Monday, December 30, 2013

Packers Overcome All Odds to Win NFC North

It certainly wasn't Aaron Rodgers' prettiest game ever, but with the season on the line he showed everybody why he is a legend.

Rodgers' 48-yard touchdown to Randall Cobb on fourth-and-eight with the NFC North hanging in the balance will go down as one the greatest plays in Packers history. Other than winning Super Bowl XLV it might have been Rodgers' greatest moment of his career to date.

"Those two making that great, great play will be running on the highlight reel for the rest of my time on this earth," said head coach Mike McCarthy.

The Bears sent a seven-man rush with a cover-zero look behind it on the touchdown. The Packers were not set up well to block this blitz, as they only had six guys blocking, and fullback John Kuhn tried to make a line adjustment before the snap.

"I can't really really recall what the first protection call was," said guard T.J. Lang, 'but John Kuhn was coming up and telling us to change the protection. I think only half the guys ended up getting the call."

The protection left Julius Peppers unblocked for an instant, as left tackle David Bahktiari blocked down on blitzing nickel back Isaiah Frey. Kuhn came across the formation and was able to cut Peppers just enough so that Rodgers could escape out of the pocket to his left and find Cobb. Cobb flew right by safety Chris Conte on a vertical route after Conte got caught playing the first down marker and peaking in the backfield.

That play showed just how special Rodgers is. Not every quarterback in the league has the awareness and athleticism to elude Peppers like Rodgers did. Also, the throw may seem simple because of how open Cobb was, but it isn't that easy.

A lot of quarterbacks struggle rolling to their left and firing a deep ball like that. Rodgers set his hips beautifully and fired a perfect strike to Cobb right in stride. The weather conditions and game situation made the throw even more incredible.

The touchdown gave the Packers a 33-28 that won them the NFC North Championship with a 8-7-1 record. This was an amazing accomplishment for everything that the Packers had to go through this season.

Rodgers returned from his seven week broken collarbone layoff just a little bit off. He orchestrated a beautiful opening drive until he was intercepted by Conte in the end zone on third down. Conte came off covering tight end Andrew Quarless, and Rodgers never saw him as he stepped right in front of Jarrett Boykin for the interception.

On the second possession Rodgers moved the ball again, but threw high and wide to Jordy Nelson, and the ball deflected off his hands for another interception. However, while Rodgers was finding his way, the Packers defense stepped up. They forced three first half three-and-outs and a fumble by Alshon Jeffrey.

Rodgers made yet another mistake when he didn't feel the oncoming pressure by Peppers and held on to the ball too long. He was stripped by Peppers, but the ball propelled forward and looked like an incomplete pass to everybody on the field. Boykin casually picked up the ball and did not look like he was going to do anything with it until the sideline told him to. He took into the end zone to give the Packers a 10-7 lead.

"I was throwing the ball the way I wanted to," Rodgers said. "I missed some, but I think the weather and the cold and the wind had something to do with it. I didn't feel any of the rust. I just missed a couple of passes and unfortunately they went for interceptions."

Rodgers looked more like himself in the second half and guided the Packers to touchdowns on three of their last four possessions. Still, the Packers were down 28-27 and need at least a field goal on their final possession to take the lead because McCarthy failed to go for a two-point conversion after Eddie Lacy's fourth quarter touchdown. McCarthy was very fortunate the Packers did not lose by one.

The Packers faced three fourth downs on the final drive and converted all of them. The first was a fourth and 1 from their own 28-yard line. McCarthy almost made another awful decision and initially sent out the punt team before being convinced by the offense to change his mind. Kuhn easily picked up the first down.

Rodgers converted a key third and 3 by faking Lance Briggs out of his shoes on a run. Another fourth and 1 came up, and Rodgers found Nelson on a quick hitch along the sideline in which Nelson made a great diving catch.

This all lead up to the 48-yard touchdown pass to Cobb. Rodgers had been knocked in the past for his lack of come from behind wins. He should never have to hear about that again.

Think about what had to happen for the Packers to be at this point. The Packers had to make a big comeback to tie the lowly Vikings. Robbie Gould had to miss 47-yard game winning field goal indoors in OT that is usually automatic for him. Justin Tucker had to hit a 61-yard field goal. Matt Bryant had to miss a 52-yard field foal against the Packers. Tony Romo had to throw two fourth quarter interceptions. The Lions had to finish 1-6 in their last 7 games.

If one of those things does not happen the Packers season is likely over. That gets you thinking that they could be a team of destiny.

They now have a home playoff game with their nemesis the San Francisco 49ers. This will be a huge redemption opportunity for the Packers after losing three games to them in the last two years. With Rodgers back at quarterback and everything that has happened to this point you can never say never at this point.

"That's all we play for, we play to get in and then all the records, you're 0-0," said defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. "We get a chance to play for our goal. We want to win another Super Bowl. We get to continue our journey. But I like our chances. I like this team. I think this team is mentally tough. We're wired to play 60 minutes. I feel good about our chances."

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