For the 2010-11 Packers, the outlook for the season started rather grimly when their 1,200 yard rusher, Ryan Grant, went down with a season-ending injury in the first game of the year. From there, a plethora of injuries followed, headlined by starting tight end Jermichael Finley and starting middle linebacker Nick Barnett. With this, it surely looked as though Green Bay would have to wait yet another season to have a legitimate shot at capturing their 4th Super Bowl title, especially after an overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins put their season record at a measly 3-3. Boy, were the pundits wrong about that.
After grabbing a 10-6 regular season record with 2 must-win games against the New York Giants and Chicago Bears to close the season, the Packers faced off with the Eagles, a rematch of the Week 1 shootout, in the first round of the playoffs. Philadelphia would prove to be no match, as the Pack would hold on and win thanks to a game-sealing interception by shutdown corner Tramon Williams and 3 passing touchdowns by All-World quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. Williams would again play hero the next week at Atlanta, picking off 2 Matt Ryan passes, including one taken to the house to close out the first half, and really, ice the game. The ensuing NFC Championship would be headlined by frigid weather and good defense, not to mention a major injury to Chicago Bears starting quarterback, Jay Cutler that would leave him out of the entire 2nd half. With Caleb Hanie, their 3rd-stringer, in the game at quarterback, the Packers sewed up an NFC Championship and their first appearance in a Super Bowl in over a decade when B.J. Raji, their starting nose tackle, dropped into coverage on a 3rd & long, picked off Hanie and took it in for a score. With this victory, it would be a battle of old titans in the Super Bowl, the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On a cold Sunday evening in Dallas, the Packers and Steelers squared off in Super Bowl XLV. The Pack jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead after Ben Roethlisberger threw an errant pass that Nick Collins picked off and returned for a touchdown. However, the Steelers would not go quietly, as Roethlisberger hooked up with Hines Ward and cut the deficit to 21-10 going into halftime. With the Packers emotional leader Charles Woodson, now out for the remainder of the game after suffering a broken collar bone on a play just before the half, the defense of the Green Bay Packers had to step up. That’s exactly what it did. With the score 21-17 to start the 4th quarter, Clay Matthews put his helmet on the ball on a Rashard Mendenhall rush, and caused a fumble that Desmond Bishop would recover and return to near midfield. It did not take long for Aaron Rodgers to work his magic, throwing a touchdown strike to Greg Jennings to take a commanding 28-17 lead. After a Roethlisberger touchdown and a Green Bay field goal, the score was 31-25, there was 1:59 remaining in the game and Ben Roethlisberger had the ball. You could just smell that an epic come-from-behind victory was brewing. Unfortunately for the Steelers, the Packers defense put the clamp down, highlighted by the 4th & 5 pass that was just out of the reach of Mike Wallace, to send Green Bay to their 4th Super Bowl title (13th championship; most in the NFL) and bring the Lombari Trophy back home.
I must say that I have never seen a more resilient group of guys on a team. To watch as 15 different guys went down on I.R. in the regular season, and to see a team still fight and claw for victories week in and week out was simply amazing. Also, the transformation of Aaron Rodgers this year from very good quarterback to great quarterback was marvelous. Watching him yesterday pick apart the #1 defense in football almost effortlessly is something that is hard to put into words; he is officially among the elite. And, the depth of this football team is absolutely ridiculous. 15 different guys go down on I.R., they start signing “street” free agents, and they still win the Super Bowl? Say what? How is that possible? Because the chemistry in the locker room was perfect, the leadership on the Packers was impeccable and because the mentality on that team was a “win or go home” mentality. All-in-all, it led to an improbable Super Bowl run and showed just how good this team is and how good it’s going to be for years to come.