennessee 3 5 .375 133 195 Oakland-L.A. 5 9 .357 272 304 N.Y. Jets 1 3 .250 54 90 b-San Diego 2 7 .222 140 182 f-Baltimore 1 4 .200 104 124 Seattle 0 1 .000 14 30 Jacksonville 0 2 .000 20 53 a-One game played when franchise was in Dallas. b-One game played when franchise was in Los Angeles. c-One game played when franchise was in Boston. d-Two games played when franchise was in Baltimore. e-Six games played when franchise was in Houston. f-Three games played when franchise was in Cleveland.
Jennings: Bears’ field ‘probably’ NFL’s worst
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — As far as Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings is concerned, the most challenging thing about the Chicago Bears’ home-field advantage might be the field itself. Jennings isn’t a fan of the grass at Soldier Field, and wasn’t afraid to say so going into Sunday’s NFC championship game against the Bears. “It’s rough,” Jennings said Monday. “It’s probably one of the worst — probably the worst — in the league.” Jennings noticed Seattle receivers slipping as chunks of the field came up during the Seahawks’ playoff loss in the snow at Chicago, and said the Packers will have to pay close attention to their footing. “You have to go out before the game, pregame, and kind of get a feel of what you’re working with, what you’re dealing with, get your footing, because that’s going to play a huge, huge role in the game,” Jennings said. “But you can’t allow that to affect the way you play.” NFL officials are expected to monitor the situation and work with the stadium’s field manager during the week, taking action if necessary — although it’s not clear what could be done to improve conditions on short notice, as the field recently was re-sodded. Even Bears players have expressed displeasure with the often-sloppy surface, including quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Brian Urlacher. “It’s the middle of January in Chicago,” Bears tight end Greg Olsen said. “We’ve had a lot of snow, cold, whatnot. You don’t have to be a scientist to know grass doesn’t grow in these conditions. So they’ve tried to maintain it the best you can. Obviously, yesterday it snowed pretty much throughout the game. That makes it wet. ... By the end of the game, it’s sloppy and chopped up. It is what it is.” And Soldier Field didn’t provide a pronounced advantage for the home team this season. Chicago was 5-3 at home during the regular season — including a blowout loss to New England in snowy conditions — and 6-2 on the road. “It’s not like anyone is going to have an advantage,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. The Packers obviously are used to playing outdoors in poor conditions as well, but Lambeau Field has a hybrid natural/synthetic turf blend that has held up well in bad weather. Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said he isn’t worried. “Chicago’s field has always been like that,” Williams said. “So it’s nothing different. It’s something that we’re prepared for. And you’ve just got to have the right cleats or whatever. It shouldn’t really be a problem.”
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Jose Hernandez, front, of Big Spring, Texas, makes a photograph of his relative Rachel Doporto, rear, in front of Cowboys Stadium with the Super Bowl XLV logo on its side, Friday, Jan. 21 in Arlington, Texas. The stadium will play host to the NFL’s premier event on Sunday, Feb. 6.
Dallas awaits Super Bowl fans DALLAS (AP) — The temperature might be 75 during the first Super Bowl week in Dallas-Fort Worth. It could be 25. Or both. So while Super Bowl travelers are packing everything from T-shirts to wool overcoats for the area’s fickle winter weather, they’ll have plenty of indoor/outdoor options for their itineraries. The game takes place Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. High on the list for firsttime visitors to the area is the site of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in downtown Dallas. Strolling around the grass on both sides of Elm Street, where Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963, is free. There’s a good chance a conspiracy theorist can point out the infamous “grassy knoll,” the spot from which some witnesses say they saw gunfire. An admission fee will get you in to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, inside the building known as the Texas School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald set up his perch at a corner window. International visitors love the Southfork Ranch and the white-column home that came to symbolize the runaway TV hit “Dallas” in the 1980s. Sure enough, at least two Super Bowl parties are planned for the site in Parker, about 25 miles north of downtown. Those who have only seen longhorn cattle on TV can watch the real thing stroll down the red bricks on Exchange Avenue at the Fort Worth Stockyards near downtown in the “city of cowboys and culture,” as officials like to call it. Yes, the twice-daily “cattle drive” operates even when it’s freezing. But if you’d rather stay warm, Billy Bob’s is a couple of blocks over and calls itself the world’s biggest honky tonk. For a buck during the day, check out the glittering disco saddle (not ball) over the dance floor and the cement squares that feature the hand prints of the late Johnny Cash and other music — mostly country — stars. For visitors who neglect to pack a coat and need one, Phillip Jones, CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, “I’m
sure they can find something at Neiman’s or any of our shopping venues.” Aah, shopping. Arguably the No. 1 indoor sport in Dallas. Jones refers to the upscale retail store Neiman Marcus, which originated downtown and is now one of the centerpieces of the swanky NorthPark Center. Among those spotted browsing there recently was AL MVP Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. Dallas ended up using the NBA’s all-star weekend a year ago as a test run for the Super Bowl. Crowds jammed the Galleria mall in north Dallas the day before 108,713 people, the most ever to watch a basketball game, took in the all-star game at Cowboys Stadium. The $1.3 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys with the retractable roof is in Arlington, but February is the offseason for tourism in the city halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth. One of the area’s best-known attractions is Six Flags over Texas, but its 50th anniversary season doesn’t start until a month after the Super Bowl. Still, the stadium is an attraction in its own right. It has surprised officials with its ability to draw visitors for tours, on the order of 40,000 people in some months, said Jay Burress of the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau. The NFL is planning Super Bowl tours at $40 a pop. Space is limited, so reservations are recommended. Burress said fans typically take stadium tours the day before Cowboys or college football games, and he expects Super Bowl visitors to do the same. The stadium “promised to be for more than just football games, and it has definitely delivered with other events and tours that are yearround drivers,” Burress said. Some of the other highlights in the Dallas-Fort Worth area: FAIR PARK Out-of-town football fans probably recognize the name because of the annual TexasOklahoma football game at the Cotton Bowl. But Fair Parkers like to remind people that the area just east of downtown
Dallas is a National Historic Landmark with the world’s largest collection of 1930s Art Deco exposition buildings. Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed are planning a Super Bowl party at Fair Park. The Cotton Bowl will have entertainment for three consecutive nights, culminating on the eve of the Super Bowl. A Tom Landry exhibit that chronicles the career of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl-winning coach has been on display at Fair Park since the fall. THE ARTS Plenty of money has gone into expansion of the Dallas and Fort Worth arts districts in recent years. The Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Center are two highlights of the area on the north end of downtown. The latest addition is the Bill Winspear Opera House, fronted by 60foot glass walls that offer views of the lobby. Fort Worth has everything from prominent art to the rodeo, which always opens in January and gets the rare boost of Super Bowl week falling on its final week. The city landed a coup when ESPN decided to put its show at Sundance Square downtown, not far from the Bass Performance Hall, which hosts the biennial Van Cliburn international piano competition. NFL EXPERIENCE The annual Super Bowl showcase of interactive games for fans will be held Jan. 27-30 and Feb. 2-6 at the Dallas Convention Center. The cost is $25 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under. Kids 2 and under get in free.