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Aaron Rodgers throws interception, Packers eliminated from playoff contention

By Jay Cohen
AP Sports Writer

CHICAGO (AP) — Aaron Rodgers missed a couple of open receivers. He got picked off. He came up empty when the Green Bay Packers needed a big play.

Nothing like his usual work against the Chicago Bears.

Rodgers looked shaky in Green Bay’s 24-17 loss to Chicago on Sunday, throwing an interception for the first time since September and failing to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in more than a year.

Coupled with Minnesota’s 41-17 victory against Miami, the Packers (5-8-1) were eliminated from playoff contention for the second straight year. The outcome also clinched the NFC North title for the Bears (10-4), who blew a 20-0 lead in a Week 1 loss to Rodgers and company in Green Bay.

“Obviously, there will be some changes in the offseason,” said Rodgers, who turned 35 on Dec. 2. “We’ll finish this year out the right way and then we’ll look to the future, which I think is still really bright in Green Bay.”

Rodgers has towered over one of the NFL’s most heated rivalries for years, directing Green Bay to 17 wins in his previous 21 starts against Chicago — including a victory over the Bears in the NFC championship game in the 2010 season at Soldier Field. He had 1,043 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in his past four games against Chicago.

But the two-time NFL MVP was never able to get into a rhythm in his first loss at Chicago’s longtime home since September 2010. He finished 25 for 42 for 274 yards and an uncharacteristically low passer rating of 68.9.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” interim coach Joe Philbin said. “Sometimes it’s been the protection, sometimes it’s been the routes, sometimes it’s been the throws. I don’t know that it’s just Aaron missing throws. Certainly, there’s some throws I’m sure he wish he had back today. I think that’s kind of common for a quarterback.”

Playing behind a banged-up offensive line, Rodgers was on the run for much of the day and was sacked five times. He misfired on a potential touchdown pass to Equanimeous St. Brown midway through the second quarter, and threw long on a deep pass intended for Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the fourth.

Asked about the passing game this year, Rodgers said he has missed some throws, but “some of the ones you probably think are missed throws maybe we are just not on the same page.”

Rodgers also said his groin tightened up on him near the end of the first half and it bothered him “a little bit” the rest of the day. But he plans to start Green Bay’s last two games, even with the Packers out of playoff contention.

“I’d like to be out there, lead us the last two weeks,” he said.

Even with Rodgers struggling, the Packers headed into the fourth quarter with a chance to win. But Mitchell Trubisky tossed a tiebreaking 13-yard touchdown pass to Trey Burton and Cody Parkey kicked a 24-yard field goal to give the Bears a 24-14 lead with 6:43 left.

Green Bay then drove down the field to the Chicago 9. On third down, Rodgers tried for tight end Jimmy Graham over the middle, but the ball got tipped into the air and Eddie Jackson picked it off in the end zone.
It was Rodgers’ first interception since Sept. 30 against Buffalo, ending an NFL-record streak of 402 pass attempts without an interception.

“I feel pretty good about the way I’ve taken care of the football this season,” Rodgers said. “We just haven’t made enough big plays over the year. That’s why the completion percentage is what it is, the yards-per-attempt is what it is, the touchdowns are where they’re at. That stuff is disappointing.”

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