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Cowboys vs. Packers: Green Bay enters the playoffs on a hot streak

The Pack have won three straight heading into the playoffs.

Syndication: The Post-Crescent Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK

Sunday Six-Pack: Jordan Love Beats Bears, Leads Packers to Playoffs - Jacob Westendorf, Sports Illustrated

After a rocky start to the season, the Packers’ new QB1 has earned his spot.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The stakes for Sunday’s game between the NFL’s two oldest rivals were simple. If the Green Bay Packers won, they were in the playoffs.

If the Chicago Bears won, the Packers’ season was over.

Jordan Love was 15-of-18 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown pass to Dontayvion Wicks in the first half. The Packers moved the ball up and down the field against a Chicago defense that had been playing well over the last month.

Unfortunately for Green Bay, too many self-inflicted wounds had the Packers leave at least 6 and as many as 10 points on the board.

A game that could have been 17-6 was just 7-6 at halftime.

The second half resembled the first half in a lot of ways.

Love found Wicks for a touchdown, earning him the game ball.

The Packers were in the same position a season ago.

They would have made the playoffs if they beat an NFC North team at home.

They didn’t. They lost to the Lions 20-16 and set up an offseason of uncertainty.

What a difference a year makes.

This year the stakes were the same. The Packers downplayed the similarities from a year ago, but it would be natural to think of this as a chance at redemption.

Jordan Love powers Packers past Bears into playoffs; Seahawks, Saints eliminated - Jason Owens, Yahoo! Sports

Green Bay was able to make up for falling short of the playoffs in the season finale last year.

With the postseason at stake, Jordan Love and the Green Packers delivered on Sunday.

They took on the rival Chicago Bears and came away with a 17-9 win to clinch the NFC’s No. 7 seed and final available playoff berth. The Green Bay win eliminated the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints from the postseason.

Love threw two touchdowns to put and keep the Packers in front, then orchestrated a clock-killing drive that started deep in Green Bay territory to ice the win. The victory capped a strong campaign for Love in his first season replacing Aaron Rodgers as Green Bay’s starting quarterback.

Where the Packers faltered with Rodgers and a chance to make the playoffs in last season’s finale against the Detroit Lions, they came through on Sunday against a division rival intent on spoiling their postseason hopes.

The Packers will go into the postseason on a three-game winning streak with wins in six of their final eight games. The win marks a turnaround from a 3-6 start that raised midseason questions about Love’s viability as Green Bay’s quarterback.

But there were few questions about Love on Sunday, as he wrapped a season that can be summed up as a success in the box score and in the standings. He finished the 2023 regular season completing 64.2% of his passes for 4,159 yards (244.6 yards per game) with 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Packers finished 9-8 and return to the postseason following a one-year absence.

Stars, studs and duds from Packers’ 17-9 win over Bears in Week 18 - Zach Kruse, USA Today

Multiple Packers players showed up big in their playoff-clinching game.

The Green Bay Packers got star efforts from their quarterback, running back, several young wide receivers and a handful of important players on defense during Sunday’s playoff-clinching win over the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.

Matt LaFleur’s team is playing its best football at exactly the right time. A three-game win streak to end the regular season helped send the Packers to Dallas for the NFC Wild Card Round.

Stars

QB Jordan Love: He sliced and diced the Bears in almost every way imaginable. Love was excellent from clean pockets, under pressure, against the blitz, off play-action, in the red zone and on third down. He finished 27 of 32 passing, and two of the incompletions should have been touchdown catches. He had two poor plays: a heave into the end zone that should have been intercepted before the half, and a lost fumble on a busted play. But overall, this was an incredible performance in a high stakes situation with the season on the line. On the final drive, Love ripped a third-down conversion to Jayden Reed and then improvised to create a second conversion to Tucker Kraft. Love set season highs for completion percentage (84.4), yards per attempt (9.9) and passer rating (128.6).

RB Aaron Jones: He’s been the best back in football for the past three weeks. As was the case in Charlotte and Minneapolis, Jones produced another 100-yard rushing game, and he added 30 receiving yards. He 25 touches produced 10 first downs, including the dagger 10-yard run to finish it. No. 33 looks explosive, and he powered through arm tackles for extra yards. This was a star performance from a star player when the Packers needed it most.

Studs

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks (13) celebrates scoring a third quarter touchdown against the Chicago Bears during their football game Sunday, January 7, 2024, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

WR Dontayvion Wicks: His sublime releases and route-running helped create both the touchdown catches in the red zone. He also cooked the coverage for a 19-yard catch on a deep out, and he made Eddie Jackson look silly when he juked past him, turning a short catch into an 8-yard gain.

For Packers, playoffs are ‘the next opportunity’ - Mike Spofford, Packers.com

Playing with their season on the line is nothing new for Green Bay.

GREEN BAY – To say the intensity of the game picks up in the postseason isn’t just a throwaway phrase.

Those who have played and coached in the NFL believe it’s absolutely true.

“You can’t take a play off,” Head Coach Matt LaFleur said Monday. “Not that we ever want that, but I just think the intensity of the game is heightened. Every play, guys are straining.”

So the question looms how the league’s youngest team, the Green Bay Packers, will adjust to the way seasoned pros crank up their game when more than half the roster has never experienced the playoffs.

From LaFleur’s perspective, the key will be drawing upon the do-or-die mentality the Packers have been forced to adopt the last three weeks with their season hanging in the balance.

From the moment Green Bay lost at home to Tampa Bay in mid-December, its backs have been against the wall. It needed road wins on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and finally back home in Week 18 to extend the season.

One false step, that was it, and that’s where they still are as the NFC’s seventh and final seed.

“I think we’ve been going through this the last few weeks,” LaFleur said, expressing confidence his young team won’t be bothered by the added pressure of playoff football. “We knew what was at stake.

“I mean, the last three weeks, basically, have been playoff games for us. So really, it’s the next opportunity.”

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