GREEN BAY — Tarik Cohen stormed off the field, gesticulating and doing very, very little to hide his displeasure with teammate Jesper Horsted.
As far as Cohen — not to mention several of his Chicago Bears teammates and more than a few Green Bay Packers, to be perfectly honest — was concerned, the Bears should have been a two-point conversion away from forcing overtime Sunday afternoon after a wild final play that featured two laterals and two Bears in position to take the ball into the end zone.
But while the Bears were angrily contemplating the miraculous finish that wasn’t, the Packers were happily celebrating a 21-13 victory that — fortunately for them — rendered the final play meaningless.
“That last play?" Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark confessed. “That was scary.”
Taking over at their own 22-yard line with 36 seconds to play and out of timeouts, the Bears moved quickly to the Packers’ 34-yard line, where they faced third-and-1 with 1 second left. On the previous play, Bears wide receiver Riley Ridley nearly reeled in a touchdown pass from Mitch Trubisky but couldn’t gather it.
The final play started with Trubisky throwing to Cohen over the middle. Cohen gained 13 yards, then lateralled the ball back to Trubisky, who (after fumbling the ball initially) gained 5 more yards. At the Packers’ 16, Trubisky lateralled the ball to Horsted, who ran 9 more yards to the Packers’ 7.
There, Horsted appeared to have a couple of options: Lateral the ball to Cohen or to wide receiver Allen Robinson to his right. Had he flipped the ball to Robinson, Robinson had fellow wide receiver Anthony Miller in front of him to block and likely would have reached the end zone, which would have pulled the Bears to within 21-19 with 0:00 showing on the clock and the ensuing two-point conversion play to follow.
Instead, Horsted fumbled the ball forward — and NFL rules stipulate that in the final 2 minutes, only the player who fumbles the ball forward can legally recover it. As it turned out, Packers cornerback Tramon Williams took care of that, snaring the ball at the Packers’ 2-yard line and putting an end to the madness.
“I ain't gonna lie to you, it looked like they had something,” Williams admitted. “To the right and to the left, it looked like it was something there. It was a lot of guys open.”
Horsted took the blame for the play’s failure, saying, “I knew that I had a guy on the outside. In hindsight, I should have gotten (the ball to him) a little bit earlier. But it was moving quickly and it was a little bit hard to see what exactly was going on to the right when I was focusing on (going) straight and left.”
Trubisky said the play didn’t quite go as designed but that it still almost worked.
“Almost had it,” Trubisky said. “It was kind of ad-libbed. It wasn’t all the way schemed up like that, but you just can’t go down with the football. (You have to) try to keep it alive. But a lot of credit to our guys for knowing the situation, sticking with it and just going until the clock was :00. It would have been cool (to score), but it didn’t happen.”
Fortunately for the Packers, no, it didn’t.
“I think I blacked out there for a second, there was so many laterals,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur joked. “I was just hoping that someone was going to make the tackle, and then it looked like there at the end the ball went forward so that was a little bit of a sigh of relief and we ended up recovering the football anyways. It was a nail-biter play, that’s for sure.”
A first-year coach first
While LaFleur did his best to downplay it, the Packers’ victory coupled with the Los Angeles Rams’ loss to the Dallas Cowboys later Sunday secured a playoff berth for Green Bay and marked the first time in the team’s history that a rookie head coach has led the team to the postseason in his first year. LaFleur accomplished something that not even Super Bowl-winning head coaches Vince Lombardi, Mike Holmgren or Mike McCarthy managed to do.
Not that LaFleur was reveling in it. Instead, he was headed up to his third-floor office at Lambeau Field to watch film of his still-inconsistent offense.
Asked after the game — before the Rams’ loss — what making the playoffs in his first season would mean to him, LaFleur replied, “I think it would mean a lot to our football team and this organization, but our goal is to win the (NFC) North. And right now, that’s still out in front of us. We know we are going to go into a pretty hostile environment next week in Minnesota. That is a tough place to go play against a really good football team, one of the top teams in the National Football League. So we’ve got a really tough challenge in front of us.”
Ugly end to first half
LaFleur wasn’t pleased with the way the first half ended, with Rodgers throwing a downfield pass to Geronimo Allison on fourth down that would not have accomplished anything even had it been completed — Rodgers himself admitted he should have thrown a Hail Mary instead — and then the defensive backs having their own lateral-a-palooza after Jaire Alexander’s interception as the half expired.
Their carelessness with the ball could have easily resulted in the Bears getting an easy touchdown had one of their laterals gone astray and a Bears player snatched it up and run it into the end zone.
“That will be talked about on Monday,” LaFleur said sternly.
For the most part, the Packers accomplished their goal of keeping Trubisky from beating them with his feet. Although the third-year quarterback extended a few plays that led to downfield completions, he scrambled only four times for 29 yards. One of the reasons the Bears came in on a three-game winning streak was Trubisky, who’d run 21 times for 85 yards during those three straight wins.
“Obviously we did enough to get it done,” LaFleur said. “We did not want him to get loose with his legs.”
Holding their breath
On the Bears’ second-to-last possession, the Packers thought their defense had held on a fourth-and-10 downfield incompletion by Trubisky, who was looking for Robinson down the right sideline with Chandon Sullivan in coverage. But LaFleur and his team had to wait until officials confirmed that Alexander had not committed pass interference on the play on a review initiated by the replay crew.
Asked if he knew what was going on and what was being reviewed since referee Scott Novak’s on-field microphone wasn’t working when the review was initiated, an irritated LaFleur said he did.
“Oh yeah,” LaFleur replied. “I’d rather not talk about it right now to be honest with you. They were reviewing defensive pass interference, but I’ll just keep my thoughts to myself.”
Although it didn’t lead to points, Packers defensive end Dean Lowry came up with a nifty second-half interception that kept the Bears from getting a drive going near midfield. “I’ve still got it,” said the Chicago-area native, who gained 7 yards on his return and got extra satisfaction from it because he grew up a Bears fan. “I was a tight end in high school, so it showed up (on that play).” … The Packers unveiled a no-huddle offense that had largely been mothballed under LaFleur, who explained that he used it to challenge Bears Pro Bowl defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who was playing in his first game after being activated off injured reserve. “(We) wanted to kind of gas him out a little bit,” LaFleur said of Hicks. “I have to go back and look at it to see how effective it was. It seemed like when we did it when we were in (three-wide receiver sets), we were moving the ball pretty decent.” … All three Packers players who left the game with possible injuries — returner Tyler Ervin (hand), Williams (evaluated for a concussion) and inside linebacker Blake Martinez (leg) — all returned to the game. … With a Monday night game looming against the Vikings, LaFleur gave his players Tuesday and Wednesday off.
Photos: Green Bay Packers take down Chicago Bears at Lambeau to sweep season series