Aaron Rodgers had the Green Bay Packers on the comeback trail Sunday once again.
Eddie Jackson and the Chicago Bears had seen this all before, but this time they finished like champions.
Jackson made a key fourth-quarter interception and Mitchell Trubisky threw for two touchdowns to stake the Bears to a 24-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers and the NFC North title.
“It’s a humbling experience for all of us, but we talked about finishing all week — finish, finish, finish,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “We had a similar situation as we did the first week, and we were able to finish the game.”
Rodgers had rallied the Packers (5-8-1) from 20 down to beat the Bears (10-4) in the season-opener, and in this one he brought them back from a 14-3 deficit to a 14-14 tie. But in the fourth quarter Trubisky threw a 13-yard touchdown pass in the left corner to tight end Trey Burton with 10:16 left for the go-ahead points.
Then Cody Parkey added a 24-yard field goal and Jackson stepped up with an interception in the end zone on Rodgers’ pass to Jimmy Graham to leave the Bears in command with a 24-14 lead.
“Guys grinded, gritted it out, especially toward the end,” Bears linebacker Khalil Mack said.
Mack had 2 1/2 sacks, Leonard Floyd had two sacks and the interception by Jackson on a throw defended by Roquan Smith brought an end to Rodgers’ NFL record streak of 402 straight passes without an interception.
“That’s part of the game,” Rodgers said. “I’ve had two interceptions in, however many attempts (this year). I feel pretty good about the way I’ve taken care of the football this season.”
It dealt Rodgers his first loss in Chicago since 2010 and — combined with the Vikings’ win over Miami — eliminated Green Bay from the playoff chase.
Even so, Rodgers gave the Packers one chance at a final shot in a game when he went 25-for-42 for 274 yards. They needed to recover an onside kick, but Allen Robinson recovered it to seal the win.
“I was even holding my breath on the onside kick because I’ve seen it so much,” Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “Even on the Hail Mary before halftime, you’ve just seen it so many times. (Rodgers) is so accurate and precise. When he throws the ball, he is going to give the receiver a chance.
“We’re just glad that we finished.”
Trubisky made it all possible.
A week after winning a game over the Rams with only 110 yards passing and a career-high three interceptions, Trubisky rebounded to go 20-for-28 for 235 yards with the TD to Burton and another in the second quarter to Tarik Cohen.
“The mindset for me was put it behind me and come out here and do my job,” Trubisky said. “You don’t have to do anything special, just do exactly what you do in practice.”
The fourth-quarter drive leading to the go-ahead TD was 45 yards and was aided by two Packer penalties. It helped wipe away a failed Bears fourth-and-2 gamble with a wildcat fumble at the Packer 24, and also a failed fake punt by the Bears at midfield that preceded the first Packers touchdown.
“We knew they weren’t going to give us anything deep, so it was going to be a grind-it-out game, take what they give us underneath and just find completions,” Trubisky said. “But the main thing is we wanted to stay out of third down. They throw a lot of funky stuff at us on third down.”
The Bears’ other score came on a 9-yard run up the middle in the first quarter by Jordan Howard. The defense did the rest, including five sacks of Rodgers and Jackson’s interception.
“I mean, obviously as it turns out, it was a big play in the game,” Packers interim coach Joe Philbin said. “You have to, again, give that team some credit. They have a good defensive football team. They made a play in a critical situation.”
Rodgers finished the game despite a groin strain he said bothered him as the game went on, as the Packers lost their ninth straight road game.
Mason Crosby had field goals of 41 yards in the second quarter, 43 yards in the third quarter and 45 yards in the fourth, and Jamaal Williams ran in from 9 yards for Green Bay’s only TD.
But the Packers now have to play two games surrounded in uncertainty over their future and the coaching situation.
“We’ve got something to work for,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. said. “Two games left, we’ve got to play for pride, play to finish this thing strong.”
The Bears could be without Jackson for a while after he injured an ankle sliding on the interception return.
They celebrated the division title, and tackle Charles Leno Jr. celebrated it a little harder, by proposing to his girlfriend on the field after the game. She accepted.
“She was surprised, she was shaking, she was crying,” Leno said. ‘Right now I guarantee she is bawling.”
Many Bears fans were doing the same, for joy, after the Bears ended a playoff drought lasting since 2010 and at the Packers’ expense.
“I think any time you can win a division, that’s big,” Robinson said. “That’s a pretty big milestone.”