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Bears finish sweep, wrap up division
Published December 26, 2005
GREEN BAY, Wis. - Most playoff teams would expect to get more than 166 yards passing from their starting quarterback.
For the Bears, however, it represents a giant leap forward.
Rex Grossman didn't pile up gaudy statistics in his first regular-season start in nearly 15 months. But his ability to throw accurate deep passes gave the Bears a new dimension, helping them clinch the NFC North and a first-round bye with a victory.
"We mixed it up a little bit," said Grossman, a former Florida standout. "We saw a lot of tape where we could do some things down the field, and we made a few plays there."
The Bears also swept the Packers for the first time since 1991.
"I don't think you can change the magnitude of winning in Green Bay or clinching the division in Green Bay," said linebacker Lance Briggs, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter. "It's the Packers. They're our biggest rival."
The Packers are on their way toward their first losing season in the Brett Favre era. With one game remaining, the futures of Favre and coach Mike Sherman remain in doubt.
Favre tried to rally the Packers in the final minute but a potential tying drive ended with another interception.
Favre had four passes picked off, bringing his total to 28 this season and surpassing his career high of 24 in 1993.
Favre, who has not decided whether he will play next season, didn't speak to reporters after the game.
Grossman missed most of last season with a knee injury, then broke his ankle in a preseason game in August. He was replaced by rookie Kyle Orton, who played mostly mistake-free football but didn't make spectacular plays.
Bears coach Lovie Smith replaced Orton with Grossman in the second half of the victory Dec.18 over Atlanta. Sunday, Grossman heaved a deep pass toward receiver Bernard Berrian on the Bears' first offensive play. The pass fell incomplete, but Grossman completed his next five, including a 12-yard touchdown to Muhsin Muhammad.
NOTABLE: Packers center Mike Flanagan left after aggravating his sports hernia.