The NFL’s Green Bay Packers became the first sixth-seeded team to win the Super Bowl when they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 at Cowboys Stadium, Dallas. Today the 13 time NFL champions stand once again the edge of greatness.
This was a team in the truest sense of the word; belief and confidence and trust in each other being forged in the heat of do-or-die battle.
From the darkest moments following their heartbreak loss to the New England Patriots in Foxborough, in which stand-in QB Matt Flynn almost steered them to victory, this team never looked back.
To become ‘World’ champions the Packers had to win not just three road playoff games, but also their final two regular season games to qualify for the playoffs at all; beating hated rivals and NFC North Division champions, the Chicago Bears home-and-home in the process.
A slip in any one of those games would have ended the Packers’ season. Instead they thrived on the pressure. The next-man-up ethic engendered by Mike Macarthy’s coaching philosophy enabling them to ride the tide of injuries that saw a 15-man strong injury list. So much so that they were able to withstand the loss of three more personnel during the opening half of Super Bowl XLV. Donald Driver and the talismanic CB, Charles Woodson, played no part in the second half, with Sam Shields making only minimal impact.
Woodson’s leadership has been as much a part of the Packers’ playoff run this season as that of quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, so his loss should not be understated.
Commenting after the game Woodson said:
“It’s been an unbelievable journey for this team all season long. All season long we had to fight through a lot of things and today was no different.”
“We just continued to get better all season. We continued to fight no matter what adversity we went through. I think late in the season, down the stretch, we just had fun and today was no different, and world champs.”
That the Packers’ prevailed was largely due to their zero turnovers and an opportunistic defense that picked-up three key Steelers’ turnovers. Whether it was big Howard Green harrying Ben Roethlisberger into a rash off balance throw that resulted in a pick-6; or Frank Zombo’s sack of Roethlisberger, or Jed Bush muscling in on a Roethisberger toss to Wallace up the middle; Or Clay Matthews’ hit that forced a fumble by Mendenhall with the Steelers driving for a go-ahead score. The big defensive plays kept coming.
That Matthews hit led to Rodgers’ 3rd TD toss. The drive kept alive by a gutsy 3rd-down call from coach, Mike McCarthy, perfectly executed by Rodgers that saw the QB hook-up again with Jordy Nelson on an 18 yard pass. This despite Nelson having dropped a similar effort earlier in the drive. Rodgers’ subsequent toss to receiver, Greg Jennings in the right corner of the end zone gave the Pack the cushion they needed, despite an answering touchdown from the Steelers.
“I told the guys, before they went back out, they understand how much I wanted it. I was pretty emotional so I didn’t get a whole lot out, but just to tell them to get it done and they did.”, Woodson says.
“(I’m) very proud. Late in that game, especially when Pittsburgh made that run – any great team is going to make a run and we knew that – they came out and made some plays, and got on the board, but when we needed stops we came up with a few turnovers today, which were huge. The last play of the game was great break-up by Tramon (Williams), who’s had an unbelievable season. We won the biggest game of them all, so it feels good.”
Roethlisberger stood to win his third Super Bowl, but never looked comfortable during the whole game as the Packers kept the pressure on him.
In contrast Rodgers confirmed his billing as the next great QB, showing poise and maturity, despite taking a number of hits in the game. Asked about the nervy start and the dropped passed that might have derailed the victory Rodgers said:
“That is just like our season. A lot of adversity. Guys stepped up you know. Sam (Shields) was done. Charles (Woodson) was down. Donald (Driver) was down. Jordy Nelson, huge game. Jarrett Bush, interception. That’s the story of our season. A lot of high character guys who’ve stepped up, played huge roles for us, and now we’re sitting here as Super Bowl Champs.”
And what of Rodgers now? Surely he is out of the shadow of the legend of Favre? At 27 he has won more road playoff games than Brett Favre, has the same number (1) of Super Bowl rings and has a Super Bowl MVP, something that eluded Favre.
“It’s a special honor to be one of the leaders of this football team. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: no one person has ever won a game by themselves. This is a team effort and a great group of men. Special guys, and I’m just blessed to be one of the leaders on this team.
“Individually, it’s the top of the mountain in my sport ‑‑ my profession. It’s what you dream about as a kid and think about in high school, junior college, D-I: getting this opportunity and what would you do? I’m fortunate and blessed to play for a team that believes in us. At the same time, I wanted to make sure I was the most prepared guy on the field to have this type of performance.”
This a quarterback, a team, an organisation, that has the chance to become a dynasty. They have shown the can manage adversity. How they manage success will determine their legacy.