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Packers are Super Bowl bound, beat Bears 21-14

CHICAGO - The Green Bay Packers have become the first bottom-seeded NFC team to reach the Super Bowl, beating the Bears in Chicago 21-14 yesterday.

The Packers won their first conference championship in 13 years by beating the top-three seeds on the road. And Las Vegas has the Pack as an early two-and-a-half point favorite over the Pittsburgh Steelers going into Super Bowl-45 at Dallas on February sixth. The Steelers made the Big Game with a 24-19 win over the New York Jets last night in the AFC title contest.

Aaron Rodgers scored on a one-yard run on the Packer game's opening drive, and the Pack made it 14-nothing in the second quarter on a four-yard run by James Starks.

But the Green Bay offense couldn't put the Bears away after that. And it was up to the defense and special teams to preserve the lead. It stayed 14-0 until early in the fourth quarter when Chester Taylor put the Bears on the board with a one-yard run. Nose tackle B.J. Raji returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-7.

The Bears got within seven when third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie threw a 35-yard scoring pass to Earl Bennett with 4:53 left. And Chicago was driving in the final minute when Green Bay rookie Sam Shields intercepted a fourth down pass to end it. Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler hurt a knee late in the first half. Veteran Todd Collins replaced him, but was benched after failing to complete four passes. Hanie completed 13-of-20 passes for 153 yards, a score, and two interceptions. Rodgers threw for 244 yards and two picks. Green Bay out-gained the Bears 356 yards to 301, and the Pack held the ball just over eight minutes longer.

Green Bay punter Tim Masthay held Bears' All-Pro returner Devin Hester in check. Masthay had eight punts and landed five within the 20. Hester returned three kicks for an average of only five yards per return. Starks ran for 74 yards on 22 carries. Greg Jennings was the Pack's leading receiver, with eight catches for 130 yards. Matt Forte had 160 all-purpose yards for Chicago - 70 on the ground and 90 through the air. Packers' left tackle Chad Clifton left after the first series with a neck stinger, but he returned midway through the second quarter and went the rest of the way. Linebacker Erik Walden left with an ankle injury.

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