Friday, February 04, 2011

The Packers' unending season

The Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears in the Game of the Century on Jan. 23, 2011, and earned a right to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
It's an exciting time in Packerland, as this is the first time they've gone to a Super Bowl since the 1997 season. (That's the one we like to not talk about, a loss to the Broncos.)

Since the Packers' last trip to the Super Bowls, I'd forgotten how much NFC Champion stuff was out there and have held off on buying up a lot of it until after the Super Bowl. I figure if the Packers win, then THAT's the gear I'll want. Plus, the stuff is pretty expensive; NFCC hats are going for $26-$30.

For what it's worth, I like the Packers to beat the Steelers, not because I'm a blind homer but because I believe the Packers were good enough this season to be undefeated.
Consider, the team went 10-6 with 15 players - six opening-day starters - lost for the season to Injured Reserve. None of those six losses was by more than 4 points, and the Packers had real opportunities to win each one:

Loss 1, vs. Bears - Packers commit 18 penalties for 152 yards - two of which came on what would've been drive-killing INTs in the fourth quarter when the Packers had the lead - and still only lost by a FG.

Loss 2, at Washington - K Mason Crosby missed potential game-winner with 7 seconds left in regulation, defense can't hold in OT

Loss 3, vs. Miami - Aaron Rodgers tied it with 16 seconds to play, but defense couldn't hold in OT and we lost by a FG.

Loss 4, at Atl - GB tied it with a minute left before reserve LB Matt Wilhelm commits a 15-yard facemask on the ensuing kickoff, which puts Atl at midfield. They gain 22 yards in 49 seconds and hit the game-winning FG.

Loss 5, at Det - Rodgers leaves with a concussion, but Detroit is no longer a joke anyway. They're going to push for the division next year.

Loss 6, at NE - We led that game 17-7 near the end of the first half until that big lineman put together a 71-yard TD return and the Patriots made it 24-17. We also led 27-21 and 27-24 in the fourth quarter. Matt Flynn played a hell of a game for his first start . His inexperience kept him from calling a play at the end, a flub that a more experienced Rodgers likely wouldn't have committed. Now, would he have fired a TD? Who knows, but he likely would've gotten off a play. And maybe a bevy of healthy starters on D would've kept the Patriots from taking the lead in the first place.

There are two things that scare me about the Steelers; their linebackers and their running game.
OLBs James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley both have double-digit sacks. So Pitt will bring pressure from the edges. Rodgers will HAVE to get the ball out quickly - something he hasn't always done, though he's made tremendous progress from 2009.
RB Rashard Mendenhall accrued the majority of his carries in the second half of games, and the plurality of his yardage in the fourth quarter. The Packers need to hold him to a reasonable total - he's averaged a modest 79 yards per game on 3.9 a carry.

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