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Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb add thrilling chapter to rivalry

This is the backstory to one of the great moments of Week 17, the Green Bay Packers' dramatic, division-clinching victory over their long-time rivals, the Chicago Bears. The Packers' epic win, as well as the San Diego Chargers' overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs to clinch the AFC's final playoff berth and the Carolina Panthers' come-from-behind one-point victory over the Atlanta Falcons to secure the NFC South crown and the conference's No. 2 playoff seed are nominees for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the week. Cast your vote for the GMC Never Say Never Moments of Week 17.

The Packers went 2-4-1 in with quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidelined with a broken collarbone suffered in a Week 9 loss to the Bears on "Monday Night Football." Three weeks before that, receiver Randall Cobb injured his knee in a win over the Baltimore Ravens. In a winner-take-all showdown -- and the latest chapter in the NFL's greatest and most-storied rivalry -- Rodgers and Cobb made their much-anticipated returns to the field and delivered in as dramatic a way as can be imagined.

Here are the key moments before the moment:

Rodgers' first drive back ends with pick

The play: On third-and-goal from the Bears' 5-yard line, Rodgers is intercepted by Chris Conte.

The aftermath: After the maligned Packers defense forced a rare three-and-out on the Bears' first offensive series, Rodgers' first offensive drive back from injury was full of promise. The Packers marched 75 yards in 13 plays to the Bears' 5-yard line, but the drive ended in disappointment for Green Bay when Rodgers' third-down pass was intercepted by Conte in the end zone. The Bears swiftly answered on offense, as quarterback Jay Cutler hit receiver Brandon Marshall for a 37-yard gain. Three plays later, running back Matt Forte carried Cutler's short pass into the end zone for a 7-0 Bears lead.

Rodgers is intercepted, again

The play: Rodgers' rocky start continues and the Packers' second offensive drive ends with another interception. This time, it's Tim Jennings picking off a pass that bounced off the hands of receiver Jordy Nelson.

The aftermath: It was expected that Rodgers would be rusty following the lengthy layoff. However, this was a potential game-altering moment. Already down 7-0 following the first turnover, the Packers turned the ball over again. Again, the turnover took place in Bears territory. The Bears failed to capitalize, and the Packers' next drive finally resulted in points as kicker Mason Crosby connected on a 33-yard field goal attempt.

Things get weird

The play: Rodgers is hit by Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, and fumbles the ball. Players stand around, likely thinking it was an incomplete pass. It wasn't, and Packers receiver Jarrett Boykin picked up the loose ball and ran 15 yards for a Packers touchdown.

The aftermath: It was a further lesson to keep playing until you hear a whistle. It's lesson young football players learn playing Pop Warner ball. Still, Boykin needed some encouragement to pick up the fumble and produce the Packers' unlikely first touchdown of the game. The play, and a second Crosby field goal on the final possession of the first half, helped the Packers enter halftime with a 13-7 lead.

Bears go deep

The play: Cutler heaves a long pass to Alshon Jeffery, who appears to fall into the end zone but is called short on the 67-yard gain.

The aftermath: The Packers and Bears had exchanged touchdowns to produce a 20-14 scoreline leading up to Jeffery's long reception. On the play following Jeffery's catch, Forte ran for a 1-yard touchdown and the Bears now owned a 21-20 lead. The touchdown was Forte's ninth rushing score on the season, which represented a career-high. Forte would finish the game with 110 yards rushing and 1,339 yards rushing on the season, which also represented a career-high.

Lacy keeps Packers in game

The play: With the Packers down 28-20, Lacy scores on a 6-yard run to trim the Bears' lead.

The aftermath: Cutler found Marshall for a 5-yard touchdown to put Chicago up 28-20, and Green Bay desperately needed to answer with a score. Lacy punctuated a likely NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year season with this pivotal score. Lacy finished his rookie season with 11 rushing touchdowns, including five rushing touchdowns in the season's final four games.

The moment

The play: On fourth-and-8 from the Bears' 48-yard line, Rodgers find a wide-open Cobb -- who got behind Conte -- for the winning touchdown.

The aftermath: The Packers' thrilling 87-yard, 15-play final drive featured three successful fourth-down conversions, including the Rodgers-to-Cobb play. There was only 38 seconds remaining on the game clock for the Bears to operate with. Chicago drove to Green Bay's 45-yard line, but Cutler's final desperation heave was picked off by Sam Shields and the Packers clinched the NFC North crown.

The Packers -- despite that 2-4-1 run with Rodgers sidelined -- managed to claim their third consecutive division title and fifth consecutive playoff berth. The Bears, meanwhile, lost four of their last six games -- thus allowing the Packers to get into position for this Week 17 winner-take-all game in the first place -- and will miss the playoffs despite a 6-4 start. This is the third consecutive season that the Bears failed to make the playoffs.

"Fourth-and-8" will undoubtedly go down as one of the signature moments in the 90-plus-year history of the Bears-Packers rivalry.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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