In honor of Thanksgiving – though the Green Bay Packers are home with their families instead of out on the field – I think it is a good time to go around the table and say what we are most thankful for.
Aaron Rodgers during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 42-10. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Oh, I’m the only one at the table?
Ok … well, I guess you’ll just get what I am most thankful for this holiday, then.
[Insert the traditional answers like: friends, family, good food, good football, here]
However, I am also thankful for Sunday’s matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots.
It will feel very Thanksgiving-y to me, even a couple days late; and might I add, I would be even MORE thankful for a win at Lambeau.
My girlfriend is from Massachusetts, which means she is a huge New England Patriots fan.
My fandom with the Green Bay Packers started 20 years ago. Our clashes have been few and far between (every four years, to be exact). Since our meeting (in 2006), we have been to each tilt – one at Lambeau in 2006, in which the Patriots killed it 35-0. The next was our Super Bowl season in Foxborough, where Matt Flynn nearly led the Packers to a come-from-behind win against the Pats at home.
This year, we aren’t going to make it to the game, but it won’t stop us from cheering from in front of the television set.
Brady and Rodgers have never met as starters. When Brady traveled to Lambeau for his first and only visit in the regular season, it was 2006 and Brett Favre was the ole’ gunslinger under center.
He played into the second quarter, but left with an elbow injury and did not return. I was pretty upset – I took out a loan and traveled all the way from Florida to Wisconsin to watch Favre play in person.
I had to settle for seeing an unknown backup … some guy named … Aaron Rodgers.
And in fact, HE didn’t even play the game out; he left with a foot injury soon after. Brady and Co. lit it up at Lambeau Field. Though the air and environment was still amazing and legendary, it had a little less magic than it would have had outside of a shutout.
Tom Brady. Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Four years later, Rodgers was peaking and Brady was still rolling at the top of his game. It was 2010 and the Packers were holding on to playoff hopes by the skin of their teeth. They needed a win against the Patriots to really solidify their chances (and I needed it to quell my injured ego/pride from the 2006 debacle).
We paid the plane tickets, secured seats for the game and … found out that Rodgers was not even going to play.
After seeing him in 2006 as a nobody – I couldn’t have been more excited to see Mr. Rodgers under the New England lights. Finding out that I would have to see yet another backup was devastating, but I was there rain or shine (or snow).
Flynn nearly rallied the Packers to a fourth quarter upset, with Rodgers looking on from the sideline.
With mere seconds left in the game, Flynn took a sack at the six-yard line to end the game. Another blow – but going on to get a little help from some NFC friends, sliding in as the sixth seed in the playoffs and running through teams to the Super Bowl and WINNING – well, that all really helped.
This time around … Rodgers and Brady will meet.
They will head up their respective teams and play the chess game from behind center that we have all been waiting to see.
It won’t be easy – the Patriots are clicking on all cylinders. Tom Brady had his own R-E-L-A-X moment after the Kansas City Chiefs made a mockery of the Patriots on national television. H
e didn’t have to SAY the words, but everyone got the idea when the Patriots walked back on the field the following week.
Ever since then, the “what has happened to Tom Brady” comments have stopped. They are long gone. They are silly and petty and LONG in the past.
However, those comments were also made about Aaron Rodgers, briefly.
For some reason, I feel like no matter what the outcome – there won’t be panic in either Wisconsin or New England. The #1 team in the NFL and the #2 team in the NFL are facing off in a clash of the titans and … someone has to lose.
Both teams are primed to take their divisions and possibly the number one seed in their conference in January, coming with homefield advantage. Both are in a good spot right now and playing well … that won’t change after this Sunday’s matchup.
I am thankful for this battle of the ages – so I’ll sit back and watch these holiday games and think about Sunday … it’ll be worth the wait.