“I like them all to be blowouts, to be honest with you. This one had a chance, too,” said Rodgers, who improved to 8-2 against Bears in regular-season play, with a passer rating of 102.7 (19 TDs, 6 INTs). “We were up 21-7, we doubled them up there at the end of the first half. In the second half, we got the ball back, we were driving, we turned the ball over, and you just can’t turn the ball over against these guys.

“It’s tough to put this team away. … For some reason every time they play us they’re never out of the game.”

That was the case again Sunday. First, Crosby doinked a 42-yard field goal attempt off the left upright, keeping the Bears within 11. And when the defense forced another punt, McCarthy got the harebrained idea to use a trick play on the punt, instead of having Cobb simply fair-catch the ball.

Cobb, a part-time quarterback in college at Kentucky, caught the ball, then rainbowed it across the field to backup returner Jeremy Ross, who bobbled it. The Bears recovered the loose ball at the Packers’ 16.

Again, the defense forced a three-and-out, and the Bears had to settle for an Olindo Mare field goal, pulling them to within 21-13 with 7:04 to play. But while the offense’s final two series also ended in punts, the defense – with the help of rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery’s third offensive pass interference penalty of the day – never let the Bears sniff the end zone.

“I thought our defense took over the football game. Our third-down defense was outstanding,” McCarthy said of a unit that allowed only 190 net yards, 12 first downs and didn’t allow a single third-down conversion (0-for-9). “We put them in tough situations in the fourth quarter.

“With that, it’s an excellent team win and that’s what’s exciting about our group. We feel like this 2012 group has a chance to continue to get better. We have a lot more to offer in all three phases.

“I’m thrilled to win a division championship. We know we’re now in the tournament, the playoffs, and now we fight for the seed.”

Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.