With one arm stretched to the max, Alex Brown reached up and saved the Bears' season.
Brown maneuvered his way through a couple of Packers linemen, lifted his right hand and deflected Mason Crosby's 38-yard field-goal attempt in the final minute of regulation Monday night, forcing overtime.
The Bears won the toss and Robbie Gould kicked a 38-yard field goal on their first possession, giving them a 20-17 victory over the Packers and keeping their playoff hopes alive at frigid Soldier Field.
"Unbelievable," Brown said. "You want to make the offensive linemen think you're going to go here, and try to make a move and it kind of opened up right there. You get a hand up and hope the kicker kicks the ball to your hands."
The block kept the Packers from escaping with a win, though they outplayed the Bears fairly decisively for much of the cold evening. Instead, the Bears remained in the playoff picture as rookie running back Matt Forte rallied them from a 14-3 halftime deficit.
The Bears (9-6) could win the NFC North by defeating the Houston Texans on Sunday while the Minnesota Vikings lose to the New York Giants.
"Amazing," Brian Urlacher said. "We were resilient. We played terrible the first half. Came out in the second half and made some plays when we had to. The offense put some points on the board at the end. We block a kick. Wow. I'm so excited for our team."
After being dominated for 31/2 quarters, the Bears found a way to heat up in the bitter cold: The temperature at kickoff was 2 degrees, which made for a minus-13 windchill.
"At halftime, we just talked about not going out like that," coach Lovie Smith said. "Team effort. It's big. We're trying to get into the playoffs, and the guys just weren't going to be denied."
Two Kyle Orton interceptions, a passive pass rush, a barely existent running game and a sharp Aaron Rodgers nearly spelled disaster for the Bears. But they dug deep late, thanks to some strong running by Forte.
He rebounded from a slow start, shook off the effects of a sore right big toe and broke off a 28-yard run to spark a game-tying fourth-quarter drive. Forte then picked up a crucial first down on a fourth-and-1 carry, then finished it with a 3-yard touchdown to tie the score 17-17 late in the fourth quarter.
Then the Bears almost blew it. Adrian Peterson was called for unnecessary roughness on Will Blackmon's 32-yard kick return, giving the Packers the ball in Bears territory. Rodgers drove them to the 19-yard line, but Ryan Grant got dropped for a loss on third-and-5. Crosby's field-goal attempt followed, but Brown's big play assured overtime.
The Bears won the toss after the coin flip bounced off Urlacher's helmet. On the first play of overtime, Orton found Greg Olsen for a 17-yard pickup, and a horse-collar tackle by Aaron Rouse added another 15. The Bears ran Forte twice, then on third-and-9 from the 34, Orton hit Forte for a 14-yard pickup to set up Gould for his 38-yard game-winner.
On a night when fireworks exploded at halftime, the Bears lacked a spark. The offense was held under 100 yards through three quarters by a Packers defense ranked 24th in the league. Orton was off-target, particularly on his two second-half interceptions.
He finished 14 of 27 for 142 yards and one touchdown — a 3-yard, third-quarter flip to Olsen — and the two interceptions.
Had it not been for their defense, the Bears might have faced the same type of deficit they did in their 37-3 loss at Green Bay last month. Nickel back Danieal Manning had success blitzing off the corner, forcing one bad throw by Rodgers and tipping two other passes, one into the hands of teammate Brown. Manning also had a 71-yard kickoff return in the first quarter.
Rodgers was 24 of 39 for 269 yards and two TDs, with one interception.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun