Green Bay Packers: Prepare for sixty minutes to Super Bowl LI
For the Green Bay Packers and the team’s fans, 60 minutes is going to feel like an eternity today as America’s Team participates in the NFC Championship game for the second time in three years.
We all know what happened a couple of seasons ago when the Packers played about 57 minutes with what seemed like a determination to win at Seattle.
We also all found out how things can unravel in a hurry.
That unraveling kept the Packers out of the Super Bowl and the team’s fans distraught for months.
But that’s in the past.
Today’s 60 minutes will be focused on Atlanta and a game that nobody in their right mind would have thought would include the Packers.
The team sat at 4-6 in mid-November – some said dead in the water. Calls were made to bench Aaron Rodgers and fire Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers.
Packers fans were despondent when talk about the team came up around the water cooler and the holiday dinner table.
The Packers had lost four straight that started with a disheartening 33-32 defeat to the Falcons. That game was followed by a loss at home to the Colts and two straight crushing defeats on the road at Tennessee and Washington.
Those were games penciled in as wins in just about everybody’s prediction board.
But that was then. This is now.
Over the course of the past two months, the Packers regained their confidence and swagger because of a quarterback named Aaron Rodgers who never gave up.
He took every 60-minute increment and made it his own. He said his team could run the table, win the division and make the playoffs.
We were skeptical, at best.
Then came eight straight games that included a rejuvenated offense, a makeshift, but highly effective running game, a defense that seemed to bend (way over), but not break and a fan base that began to sit up straight and take notice.
The Packers and Rodgers resoundingly beat the Eagles on the road, held off the Texans at home and then followed that with a convincing win over the dreaded Seahawks at home, 38-10.
Rodgers wasn’t done in making his prediction come to fruition.
The Packers followed those wins with a heart-pounding victory in Chicago on a last-second field goal by Mason Crosby, a crushing win over the Minnesota Vikings, 38-25, on Christmas Eve, and then the biggest game of the regular season in Week 17 when Rodgers engineered an impressive 31-24 win over the Lions – the team that held the lead in the NFC North for the bulk of the season.
Sixty minutes at a time, the Packers piled up the wins.
And it continued Wildcard Weekend when the Packers started slowly against a fired up New York Giants defense, but built momentum late in the first half and carried it over in the second half to take care of New York at Lambeau Field. Sprinkle in a little magic in that game (the Hail Mary to Randall Cobb at the end of the first half) and the Packers once again seemed like a team of destiny.
That set up last weekend’s instant classic win over the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys on the road.
Again, the magic continued right down to the final ticks on the clock.
Sixty minutes at a time the Packers have carried out game plans that have ended in wins.
And that doesn’t change today.
The Packers are 60 minutes away from Super Bowl LI – the goal that sits in front of every team in the NFL in September.
To be one of the four remaining in the tournament is special. How the Packers achieved it this year is even more special.
Next: Jordy Nelson: The comeback kid
But no matter how today’s game ends, this has been a season to remember … 60 minutes at a time.