Jay Cutler ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more in his National Football League playoff debut as the Chicago Bears withstood a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Seattle Seahawks 35-24.
Chicago will host the Green Bay Packers in the National Football Conference title game, the first time the teams have met in the postseason since the Bears beat the Packers 33-14 on Dec. 14, 1941. Chicago beat Green Bay 20-17 in Week 3 before losing 10-3 at the Packers in the last game of the regular season.
“We’ve got our hands full, we’ve got to have a good week of preparation,” Cutler said in a televised interview. “We’re both familiar with each other, so nothing’s going to be new.”
Cutler completed 15 of 28 pass attempts for 274 yards and rushed for 43 more at Soldier Field in Chicago as the Bears (12-5) held on after giving up three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Chicago, in the postseason for the first time in four years, avenged a 23-20 home loss against the Seahawks in Week 6 of the regular season. In their last playoff appearance, the Bears beat Seattle and New Orleans to reach the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Indianapolis Colts.
Also today, the New York Jets play the New England Patriots for the right to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the American Conference title game.
The championship games are scheduled to be played Jan. 23 with the Super Bowl on Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The Bears, whose sole Super Bowl victory came after the 1985 season, scored 2 minutes, 52 seconds into today’s game as snow flurries swirled around Soldier Field. Cutler found Greg Olsen with a 58-yard touchdown pass to cap a three-play, 66-yard opening drive.
As the snowfall intensified on Chicago’s next possession, Cutler and Olsen combined for a 33-yard gain before the quarterback converted on a 4th-and-inches play to move the Bears to Seattle’s 1-yard line. Two plays later, Cutler handed off to Chester Taylor for a touchdown and 14-0 lead.
The Bears made it three touchdowns in four possessions 10 minutes before halftime. Cutler completed a nine-play, 63-yard drive by darting first to his right and then to his left and into the end zone from 6 yards.
The score gave the Bears a 21-0 advantage, their biggest halftime lead in the playoffs since the 1941 NFL title game, when they led the Washington Redskins 28-0 before going on to win 73-0.
The snow stopped as the second half got under way and Cutler got his second rushing touchdown with a 9-yard sprint.
Seattle got onto the scoreboard with 1:52 remaining in the third quarter on a 30-yard field goal from Olindo Mare and closed the deficit to 28-10 on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Mike Williams with 11:25 to play.
After Cutler restored Chicago’s 25-point lead with a 39-yard scoring pass to Kellen Davis with 4:40 to play, Williams got a second touchdown for Seattle as the ball popped up into his hands in the end zone after Charles Tillman failed to hold onto an interception chance.
With less than two minutes remaining, Hasselbeck found Ben Obomanu with a 46-yard pass to set up a 1st-and-goal at Chicago’s 9-yard line. The quarterback connected with Brandon Stokley on the next play for Seattle’s third touchdown.
Hasselbeck, who threw for four touchdowns against the Saints Jan. 8, completed 26 of 46 pass attempts for 258 yards.
Seattle (8-10) is the only team in NFL history to reach the playoffs in a full season with a losing record. The Seahawks failed to secure their first postseason road win in 27 years after ousting the defending Super Bowl champion Saints eight days ago.