Monday, January 24, 2011

Packers win the Halas, now off to Dallas!

How does it feel, Packers fans, to be able to call our beloved Green Bay Packers NFC Champions? Pretty darn good, doesn't it? And then you toss in the fact that the victory came at the expense of the team south of the border, the Chicago Bears, the Packers' partner in the oldest rivalry in the NFL, and it becomes even sweeter. To take the Halas Trophy, named after the Bears' founder, George Halas, back to Green Bay is wonderful irony.

Now the Packers have the Halas...and it's off to Dallas! Super Bowl XLV here we come. We have 13 days to get Packer'd up.

But first, let's just take a quick look at a few of the heros of yesterday's game.

Aaron Rodgers. For the early quarterbacking, but especially for his tackle of Brian Urlacher after Urlacher intercepted Rodgers as the Pack was driving to go up 21-0. If Rodgers hadn't made that tackle, it's a whole other ballgame. Even with the ball at midfield, Da Bears were unable to get any points off the turnover. Turned out to be the biggest tackle of Rodgers' career.

James Starks. For doing just enough, 22 carries for 74 yards, to keep the Bears honest regarding the running game. And for picking up his first NFL touchdown. Good timing.

B. J. Raji. What can you say about "The Freezer"? Helped on the blocking scheme to get Starks in the endzone. Was blowing up Bears center Olin Kreutz, especially early on. And for being athletic enough to drop into coverage and get a pick-6 TD...although it would be nice in the future to not hold the ball out like a loaf of bread until you are well past the goal line (just a suggestion in case you are reading this, Mr. Raji). Raji becomes, according to ESPN, the heaviest player to score a TD in postseason history. There's some trivia for you.

Greg Jennings. Eight catches for 130 yards. Big catches to help get the Pack up early. Huge.

Tim Masthay. A punter? A hero of the game? You bet. Especially when the guy on the other end of your punts is Devin Hester. For the second game in a row against Da Bears, Masthay placed his punts in such a way where Hester was a non-factor. Outstanding job.

Jarrett Bush. Yeah, I know. He's been the kind of player over the last several years that Packer fans have not exactly warmed to, shall we say, especially when he's called upon to play in the defensive backfield. But you have to give credit where credit is due. And Bush deserves plenty of credit for becoming a special teams warrior. He has often become unblockable in punt coverage. Combined with Masthay's punting, Bush is often able to be the first one to down the ball or to be in on a tackle of the returner. Bush has made such an impression on his teammates that he was elected one of the co-captains for the playoffs.

Sam Shields. The undrafted rookie free agent continues to make a name for himself for his outstanding cornerback play. Yesterday, he helped cause a fumble on a blitz of Jay Cutler, which the Bears recovered unfortunately. Oh yeah, there were those two interceptions, too. Especially that last one that was the dagger in the Bears' hopes for a comeback. Shields is only the third rookie in NFL history with two interceptions in a conference championship game. You are a rookie no more, Mr. Shields.

The entire defense, with special kudos to coordinator Dom Capers. Defense wins championships they say. That was true yesterday and it has been true for the Packers throughout the season. Often times the offense seems to go into a conservative mode late in the game, and is unable to convert third downs to keep the clock running and the ball away from the opponent. The outcome of the game then rests with the defense. Time after time, the defense comes up with big plays to save the game. Last week versus Atlanta it was Tramon Williams. Yesterday versus Da Bearz it was Sam Shields. Amazing defense. And it will be needed again if the Pack is to beat the Steelers to win Super Bowl XLV. Facing Ben Roethlisberger is no small challenge. But we know that this Packers defense will leave everything on the field in order to help assure that the Lombardi Trophy returns to Green Bay where it belongs.

Go Pack Go!!!