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Packers clinch NFC North with 21-13 win over Bears

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Packers clinch NFC North with 21-13 win over Bears

CHICAGO (AP) The Green Bay Packers have better things to do than trash talk with the Chicago Bears.

Like win the NFC North.

And a few other titles, perhaps.

The Packers delivered the ultimate comeback to the yapping Bears on Sunday, a 21-13 victory that gave Green Bay its second straight NFC North title and put a serious dent in Chicago's playoff hopes. Aaron Rodgers connected with James Jones on all three touchdowns, and Clay Matthews continued his dominance of Jay Cutler with two more sacks as the Packers won their sixth straight against their archrivals.

``Step one is done,'' Matthews said. ``We just have to continue this thing rolling all the way to the playoffs.''

The Packers are assured of a home playoff game and, at 10-4, are still in the running for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

Not bad for a team that began the year 2-3.

``I think this team is playing the right way right now,'' Rodgers said. ``We have two games left in the regular season. We want to be peaking at the right time because those are the teams that make the deep runs.''

The Bears, meanwhile, are going to need help to get into the playoffs after dropping five of their last six games. It's a stunning slide for a team that began the year 7-1.

``We're down, but we're not out,'' Cutler said. ``We need to remind the guys that there are two games left, and there's a lot of football left. We've got to get back together. We've got to piece this thing back together - however we do it.''

Running their mouths off clearly isn't the way to go.

Packers vs. Bears is the NFL's oldest and fiercest rivalry, and the Bears cranked up the heat when Brandon Marshall and Lance Briggs ripped their neighbors to the north earlier in the week. Marshall was particularly passionate, saying he'd never disliked a team as much as he did the Packers and that Sunday's game was ``personal.''

Rather than get drawn into the fray, the Packers saved their response for the field.

``We don't try to trash talk,'' Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields said. ``When we get on the field we trash talk, but not in the paper. We let our actions show on the field.''

Marshall scored Chicago's only touchdown, but finished with 56 yards on six catches, his fewest totals in a month. Cutler had another dismal day against the Packers, throwing an interception that led to the game-winning touchdown. He's been picked off 17 times by the Packers, including 10 in his last five games.

The Bears managed only 67 yards the entire second half, and Alshon Jeffery was whistled for offensive pass interference three times - yes, three - in the final 16 minutes of the game.

``Everybody involved in this offense should be held accountable, even if that means jobs,'' said Marshall, who struggled to compose himself as he spoke before cutting short his postgame interview. ``It's been this way all year. There's no excuse. We still have two games left. There's still hope, but at the same time, we need to be held accountable.''

The Packers piled almost 400 yards on Briggs and his buddies, and turned a 7-0 deficit into a 14-7 lead over the last 4:19 of the second quarter thanks to a pair of Rodgers-to-Jones TDs sandwiched around a Casey Hayward pick.

``That was important. That was really important,'' Rodgers said of the 14-point swing. ``We couldn't them get up a couple scores and get into what they wanted to do, which it looked like they wanted to run (Matt) Forte a lot. Getting ahead of them kind of took them out of some of that stuff.''

The Packers made it 21 unanswered points on the first drive of the second half. In another third-and-long situation, Rodgers threw incomplete to Jermichael Finley - the guy Bears linebacker Lance Briggs had dubbed ``an idiot'' after the Packers' tight end said he thought Chicago would be better without injured Brian Urlacher.

But Green Bay got a second chance when Chris Conte was called for pass interference. After a delay of game penalty, Rodgers found Jones for a 6-yard score.

It was Jones' first three-touchdown game and the fourth multiple-TD game of his career.

The Bears had chances to get back into it. Green Bay's Mason Crosby missed two more field goals, and Charles Tillman forced a fumble by Ryan Grant that Nick Roach recovered. Chicago got a big break on the next play when Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett hauled Alshon Jeffery down right in front of the end zone - and right in front of an official. The pass interference penalty gave Chicago the ball at the Green Bay 1.

But the Bears could only get a 34-yard field goal by Olindo Mare out of it after the first of Jeffery's pass interference penalties.

``We're just getting started,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ``We feel that way as a football team, not trying to be arrogant, (but) we feel there's a lot better football in front of us. It was an extremely important game for everybody involved today, but we fully expected to come in here and win this thing.''

NOTES: Matthews has eight sacks of Cutler in eight games. ... The Bears sacked Rodgers three times, with Peppers and Corey Wooton each being credited with 1 1/2. ... Despite two more misses by Crosby, his 11th and 12th this year, McCarthy said the Packers will not be looking for a new kicker. ``We're not changing kickers. Write that down right now,'' McCarthy said. ``He's our guy.''

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Did you know Bill Belichick has deep ties to Navy football?

Did you know Bill Belichick has deep ties to Navy football?

Sports Uncovered is a six-part weekly podcast series that explores the stories that took the national sports world by storm. The newest episode, The Bill Belichick You Don't Know, explores the lesser-known side of the New England Patriots head coach.

On the outside, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick seems pretty easy to read. A man of few words -- at least to the media -- Belichick has made it clear that he has two things he cares about above all else: football and winning.

However, there is another side to the six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach that most may not be aware of. On the latest Sports Uncovered podcast by NBC Sports, 'The Bill Belichick You Don’t Know’ takes a look at some lesser-known stories, facts and passions that Belichick has.

Among them all, one thing many may not know about the Patriots head coach is that he has deep ties -- and a strong love -- for Navy football. Yes, despite his longtime rivalry with the Baltimore Ravens, Belichick does indeed have a soft spot for some football in the state of Maryland.

Belichick's connection to the Naval Academy football team stems from his father's history of coaching at the program. Steve Belichick, who passed away in 2005, spent 30 years as an assistant coach while also teaching classes at Navy.

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During that time, Bill Belichick became embedded in his father's world of football. Spending time so close to the team, he carried a close personal connection to the team and school. Being the football genius that he is, the head coach can still recall specific moments, players and uniforms from games that took place over 40 years ago.

Though Belichick now resides in New England, his relationship with Navy Football is as strong as ever. As NBC Sports' Peter King showed in 2019, Belichick and his father's legacy will remain in Annapolis forever as the school has a special archive named the "Belichick Collection."

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There, football books dating back 100 years can be found, and read. For a family dedicated to football, it's the perfect touch.

For as long as he is the head coach of the Patriots -- and even after -- Belichick may not be the most popular person in the state of Maryland. However, his lesser-known side shows that he does have at least one positive connection to football in the state. 

To never miss an episode, subscribe to Sports Uncovered and get every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is also available on the MyTeams app, as well as on every major podcasting platform: AppleGoogle PodcastiHeartStitcherSpotify, and TuneIn

Stay connected with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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The most memorable moments between Bill Belichick and the Ravens organization

The most memorable moments between Bill Belichick and the Ravens organization

Sports Uncovered is a six-part weekly podcast series that explores the stories that took the national sports world by storm. The newest episode, The Bill Belichick You Don't Know, explores the lesser-known side of the New England Patriots head coach.

Bill Belichick and the Ravens have been attached at the hip for longer, and more deeply, than people might assume. 

Perhaps the NFL’s best coach of all time, Belichick has had a great impact on Baltimore football, even when he’s not been actively on the team’s staff. 

He was an assistant coach for the Baltimore Colts and coach Ted Marchibroda in 1975, his first ever coaching job in the NFL. After a few stints as an assistant coach, he moved on to the Giants where he led one of the most successful defensive teams in NFL history to two Super Bowls. 

There’s no shortage of memorable moments between the famed coach and the Ravens, and here are a few that stand out: 

The 1996 NFL Draft

Belichick was the head coach for the Cleveland Browns from 1991-1995 before the Browns’ move to Baltimore. Even with Art Modell’s assurances that he’d be the head coach in Baltimore too, where Belichick started his career, he was fired in early 1996. 

But while the Ravens’ first draft in the NFL was one of the best drafts of any team in NFL history, it couldn’t have happened without Belichick. 

He made a trade in the 1995 season, still as the coach of the Browns, with the 49ers that gave the Ravens two first round picks in 1996. The Ravens’ first pick ever, their own pick, went to the selection of Jonathan Ogden at fourth overall. 

Later in the first round, with the pick Belichick had traded for, the Ravens selected linebacker Ray Lewis. 

 

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Ed Reed

Belichick perhaps had no greater admiration for a Ravens player than Ed Reed. That manifested itself on one play against the Colts. 

Reed had studied Peyton Manning’s tendencies and found out that a pump fake indicated where Manning wanted to throw the football. He intercepted a would-be touchdown in that week’s game. 

Reed’s play still sticks out in his mind.

“Best play I’ve ever seen a free safety make,” Belichick said.

Tom Brady was understandably worried about Reed in his career, and both he and Belichick have marveled at Reed’s ability for years. 

Brady once had “Find 20 on Every Play” written on his quarterback armband.

2007 Ravens/Patriots

The Ravens nearly ended the perfection of Belichick’s best team of all time. 

On Monday Night Football late in the 2007 season, Belichick took his unbeaten Patriots to M&T Bank Stadium to face the Ravens. There, one of the wildest finishes in the storied rivalry took place. 

The Ravens thought they had the Patriots stopped on 4th down on three separate occasions as the Patriots drove for the game-winning touchdown, but each time had to replay the down. 

Belichick’s Patriots escaped with the win as the end of the Brian Billick era in Baltimore was set in motion, which led to John Harbaugh’s hiring as coach.

2012 Justin Tucker winner

In one of the least proud moments of the rivalry, the Ravens knocked off the Patriots 31-30 on a last-second field goal by Justin Tucker early in the 2012 season. 

Late in the game, Harbaugh was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after coming onto the field, while yelling, “I was trying to call timeout!” That led to a “manure” chant by Ravens fans that Al Michaels noted on the NBC broadcast. 

The Ravens got the ball back and marched into Patriots territory, where Tucker’s game-winning kick sailed seemingly directly over top of the right upright. As Vince Wilfork ran screaming toward the officials, Belichick ran off the field and tried to grab the arm of an official who was running off the field.

At the time, the NFL’s referees were in the midst of a lockout and replacement referees were the biggest story of the season.

“Deflategate”

The Ravens, at least publicly, denied any involvement in their role in the “Deflategate” controversy. But according to documents released in August of 2015, the Ravens were the ones who let the Colts know about deflated footballs. 

After a 35-31 loss in the divisional round, Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg called Chuck Pagano, then the coach of the Colts, to warn him about the condition of the footballs in New England.

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2019 Lamar

In what was the future of the rivalry, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens handed the Patriots their first loss of the 2019 season. 

Jackson threw for 163 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 61 yards as the Ravens won 37-20. It was the Ravens’ most notable win of the season to that point and the win that propelled them to a 14-2 finish.

And, as it turns out, it was Belichick’s last game against the Ravens with Brady at the helm and the turning of the page in the rivalry to the next chapter.

To never miss an episode, subscribe to Sports Uncovered and get every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is also available on the MyTeams app, as well as on every major podcasting platform: AppleGoogle PodcastiHeartStitcherSpotify, and TuneIn

Stay connected with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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