Linebacker Urlacher Back on Bears Duty After Mother’s Death

Urlacher’s mother, Lavoyda Lenard, died unexpectedly at her home in Texas and the league veteran had been declared uncertain for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints while mourning with his family.

“It was good to get him back today,” Bears coach Lovie Smith was quoted as saying by the team’s website.

“Sometimes when you’re going through tough times like he is right now, you want to get back with your support group, which is here with his team mates.

“Football is pretty important to him. I know he’s excited about playing the game this Sunday.”

Urlacher, a seven-time Pro Bowler, was voted National Football Conference defensive player of the week after recording a team-high 10 tackles in Chicago’s season-opening 30-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

However, the death of his mother just one day later had left his availability for the Saints game in doubt and he was indefinitely excused from team duty.

“My first priority right now is to be with my family as we mourn her loss and make the arrangements to lay her to rest,” Urlacher said in a statement on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old won the NFL Rookie of the Year Award in 2000 and has established himself as one of the league’s top defensive players.

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Ian Ransom)

Bears Linebacker Urlacher Off Team Duty After Mother’s Death

Urlacher’s mother, Lavoyda Lenard, died on Monday at her home in Texas, a day after the Bears launched their National Football League season with a win over the Atlanta Falcons.

“My first priority right now is to be with my family as we mourn her loss and make the arrangements to lay her to rest,” Urlacher said in a statement released by the Bears.

“This is a very difficult and emotional time for us and I sincerely ask that you respect our privacy. Thank you.”

Urlacher, a seven-time Pro Bowler during 11 seasons in the league, was voted National Football Conference defensive player of the week after recording a team-high 10 tackles to go along with an interception and a fumble he returned for a touchdown against the Falcons.

The Bears said it was unclear whether he would return from family duties in time for Sunday’s game in New Orleans.

“You can’t replace a guy like that,” Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. “You can’t find a guy like that in the league. He’s the heart and soul of this organization.

“We all know he’s going through a tough time right now, but we’re going to respect his privacy and when he gets back we’ll be here for him.”

The 33-year-old Urlacher won the NFL Rookie of the Year Award in 2000 and has established himself as one of the league’s top defensive players.

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

Packers Head to Super Bowl

On Sunday night, when the relieved and exhausted Packers returned to the visitors’ locker room deep under the southern end of Soldier Field, they celebrated around the George S. Halas Trophy. That piece of shiny hardware, given to the champions of the National Football Conference, was soon shepherded away. There is a bigger prize to capture.

, its third straight road victory of the playoffs, sends the Packers to XLV against the on Feb. 6. They are searching for their 13th N.F.L. championship, and first in 14 years.

“We always felt we were a very good football team,” Green Bay Coach Mike McCarthy said. “Now we have an opportunity to achieve greatness. That’s winning the Super Bowl down in Dallas and bringing the Lombardi Trophy back home.”

The Packers shot to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter and never trailed, but found themselves scrambling to hold on as darkness descended in the fourth quarter. Jay Cutler, Chicago’s starting quarterback, was ineffective before he left the game early in the third quarter with a knee injury. The backup Todd Collins was no better, completing none of his four passes.

The Bears, with zero points and little hope, turned to the third-stringer Caleb Hanie.

He had thrown 14 passes in his three N.F.L. seasons. But he rallied the team like Sid Luckman, the Hall of Fame quarterback who led Chicago to that playoff victory over the Packers in 1941, sparking the Bears to their only two touchdown drives.

Hanie sandwiched those scores around one of his two mistakes — a short pass into the arms of Green Bay’s B. J. Raji, a 337-pound defensive tackle who rumbled 18 yards for what proved the clinching touchdown.

With 47 seconds left and the tying touchdown in reach, on fourth-and-5 at Green Bay’s 29, Hanie was intercepted by cornerback Sam Shields at the 12.

One snap later, the Packers (13-6) kneeled to run out the clock and became the second No. 6 seed to reach the Super Bowl, after the 2005 Steelers. They have won three Super Bowls but lost their last time there, at the end of the 1997 season.

Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers completed 17 of 30 passes for 244 yards and was intercepted twice. He led the Packers to touchdowns on their first possession and again early in the second quarter.

Still, Green Bay’s 14-0 lead seemed frozen in the 20-degree temperatures for much of the afternoon.

There were 17 punts and the teams combined to convert only 3 of 24 third downs. On a third-and-goal at Chicago’s 6-yard line, Rodgers was intercepted by Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher. He chased Urlacher down 39 yards later, perhaps saving a game-altering touchdown.

Handed momentum and the ball, Collins entered for Cutler and threw three consecutive incomplete passes.

It was Hanie who re-energized a well-bundled and restless crowd of 61,171. Early in the fourth quarter, his 32-yard throw to Johnny Knox moved the Bears to Green Bay’s 1. Chester Taylor’s touchdown run cut Green Bay’s lead in half, 14-7, with 12 minutes 2 seconds to play.

After Hanie’s interception gave Green Bay another 14-point lead, his 35-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett with 4:43 remaining cut the lead to 21-14.

The Bears, their defense buzzing, got the ball back at their 29 with 2:53 remaining. Hanie completed a third-down pass to Greg Olsen, Chicago’s first third-down conversion of the day after 10 failures. Hanie threw his second interception moments later.

“I didn’t really know a whole lot about the third one,” the Packers’ defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, said of Hanie’s status as a third-stringer.

It was the 182nd meeting between the Bears and the Packers, but only the second in the postseason. The other was on Dec. 14, 1941, when the Bears won, 33-14, at Wrigley Field.

On Sunday, the video boards showed black-and-white clips of past games between the franchises, separated by about 200 miles of highway and 90 years of bitter competition. Amid the pregame jet flyovers and set against a backdrop of Chicago’s glassy skyline, the clips imbued a sense of nostalgia and history to the biggest game played in the league’s deepest rivalry.