Love comes through as Packers beat Bears to clinch a playoff berth
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Jordan Love accomplished something in his first season as a starting quarterback that his four-time MVP predecessor failed to achieve last year.
He has the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.
The Packers bounced back from a 2-5 start by winning seven of their last 10 games, including three straight.
“I think everyone knew what we were capable of,” Love said. “All the games we lost were close games that we knew there were little things we could fix that would put us over the hump to win those games. I think we were always right there in every game, so that was the thing that was easy for us to keep believing.”
The Packers (9-8) needed a win to reach the playoffs. Green Bay delivered by beating the Bears (7-10) for a 10th consecutive time.
Green Bay was in a similar situation for its regular-season finale last year, but lost 20-16 at home to the Detroit Lions in Aaron Rodgers' last game with the Packers. The Packers traded Rodgers to the New York Jets less than four months later to make way for Love, a 2020 first-round draft pick from Utah State.
Love guided the NFL's youngest team to the postseason by throwing 18 touchdown passes and one interception over his last eight games.
“I said it back in camp: He’s the best quarterback in the league," Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander said. “And he’s been proving it these past few weeks.”
Green Bay is the NFC's No. 7 seed and will visit NFC East champion Dallas (12-5) next Sunday in a matchup with Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, who guided the Packers from 2006-18 and led them to their last Super Bowl title.
Love went 27 of 32 as Green Bay never punted all day. Love threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Wicks that put Green Bay ahead for good midway through the second quarter and found the rookie fifth-round pick in the end zone again for a 12-yard score in the third.
“He's a tough-minded sucker,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of Love. “His family did a hell of a job raising him just in terms of what he's all about.”
Love spent most of this season throwing primarily to rookies and second-year pros. Those guys helped win the game Sunday, though they didn't win any praise from Bears safety Jaquan Brisker.
Jayden Reed caught four passes for 112 yards. Wicks had six catches for 61 yards to go with his two touchdowns. Bo Melton had five receptions for 62 yards less than a week after the Packers signed him to their active roster from the practice squad.
“I feel like we could have tightened up on the receivers a lot more than we did today," said Brisker, who recovered a fumble by Love. "We gave them too much room. I don’t really have no respect for them at all, just to be honest.”
Green Bay's Aaron Jones rushed for 111 yards on 22 carries, his third straight 100-yard performance.
Chicago now heads into the offseason facing a major question about its quarterback situation. The Bears have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft and must decide whether to keep Justin Fields or select his potential replacement.
“I control what I can control,” Fields said. “And I’m going to get healthy this offseason, spend time with my family and get better. Like I said, we went through the same thing last year. We had the No. 1 pick, everybody was asking, ‘What if? What if? What if?’ And nothing happened. I’m not saying that nothing might happen, because, shoot, we all don’t know.”
The Bears had the first overall pick last year but traded it to Carolina, which used it to select Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. Part of the package the Bears got in exchange was Carolina's No. 1 selection this year, which will be the top overall selection since the Panthers (2-15) had the NFL's worst record.
Fields went 11 of 16 for 148 yards on Sunday, but he couldn't get the Bears into the end zone. He was sacked five times and had eight carries for 27 yards.
The Bears reached Packers territory on each of their six series, but had only nine points to show for it.
Cairo Santos capped the game’s first series with a 50-yard field goal that bounced off the left upright before going through. Santos also had a 39-yarder late in the second quarter and a 35-yarder early in the fourth.
The Bears got inside Green Bay's 35 midway through the fourth quarter, but a holding penalty and a sack caused the drive to stall and forced a punt. Green Bay took over at its own 6 with 6:08 left and held the ball the rest of the game.
“We knew going into that last drive that we wanted to finish with the ball and keep the defense off the field and not even give them a chance to get the ball back,” Love said. “I think that's just that killer mindset that everyone in the locker room on offense has.”
Bears RG Nate Davis hurt his foot and Packers WR Romeo Doubs injured his chest in the first half. ... Bears DB Terell Smith hurt his quadriceps and Bears TE Cole Kmet injured his forearm in the second half.
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