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Improbable Packers head to playoffs again

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) leaps over Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings (26) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

The Sports Xchange

Randall Cobb‘s sentiments may have mirrored those of thousands of Green Bay Packers fans in the early part of December.

“It was like three weeks ago, I was like, ‘Man, just shut me down. If I’m not going to come back, just shut me down for the year,’” Cobb revealed Sunday night. “But, they (the team’s training staff) continued to push me through it, and I continued to work, and I was able to make the comeback.”

Little could Cobb have known in the midst of his rehab program for a broken right tibia that had sidelined him since mid-October that he not only would be playing again this season but in his first game back he would be a central figure in the comeback of all comebacks for Green Bay this season.

Cobb’s wide-open catch of a deep throw from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and burst to the end zone the final 10 yards for a 48-yard touchdown with 38 seconds left to play earned the Packers a 33-28 victory at Chicago and a third straight NFC North title Sunday.

“It was kind of a surreal day for me,” Cobb said.

It was that type of final month to the regular season for the Packers (8-7-1), the No. 4 seed in the NFC, who will host the fifth-seeded San Francisco 49ers in a first-round playoff game Sunday.

Judging by the roughly 40,000 tickets the team had available to put on sale Monday for the postseason matchup, a good percentage of Packers backers had written off their beloved squad until next season. Green Bay lost Rodgers to a broken collarbone Nov. 4 and proceeded to go winless in five straight games to go from 5-2 to 5-6-1 after a Thanksgiving shellacking administered by the Detroit Lions.

In turn, season-ticket holders were asked to submit payment for tickets for a potential home playoff game(s). Many declined.

The guys on the field rallied, however, and won three of their final four games and made a fifth consecutive trip to the postseason a reality in improbable fashion.

“I’ve got to give our guys credit for fighting through some difficult periods in the season, put us in a position to be right here and to be the division champions, host a home playoff game,” a jubilant Rodgers said Sunday wearing an NFC North division champion cap. “This has been a wild season. There’s a lot of stuff that’s happened to get us to this point.”

Rodgers put the Packers over the top in the winner-take-all game against the Bears, who ended the season 8-8.

His first game back from the significant injury to his non-throwing left shoulder will rank alongside his MVP efforts in the Super Bowl XLV victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2010 season. Or, perhaps what Rodgers pulled off in the division-winning drive of 15 plays and 87 yards that featured three first-down conversions on fourth down, including the TD heave at the expense of the blitzing Bears’ busted downfield coverage, has put him on a new pedestal in Packers lore.

“I think this is probably his finest hour as a Green Bay Packer,” head coach Mike McCarthy declared Monday.

“This was for all the marbles,” McCarthy added. “Aaron hadn’t played in eight weeks. (The Bears) were aggressive with their game plan. This was clearly - you know it feels good today because it just happened yesterday - but it’s the finest (scoring drive) I’ve ever been a part of.”

Veteran linebacker A.J. Hawk described Rodgers’ arching, fateful throw to the uncovered Cobb as “it felt like the ball was in the air for about two hours.”

“I think that will go down as one of the best plays ever, I’m sure, in Packers history.”

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