Jay Cutler led the Chicago Bears to victory, then uttered three words that must have felt awkward coming out of his mouth.
"Go Pack Go," he said.
It was no use.
Chicago kept its playoff hopes alive -- but only momentarily. The Bears beat the Detroit Lions 26-24 on Sunday, then were eliminated from postseason contention when Minnesota edged Green Bay 37-34 to earn the final NFC wild card.
The Bears (10-6) needed a Minnesota loss to reach the playoffs. Instead, they became only the second club since the postseason expanded to 12 teams to miss out after a 7-1 start, according to STATS. The other was Washington in 1996.
The Lions (4-12) lost their last eight games and turned the ball over four times in the finale. Calvin Johnson fell short in his attempt to become the first player with 2,000 yards receiving in a season.
Minnesota played Green Bay as part of the later session of Sunday afternoon games. As players watched on TV, there were some quiet groans in the Chicago locker room after the Vikings scored an early touchdown.
"It's just aggravating to have to wait and see what has to go down," running back Matt Forte said. "We took care of our part, so that's all we can bank on right now."
The game ended up going down to the wire, and the Bears didn't get the help they needed from the rival Packers.
Chicago was almost knocked out of the playoff picture by the Lions. Detroit trailed 20-3 late in the first half but pulled within two in the fourth quarter and had the ball at its own 9-yard line before a three-and-out forced a punt.
The Bears ran out the last 3:40, with Cutler's 19-yard run on third down keeping the drive going. The Chicago quarterback threw for 257 yards and a touchdown.
Johnson, who broke Jerry Rice's record of 1,848 yards receiving the previous weekend, finished at 1,964 after catching five passes for 72 yards.