CHICAGO—The Packers sideline was hollering at receiver Jarrett Boykin to pick up the ball and run, but there was one problem.
Boykin couldn’t hear anybody.
Fortunately, quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidled up to Boykin after the young receiver had secured the ball. Rodgers told him to take off for the end zone, and the fortuitous run became the Packers’ first touchdown in their 33-28 victory on Sunday at Soldier Field.
“I couldn’t hear anything,” Boykin said. “That’s why I was still confused.”
The entire play was confusing, as Rodgers was hit by Bears defensive end Julius Peppers while trying to throw. The ball fluttered out of Rodgers’ hand and appeared to be an incomplete pass, but no whistle blew, and fullback John Kuhn said the Packers players on the sideline saw an official throw a beanbag toward Rodgers, signifying a fumble.
Remembering the strange interception returned for a touchdown by Atlanta a few weeks ago, when a pass bounced off a Falcons foot and the Packers thought the ball was incomplete and stood around while it was being run the other way, Kuhn was hollering along with his teammates to get the ball.
The only one who was anywhere near it was Boykin.
“I saw a defender run over to the ball so I thought I might as well run over there, too,” Boykin said. “He didn’t pick it up, so I picked it up, and A-Rod told me to go and I just went.
“He said, ‘Just go. Run, run.’ Somebody did. I think he was the closest one.”
Rodgers said he would have picked up the ball if Boykin didn’t, to make sure the Bears couldn’t scoop it up and run the other way.
“I knew right away it was an open hand for me,” Rodgers said. “I wasn’t sure if they were going to wave it off. I looked back at (referee) Clete (Blakeman) and he was looking at us.”
Tight end Andrew Quarless said he was talking with a Bears safety in the middle of the field, and the next thing they knew Boykin was in the end zone.
“He said, ‘What’s this?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know,’” Quarless said. “I was trying to figure it out myself.”
The play was officially recorded as a 15-yard fumble recovery by Boykin for a TD. Replay upheld the fumble call on the field.
“A lot of help on that one,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “This season hasn’t been drawn up the way we wanted it, and it continued through this game.” Late hit, same guy:
When the Bears were called for roughing the passer on a Packers’ second-quarter drive, Rodgers said he didn’t even know the culprit was defensive end Shea McClellin, who had broken Rodgers’ collarbone eight weeks ago.
McClellin fell on Rodgers after linebacker Lance Briggs had already sacked him, and the 15-yard penalty gave the Packers a first down.
“I was joking around and said, ‘He had an opportunity to apologize,’” said Rodgers, who added he didn’t think there was anything dirty about the play.
Close call: Another replay later in the game did not go Green Bay’s way, however, when Quarless tried to make a diving catch over the middle.
It came on second-and-10 from the Green Bay 38-yard line late in the third quarter. Quarless dove with his arms outstretched and appeared to deflect the ball up to himself, catching it while lying on his back. The officials ruled it incomplete, saying the ball hit the ground, and the replay was very, very close.
Blakeman must have ruled the video evidence was inconclusive, because he announced that the call on the field “stands” rather than saying it was “confirmed.”
“When I looked at it on the replay, I thought it was a catch,” Quarless said. “I knew I had my arms under it, but you know, with those angles, it’s hard to tell sometimes.
“I believe I had my hands under the ball, but that’s the ref’s call.”
The play, which came with the Packers trailing 21-20, would have given Green Bay a first down in Chicago territory, but the Packers ended up punting and the Bears scored again to extend their lead to 28-20.
Key block: When a last-second adjustment was made for the protection call on the Packers’ fourth-and-8 TD pass, Kuhn suddenly had to get a hat on Peppers as the Bears came with a blitz.
The Packers’ best pass-protector in the backfield did his job, though, getting enough of Peppers to help Rodgers escape the pocket and throw a 48-yard rainbow to Randall Cobb for the game-winning score.
“When you’ve got a big guy like Julius Peppers bearing down on you, you want to do the best you can for ‘12’ back there,” Kuhn said. “I was really nervous for Aaron. I got my head up quick and saw Aaron got the ball out.”
Toughing it out: For the third straight week, rookie running back Eddie Lacy did not practice until Friday due to a bum ankle, but he again carried the load on Sunday.
Lacy toughed out 66 yards on 21 carries as the Bears clamped down after he gained 21 yards on his first two rushes in the first quarter.
Lacy finished the regular season with 1,178 rushing yards, a Packers rookie record.
As usual, Lacy was feeling the ankle plenty after the game, but he said the victory certainly eases some of the pain.
“It definitely does, but then reality sets in in a couple of days,” Lacy said. “I’ll just do what I have to do to get it ready for next week. Definitely worth it. Every win is worth it.”
James Starks spelled Lacy regularly during the game and was actually the Packers’ leading rusher, with 88 yards on 11 rushes, including a 41-yard run in the third quarter.
New career highs: Receivers Nelson and James Jones both set single-season career highs in Sunday’s regular-season finale.
With 10 receptions for 161 yards, Nelson finished the regular season with 85 receptions for 1,314 yards, beating both of his previous career highs set in 2011 (68 catches, 1,263 yards).
Jones caught six passes for 41 yards to boost his season totals to 59 receptions for 817 yards. Jones’ previous career high for yardage was 784, set last year.
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