"Down go the Seahawks. Now bring on the Packers." Those were the kind of thoughts running through most of the Bears players and coaches minds not long after Chicago closed out its 35-24 win over Seattle on Sunday. "Now that we’ve beaten the Seahawks, it just doesn’t get any better, the way I look at it, for the NFC championship to come down to the Packers coming to our turf this time," Chicago head coach Lovie Smith said. "It’s the Packers and Bears to finish it up, and that’s how it should be."

CHICAGO — "Down go the Seahawks. Now bring on the Packers."

Those were the kind of thoughts running through most of the Bears players and coaches minds not long after Chicago closed out its 35-24 win over Seattle on Sunday.

"Now that we’ve beaten the Seahawks, it just doesn’t get any better, the way I look at it, for the NFC championship to come down to the Packers coming to our turf this time," Chicago head coach Lovie Smith said. "It’s the Packers and Bears to finish it up, and that’s how it should be."

Chicago stormed out to a 28-0 lead and despite 21 fourth-quarter points by Seattle, the Bears advanced to the NFC Championship game in easy fashion. They avenged an earlier loss to the Seahawks by dominating their first playoff game since Super Bowl XLI. Now comes the Bears chance to erase a regular-season-ending defeat to the Packers next.

The Bears fell 10-3 in Green Bay two weeks ago, but now they feel ready to put that one behind them and take one more step closer to the championship they’ve coveted since winning it all in 1986.

And to get a chance to do it against the Packers — the team’s biggest rival and the other half of the league’s longest-standing rivalry — is just what the Bears wanted.

Return man and wideout Devin Hester put it best: "It will be the biggest rivalry game in history."

To linebacker Brian Urlacher, it seems like it’s been a long time since the Bears have had a shot at the Super Bowl.

"It’s been a long road back," he said.

But it’s been even longer since they got a shot at the Packers in the postseason. It will be the first time in 70 years that the Bears and Packers will meet in the playoffs, and the winner will punch its ticket to Dallas for a Super Bowl meeting with the eventual AFC champ.

It has not only been a long trip back for the Bears, but it has been a difficult one as well.

"We’ve had some bad years for a couple seasons, but the coaches stayed on us, we made some good trades and got some good free agents, and now we’re back," Urlacher said. "We’re playing together, and hopefully we’re peaking at the right time."

Safety Chris Harris came out of Sunday’s game with a hip pointer, saying: "I didn’t want to be the guy who cost this team a win today."

When asked if he would come out of a Bear-Packer NFC Championship game with the same injury, Harris answered: "My leg would have to be cut off to miss next week."

He doesn’t expect to lose his leg by next weekend. And the Bears don’t expect to lose to the Packers again either.

"We took a nice step today," guard Roberto Garza said. "And now we’ve got to take another big step with a win next week.

"We know we can. We know it now."

Bears reporter Jay Taft can be reached at 815-987-1384 or jtaft@rrstar.com.