Aaron Rodgers threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 38 seconds remaining on Sunday to give Green Bay a 33-28 victory at Chicago and an NFL playoff berth.
The Packers joined the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers in claiming playoff spots on the final day of the regular season with one last spot going to the winner of a later game between Philadelphia and Dallas.
Rodgers, who missed the past seven games with a broken collarbone suffered in a loss to Chicago last month, saw an unguarded received beyond the Bears’ defence and connected with Cobb, who had been out for more than two months with a knee injury.
“This is an amazing feeling. What a game,” Rodgers said. “So many plays. I felt like I was in a rhythm, like we were moving good.”
The Bears saw their season end on an interception off a desperation pass on the game’s final play.
New Orleans secured a post-season position with a 42-17 rout of Tampa Bay while San Diego edged Kansas City 27-24 in overtime to seal a playoff berth.
In the American Conference, Denver captured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a 34-14 romp at Oakland in which Peyton Manning set single-season NFL pass yardage and touchdown records and the Broncos finished with a one-season NFL record 606 points.
New England joined Denver with a first-round bye after defeating Buffalo 34-20.
In the National Conference, Seattle beat St Louis 27-9 to secure a home-field playoff edge and first-round bye while Carolina clinched a bye as well with a 21-20 win at Atlanta.
Next weekend’s American Conference playoff openers will find Kansas City at Indianapolis and San Diego at Cincinnati, where the host Bengals seek their first playoff win since 1990, while San Francisco travels to Green Bay and New Orleans will visit Philadelphia or Dallas in the National Conference.
Four teams chased the final American Conference berth with Pittsburgh beating Cleveland 20-7 to force San Diego to win or miss the playoffs.
The host Steelers improved to 8-8, avoiding their first losing season since 2003, but needed losses by Miami, Baltimore and San Diego to reach the playoffs.
Reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore was eliminated with a 34-17 loss at Cincinnati, the Ravens missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Miami lost 20-7 at home to the New York Jets, leaving both teams 8-8 and out of the playoffs based on tie-breakers.
That left the Chargers needing only a draw against the Chiefs, who benched most of their starters having already clinched a playoff berth.
Tennessee beat Houston 16-10, ensuring the Texans the top pick in next year’s NFL Draft after a league-worst 2-14 season.
The Minnesota Vikings won their final home game in the Metrodome, edging Detroit 14-13.