Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw five touchdown passes for the first time in his career to help the Packers beat Chicago 35-21 on Christmas Day, clinching the No. 1 seed in their conference and knocking the Bears out of the NFL playoff chase.
Rodgers threw a pair of touchdowns to Jordy Nelson, another two to James Jones and he found tight end Jermichael Finley for a score as the Packers also took another round of bragging rights in the NFL’s most storied rivalry.
Clay Matthews made a key first-half interception for the Packers (14-1), who needed the win to tie down home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
The loss eliminated the Bears (7-8) from playoff contention and put the Atlanta Falcons into the post-season as at least a wild card.
The victory was the Packers’ fourth over the Bears this year. Green Bay beat Chicago in last year’s regular-season finale, the NFC Championship game, and at Soldier Field on Sept. 25.
Third-string running back Kahlil Bell rushed for 121 yards for the Bears, who trailed by only four early in the third quarter, but Rodgers drove the Packers for touchdowns on their next three possessions to put the game out of reach.
Rodgers was 21 of 29 for 283 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions when backup Matt Flynn took over with 7 minutes, 54 seconds left.
Chicago came into the game on a four-game losing streak and beset by injuries, but the Bears were able to stay in the game with solid defense and tough running by Bell, who started because of injuries to Matt Forte and Marion Barber.
With the Bears trailing 14-3 at halftime, quarterback Josh McCown found Earl Bennett wide open for a 49-yard gain to set up first-and-goal on the one.
Bell fumbled just short of the goal-line on the next play, but offensive lineman Edwin Williams recovered the ball for a touchdown.
With the Packers nursing a four-point lead and the Lambeau Field crowd nervously quiet early in the third quarter, Rodgers answered by dropping deep and throwing a rainbow pass to Nelson, who blew through the Chicago secondary and hauled in the ball for a 55-yard touchdown.
Rodgers then showed his running ability on the Packers’ next possession, juking his way between Bears linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs on a scramble.
Rodgers finished the drive with a seven-yard touchdown toss to Jones, giving the Packers a commanding 28-10 lead.