Now the Packers (10-6), who were already locked in as the No. 3 seed in the NFC, can get ready for an opening-round playoff game next weekend at home against the Vikings. Minnesota backed into a spot Sunday despite losing to the Redskins.
“Playing a team three times. We’re very familiar with them and vice versa, but it really doesn’t matter,” Favre said.
The Packers had no intention of completely resting their starters Sunday because they wanted to be sharp before the playoffs. So, as promised by coach Mike Sherman, the starters played.
Favre was in for the first quarter and one series in the second, going 9-of-13 for 196 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Packers beat the Bears (5-11) for the 21st time in the last 26 meetings—including 11 straight on the road.
“He said, ‘Hey don’t get hurt,”’ said Favre, who started his 205th straight regular-season game. “I was thinking to myself, `After 200-something games, why does he have to say that to me now?’ I almost felt like he was jinxing me.”
Instead there was another milestone performance in an abbreviated afternoon: Favre went over 4,000 yards passing in a season for the fourth time in his career and reached 30 TD passes for an eighth time before backup Craig Nall took over.
Trying to avoid injuries before the postseason, the Packers got a major scare late in the third quarter when Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker caught a 43-yard pass and then hit his head on the turf as he was being tackled by Bobby Gray and Charles Tillman at the 21.
Walker stayed on the ground for a couple of minutes before walking off with a trainer at his arm. He did not return to the game but was not seriously injured.
“I was panicking on the sidelines,” Favre said.
Wearing “92” on their helmets in memory of former teammate Reggie White, the Packers gave up an early touchdown before roaring to a 28-7 halftime lead against their oldest rival.
“Mike said, ‘Hey, go out there and play, not because of the decal, but play it like Reggie would play the game,”’ Favre said. “I feel like I do that every week.”
Their defense played a White-like game.
“You can see the effect of pressure on the quarterback. It just helps us as a total defense,” said Packers safety Darren Sharper, who returned an interception 43 yards for a TD to make it 21-7.
“It’s awesome that we were able to get that many sacks. It gives us confidence heading into next week,” Gbaja-Biamila said.
“Make a big deal out of it—it’s embarrassing,” Bears center Olin Kreutz said after a season in which Chicago gave up 66 sacks.
“We got beat, that’s how you account for them.”
Favre went to work early and didn’t stop before leaving the game.
He completed five straight passes in an 84-yard drive, capping it with a game-tying 17-yard TD toss to Bubba Franks. Ahman Green, who also played sparingly, had the big play in the drive with a 23-yard catch-and-run on a third-and-17.
Early in the second quarter, Favre made quick work of the Bears’ defense for a go-ahead score. He hit Donald Driver on a 48-yard pass and then passed to a wide-open William Henderson for a 38-yard TD after Bears defensive back Mike Green fell down.
Nall entered the game with 9:02 left in the second quarter and immediately completed three straight passes, hitting Walker for a 25-yard TD. It marked the first time in six NFL appearances that Nall had entered a game earlier than the fourth quarter, but he made it look easy against the Bears.
Chicago’s last-ranked offense scored on its first possession in just four plays for an early lead that didn’t hold up. Hutchinson’s 63-yard pass to David Terrell led to Thomas Jones’ 2-yard scoring run.
Jones had an 18-yard run in the third quarter, setting up his own 1-yard TD run as the Bears cut the lead to 28-14.
The Packers beat the Vikings twice in the regular season by identical 34-31 scores. The second victory at the Metrodome on Christmas Eve clinched the NFC North. … Gbaja-Biamila finished with 12 1/2 sacks, giving him double digits for a fourth straight season. … Sharper’s interception return was his seventh career defensive TD, tying Herb Adderly’s team record.