Locals react to Bears-Packers game

BY JON FRANK | JANUARY 24, 2011 7:10 AM

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Cars congested Iowa City streets and fans adorned with football jerseys flooded the sidewalks Sunday on their way to watch the Chicago Bears take on the Green Bay Packers.

Arguably the most significant game for each franchise, the 181 matchups that preceded Sunday’s game at Soldier Field seemed to be a culmination of highlights building upon momentous the NFC championship. The loser goes home and the winner moves on to the Super Bowl, pure and simple.

“I’m going to say Bears win, 24-17,” said Ryan Gasiorowski as he prepared for the kickoff scheduled for 2 p.m.

With a Devin Hester jersey on his back, the 21-year-old expected a close battle based on the two regular-season matchups, which had a combined point differential of 10 points.

Like many UI students, the Carol Stream, Ill., native has friends on the other side of the 81-year-old rivalry.

“My roommate that I’ll live with next year is a big Packer fan,” he said. “It’s not the nicest conversation.”

Sitting at the bar of the Vine Tavern, lifelong Green Bay fan Marcus Hillery knows his team is one win away from a Super Bowl.

“I’m just going to keep an open mind,” said the 26-year-old with a necklace of cheese blocks and sausages draped around his neck. “I know we can beat the Bears. We have. [Aaron] Rodgers is awesome. We got a run game now, and our defense is lit up.”

Chicago kicker Robbie Gould booted the football, and the Vine Tavern erupted with cheer from patrons of opposing loyalties.

The Packers dominated the early stages of the game. Following an opening drive touchdown led by gunslinger Rogers, Green Bay mounted a 7-0 lead over its division rival. After running head coach Mike McCarthy’s offensive game plan to a T, the Packers headed to the locker room at halftime with a 14-0 lead.

“I’m mad because I hate the Packers,” said Lindsey Helton, a Bartlett, Ill. native following a knee injury to Chicago quarterback, Jay Cutler which sidelined him for the remainder of the game.

Following a lackluster, albeit short performance from backup Todd Collins, third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie replaced Collins following an injury.

Unexpectedly, the third-year pro out of Colorado State rallied the Bears.

An offensive drive that featured running back Matt Forte cut the deficit to only seven points.

A resurgent Chicago defense restrained the Packers’ proficient attack and allowed the unexpected Hanie a shot at leading the Bears to victory. In the waning minutes of the game Hanie drove Chicago’s offense down the field. Trailing by seven on fourth down, Hanie threw an interception with under a minute left in the fourth quarter. And with that, Green Bay fans celebrated as Rodgers dropped to one knee to kill the clock.

“Jay Cutler got hurt, and it was rough,” said Bear fan Nick Gavrilos. “The second-string quarterback (Collins) was like 85 years old … There was a Super Bowl on the line if we would have won.”

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