CHICAGO -- There was one Monster of the Midway in the NFC Championship Game and his name was Aaron Rodgers.
He wasn't even at his best and, still, he was better than the first, the second and the third quarterback used in vain by the Chicago Bears against their bitter rivals.
"It's a dream come true," Rodgers said. "It's an incredible feeling. I'm at a loss for words."
It was the 182nd meeting in the league's most historic rivalry, and the stakes had never been bigger.
"It's a lonely feeling," said Cutler, who sat out most of the second half. "Go through training camp and everything else and get to this point and have an opportunity to get in the Super Bowl, it's hard."
Chicago's third-string quarterback rallied the Bears for a touchdown drive to cut the lead to 14-7 after Chester Taylor's 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
But Hanie wasn't finished, throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett to again cut the lead to seven points with 4:43 left.
Rodgers proved ready for the biggest day of his brief but impressive career as the successor to Brett Favre, even if his final stat line didn't look impressive after an ugly, hard-fought game.
He threw for 244 yards with two interceptions -- a disappointment, given how well he had played lately. But his play in the first half was good enough to put the Bears in a two-touchdown hole, boggling a good defense that suddenly seemed to fall for every play-action fake.
Chicago was ready for a championship party under sunny skies and 20-degree temperatures, and went wild from the national anthem on. But Rodgers quieted them down quickly, marching the Packers on an opening drive then ended with Rodgers scrambling for a score.
Rodgers has been on a hot streak ever since, and doing it under pressure. The Packers would have been out of the playoffs with a loss in either of their last two regular-season games, including the regular season finale against Chicago.
"I don't think he saw me," Urlacher said. "He threw it to me -- then he tackled me."
Rodgers' play almost certainly saved a score and might have saved the game.
"I don't get paid to tackle, but that was probably one of my better plays of the game," Rodgers said.
Urlacher, who said earlier in the week that he voted for Rodgers for the Pro Bowl, walked away impressed.
"Great quarterback, no doubt about that," Urlacher said.
But after Urlacher's interception, the Bears couldn't make anything happen with Collins in for Cutler, and appeared to be headed for a blowout until Hanie took over.
"You know if he doesn't come back it had to be serious, not to come back and play in this game," Charles Woodson said.
"Kinda wish they would have had Jay in there the whole time the way things were going," Matthews said.
Cutler said the injury happened on the Bears' final possession of the second quarter before he threw an interception. He played the rest of the half and tried to go back in the third, but aggravated it.
"We gave it a go that first series but I couldn't really plant and throw, so they kind of pulled me," said Cutler, who's scheduled for an MRI on Monday.
He was asked what he was told by his coaches when he couldn't return and said: "I knew that it was probably better that I didn't. I knew my knee, I know my body."
"He hurt his knee and he was out, all right?" Smith said. "There's nothing else for me to tell you on that. I don't know exactly when it happened, he couldn't go and that was that."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press