Bears

Packers win Super Bowl, bring Lombardi home

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Packers win Super Bowl, bring Lombardi home

Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011
Posted 9:19 p.m. Updated 9:59 p.m.

Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas - Forget Lombardi on Broadway. Green Bay has the newest Super Bowl hit: Aaron Rodgers.

Capping one of the greatest postseasons for any quarterback, Rodgers led the Packers to their first NFL championship in 14 years Sunday, 31-25 over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers reclaimed the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named for their legendary coach who won the first two Super Bowls and is making his own star turn in New York these days in the play named after him.

Rodgers, the game's MVP, thrilled his legion of Cheesehead fans with a spectacular six-game string that should finally erase the bitterness of the Brett Favre separation in Green Bay. He's now equal with Favre in Super Bowl wins, and he extended the Packers' record of NFL titles to 13, nine before the Super Bowl era.

"It's what I dreamt about as a little kid watching Joe Montana and Steve Young," Rodgers said, "and we just won the Super Bowl."

The Packers QB threw for three touchdowns, two to Greg Jennings, and the Packers (14-6) overcame even more injuries, building a 21-3 lead, then hanging on to become the second No. 6 seed to win the championship. Coincidentally, the 2005 Steelers were the other.

Rodgers threw for 304 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson, who had nine catches for 140 yards to make up for three big drops. Rodgers found Jennings, normally his favorite target, for 21- and 8-yard scores.

"Wow! It's a great day to be great, baby," Jennings said.

Then the Packers held on as Pittsburgh (14-5) stormed back.

"We've been a team that's overcome adversity all year," Jennings said. "Our head captain (Charles Woodson) goes down, emotional in the locker room. Our No. 1 receiver (Donald Driver) goes down, more emotions are going, flying in the locker room. But we find a way to bottle it up and exert it all out here on the field."

Few teams have been as resourceful as these Packers, who couldn't wait to touch the trophy honoring their coach - and their title. Several of them kissed it as Roger Staubach walked through a line of green and gold.

"Vince Lombardi is coming back to Green Bay," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said as the silver prize was handed to the team.

After sitting for three seasons, Rodgers took the Packers to two late-season victories just to make the playoffs as a wild card. Then he guided them to wins at Philadelphia, Atlanta and archrival Chicago before his biggest achievement - against a Pittsburgh team ranked second in defense.

They barely survived a sensational rally by the Steelers, who still own the most Super Bowl rings with six in eight tries. But Pittsburgh failed to get its third championship in six years with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Roethlisberger's season began with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. It ended with Roethlisberger standing on the Pittsburgh sideline, his head hung, hands on his hips, feeling something he never experienced: defeat in a Super Bowl.

Not even a decidedly black-and-gold crowd, with Terrible Towels swirling throughout the 1.2 billion stadium, could make a difference for the mistake-prone Steelers. Their two biggest defensive stars - Defensive Player of the Year safety Troy Polamalu and outside linebacker James Harrison - were virtually invisible. The offense didn't seem to miss outstanding rookie center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle injury), but Roethlisberger only occasionally made key plays until the second half.

The biggest plays were left to Rodgers, Nick Collins with a 37-yard interception return for a TD, Jennings, Nelson, and the rest of the guys in green and gold. They gave coach Mike McCarthy, who grew up in Pittsburgh rooting for the Steel Curtain, something Lombardi got in the first two Super Bowls, and Mike Holmgren won in 1997 with Favre.

"This is a great group of men here, a lot of character," Rodgers said. "We went through a lot together."

Even on Sunday, they did. Woodson went out late in the first half with a collarbone injury, a few plays after Driver was sidelined with an ankle problem.

Box Score
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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner.