[ NFC Report - Green Bay 21-14 Chicago Bears ]
[ AFC Report - Pittsburgh 24-19 New York Jets ]
CHICAGO // Mike McCarthy, the Green Bay Packers head coach, said he never stopped believing in his team even when they were on the verge of missing the NFL play-offs.
The Packers validated McCarthy's optimism by continuing their dramatic late-season turnaround with a 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears in the NFC title game.
Never before had a sixth seed from the NFC reached the Super Bowl, but Sunday's triumph has the Packers getting ready for the NFL extravaganza on February 6 in Dallas where they will meet the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With a mid-season slump and a host of injuries now in the rear-view mirror, McCarthy, in his fifth year with the Packers, will get his first crack at an NFL championship.
"We've always felt that we are a very good football team," said McCarthy. "The way our season went, the trials and tribulations that we encountered, to me, that was how we were shaped. It's challenged our character. We've grown through it.
"Now we have the opportunity to achieve greatness, and that is winning the Super Bowl."
Green Bay can win a record 13th NFL title and reclaim the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named for the former Packers coach.
The Packers are riding a five-game winning streak and needed every one of those victories to reach the Super Bowl.
Green Bay won their final two games of the regular season to qualify for the play-offs and then beat Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago on the road to reach the title game.
McCarthy admitted he was "numb" after the game, and not because of the frigid temperatures and swirling wind at Soldier Field.
"It's a great feeling. We have a goal of playing 16 quarters (in the play-offs)," he said. "And we've completed 12. We're fired up and ready to go to Dallas."
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers played reasonably well completing 17 of 30 passes for 244 yards and one rushing touchdown.
He played backup to future Hall of Famer Brett Favre for three years in Green Bay before getting his shot as a starter in 2008.
The 27-year-old Rodgers said he was not interested in discussing if reaching the Super Bowl qualifies him as an elite quarterback.
"I'm not interested in that whole validation stuff," he said. "That's for you guys in the media to speculate on and write about. I just want to win football games."
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers silenced the tough-talking New York Jets with a 24-19 victory in the AFC championship game.
While the Steelers and their fans celebrated a third trip to the Super Bowl in six years, the Jets were left crushed after seeing their season end with a defeat in the AFC title game for the second consecutive year.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was 10 of 19 for 133 yards and ran for one touchdown as he improved his play-off record to 10-2.
The agonising defeat ended a spectacular playoff run by the brash Jets, who travelled a treacherous path to reach the AFC Championship by recording road wins over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.