The Road the NFC Championship game has not been an easy one for the Green Bay Packers. After going to the Pacific Northwest and getting blown out in the opening game, Packers fans were worried that the season may already be off to a rough start. Fans who watched the Packers play the Cowboys on Sunday, saw that Aaron Rodgers shines brightest when the spotlight is on him.
After losing 36-16 in Seattle, things looked rough. The Packers were able to rebound and get a win against the Jets. Fans still were not convinced that the Pack was back just because they beat the Jets, who would go on to finish the season with a 4-12 record. Follow that up with a 19-7 division loss to the Detroit Lions and fans were in full-fledged panic mode.
Sitting at a 1-2, the sky was falling in Wisconsin and fans did not know what to do. The panic led Rodgers to give what is probably his most famous speech in his career. The day after the loss Rodgers felt compelled to reach out to the fans. Rodgers told fans to simply “R-E-L-A-X!” After letting fans know things would be okay and letting fans know the five simple letters, the season turned around.
After Rodgers’ speech, the Packers won their next four games. They suffered a road loss to the New Orleans Saints, followed by another five straight victories. All was right in the land of dairy. Green Bay was looking in control of their playoff hopes and most likely a number one seed, which meant home field advantage throughout.
Unfortunately for the Packers, the Seahawks that beat them in week one also just kept on winning. Both the Packers and the Seahawks finished the season with a record of 12-4. Due to their head to head loss, Green Bay had to settle for the number two seed. The second seed still grants a bye week in the first round, and at least one home playoff game.
The Packers enjoyed their week off and saw that the Dallas Cowboys would be coming to Lambeau Field for the divisional round of the playoffs. The Cowboys were looking strong, and like the contenders they always used to be. Also finishing the season with a 12-4 record, the Cowboys just missed out on a bye week due to tie-breaking procedures. The Packers were a perfect 8-0 at home this season and the Cowboys were a perfect 8-0 on the road. Something had to give.
Rodgers came into the game with a calf strain which many thought would take away one of his best attributes, the ability to run the ball. Tony Romo has been playing with a bad back the whole season. Both quarterbacks played amazingly in this game.
With the game on the line and on fourth down, Romo fired a pass deep to his number one receiver, Dez Bryant. Bryant leaped through the air with a defender in hot pursuit. Bryant grabbed the ball and on his way down tried to reposition it and leap for the end zone. Referee signaled first down, and the Cowboys looked to regain the lead.
Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy flew his red challenge flag and the referee had to review the play. After reviewing the play, the referee determined that as the ball switched hands it also bounced on the ground, making the pass incomplete. This was a play that will be debated for years to come amongst sports fans.
The Packers were able to pick up the hard-fought win, and looked strong doing so. Now just one game stands between the Packers and a trip to Arizona for the Superbowl. That one game is back up in Seattle where the were handed their first loss. Either the Packers will get revenge on the Seahawks for that opening loss on national television, or their season will both start and end with losses in the Pacific Northwest. The game on January 18 will kick off at 12:05PM in Century Link Field.
Commentary by Andy Lapic