9

February

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Super Bowl XLV Edition–World Champion Green Bay Packers

World Champion Green Bay Packers. The Vince Lombardi Trophy is back home.

Here we are, nearly a few days after the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 to win Super Bowl XLV and my feet are still nowhere near to touching the ground.

What a ride. After the 31-27 defeat at Foxboro to the New England Patriots that dropped the Packers to 8-6, things looked bleak. Aaron Rodgers was coming off his second concussion of the season and the defense, depleted by injuries, got burned in a shootout by one of the NFL’s best in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Some fans had doubt as to whether the team could win its last two regular season games to just make the postseason, let alone win 3 road playoff games to make it to Dallas for Super Bowl XLV. It seemed like the Packers, while they fought gallantly all year, would finally succumb to the ridiculous amount of injuries and start preparing for 2011.

After that game however, something magical happened.

Rodgers returned and rode a hot hand all the way to the MVP of the Super Bowl. The defense buckled down and different players rose to make plays on different occasions. Mike McCarthy fell into a zone with his playcalling and suddenly could do no wrong.

I thought this season was special with the Packers just making the playoffs. Now that they’ve won the Lombardi Trophy, the season qualifies as legendary and epic.

Before we look back on the season as a whole, let’s take one final look back at Super Bowl XLV in another edition of Game Balls and Lame Calls.

Game Balls

QB Aaron Rodgers

To borrow a line from CBS Sports’ Mike Freeman, Aaron Rodgers was “ballin’” during Super Bowl XLV en route to the game’s MVP award.

Despite his numbers being lower than they should have been due to some boneheaded drops by his receivers, Rodgers was locked in all day long throwing the ball with the pinpoint accuracy.

Rodgers gets a game ball for another reason as well. All week long, with national and international media present, he was asked multiple times about Brett Favre. Every day since the departure of Favre in 2008, Rodgers bit his lip and turned a question about Number 4 into a statement about the team.

6

February

Green Bay Packers – The Day is Here – Go Pack!

I still can’t believe I will be in the stadium for this game. It hit me really for the first time as I was taking a shower this morning. Holy cow!

Met up with a plethora of great Packers fans last night. I will write about it during the week, after I’m none basking in the glow of yet another Packers Championship.

Packers 24, Steelers 20.

GoPack!

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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5

February

Jersey Al: Gone Fishing (for a Packers Super Bowl Win)

By the time you read this post, I am hopefully on my way to Dallas – God and Mother Nature willing. As such, it may be quiet around here for a few days. Perhaps one of the fine writers who grace this site with their work may have something they want to share with you (if they can overcome that nervousness and excitement we’re all feeling).

As for myself, while I will bring a computer with me, I don’t plan to spend my two days in Dallas in front of one.

I plan to revel in this experience, which could very well be a once-in-a-lifetime for me. I will surely be depositing more money in Jerry Jones’ wallet, as much as that thought displeases me. I want to meet as many of you great Packers fans as I can, including some superfans who will be there, like St. Vince, Steve “The Owner” Tate & a host of others. I want to share Packers stories with you and eagerly listen to yours. For those of you in Dallas, PLEASE be sure to make the Cheesehead TV Meetup at Sherlock’s in Lincoln Square Mall, Arlington, TX. Saturday at 8:00. Please stop by and say hello.

This has been a special two weeks for me here in NJ. I actually hear, on a daily basis, the Packers being talked about on the local  TV stations.  For someone who goes back to pre-internet days, when the only Packers news I could get was from an already one week behind Packer Report that was delivered to my house every Tuesday, my head pops up every time I hear “Packers” on the TV. It’s just surreal, when all you’re used to hearing is “Giants” and “Jets.”

Certainly, those of you living in Wisconsin can’t know what that feeling is like, nor can I really know what you’re feeling inside. But it doesn’t really matter, we’re all just Packers fans about to enjoy a lifetime experience, whether you’ll be watching  in Dallas yourself, or on your usual couch.

Root hard for the Packers. And whether in victory or defeat, represent all Packers fans with dignity and class. Show the NFL exactly what is so special about us Packers fans and the true America’s Team, the Green Bay Packers. Go Pack!

Gone Fishing…

4

February

Packers Super Bowl Scenario – Big Games Needed by Brandon Jackson and Interior Offensive Line

Scott Wells needs to help contain the Steelers interior blitzes.

While everyone talks about how Aaron Rodgers and the Packers wide receivers match up against the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary, don’t forget about Brandon Jackson, Scott Wells, Daryn Colledge and Josh Sitton. If the Packers put up big passing numbers, chances are these four guys had good games.

I think rushing attempts by both teams will be few and far between, especially after the first quarter. Once both teams go to the air, Rodgers and the Packers wideouts have an advantage over the Steelers secondary, but that advantage can be negated by the Steelers pass rush.

That’s where Jackson and the interior offensive lineman can come to the rescue.

As the crew at Football Outsiders points out in its Super Bowl preview, the Steelers like to send crash blitzes up the middle, which allows outside linebackers to either come through the wreckage on a delayed blitz or jump back into pass coverage and mess up the quarterback’s hot reads. The theory is that by crashing the middle, you’re attacking a team’s worst pass blockers (center and guards) and forcing the running back into the middle of the chaos (which means he’s not a dumpoff option in the flat and he’s in the quarterback’s throwing lane). It also forces your tackles to win one-on-one battles on the outside.

If Wells, Colledge and Sitton hold up against these inside blitzes, I don’t see how the Packers offense is contained on Sunday. If they struggle, it’s up to Jackson to step up, make the correct read in blitz pickup, and buy Rodgers the extra time he needs to move around and make a play.

It sounds relatively simple, but if the Packers’ interior protection breaks down early, it’s going to be an uphill battle. I don’t want the Steelers collapsing the pocket early and forcing Rodgers to worry about pressure in his face while at the same time crossing his fingers that his rookie right tackle holds up against either Lamar Woodley or James Harrison.

Scott Wells has quietly put together another solid season, and I’m confident that he’ll be able to set the protection at the line of scrimmage before each play. Unfortunately, identifying who to block and then actually making the block are two different things.

3

February

Packers – Steelers Revisited: Film Study

As part of my preparation for Super Bowl XLV, I decided to take another look back at last year’s game between the Packers and Steelers. Ah, memories… I’m sure everyone remembers how the game ended, but do you remember how it started?

It was week 15 of the 2009 season. The 9-4 Packers with a red-hot Aaron Rodgers came  riding into Pittsburgh with a 5-game win streak following their incredulous loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the now-famous Monday morning “Come to Jesus” meeting. The Packers’ secondary, however, was missing Al Harris, Will Blackmon and Pat Lee, forcing the likes of Jarret Bush and Josh Bell into emergency duty.

The Steelers, on the other hand, had lost five games in a row, and at 6-7, their chances of making the playoffs were in sure-fire jeopardy. The defense was giving up too many big plays and the turnovers were not coming as was the norm.

Based on all of these facts, the game started just as you would have expected. The Packers came out throwing and the Steelers, knowing they would, went right after Rodgers with an obvious attempt to intimidate him and cover up for their under-performing secondary.

In just the first minute of the game, the Steelers blitzed Rodgers 4 times and on their first  and only offensive play of the first minute, the Steelers victimized the decimated Packers secondary and Jarret Bush in particular.

Lets relive that first minute:

Play 1: Packers 1st and 10 Steelers Blitz:

Steelers show blitz, Rodgers sets the protection, Korey Hall moves into position to take a fake handoff and is just barely able to pick up James Farrior who is in the backfield and almost on top of Rodgers before he can take his drop.  Lawrence Timmons also blitzes and is slowed down enough to give Rodgers time to side-step the rush and stay upright.  This is the classic inside cross-over blitz you saw the Packers use quite a bit that season. Also notice Ryan Grant’s lack of effort to help out with slowing down Farrior.

Play 2: Packers 2nd and 10 Steelers Blitz:

Farrior and Timmons switch positions, but again come with a cross-over blitz. Farrior is slowed just enough by a Grant shoulder bump  this time, but Scott Wells is slow to react to Timmons who is blitzing right in front of him. Wells is only able to graze Timmons, who takes Rodgers to the turf just after the throw. Totally Scot Wells fault on this play.

2

February

Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Hype: Just Enjoy it While You Can

Enjoy all the Packers' talk while it lasts. Soon all we'll be hearing about is an NFL lockout.

Normally I tune out all the Super Bowl hype about three days before the actual game, but this week I wish life had a pause button so Super Bowl week could last as long as I wanted it to. The Green Bay Packers are in the Super Bowl and I am soaking up every single interview, feature story and TV segment about my favorite team.

I’ve noticed a few Tweets already expressing fatigue from all the Super Bowl hoopla, and it’s only Tuesday. C’mon people! Enjoy this! Do you really want to go back to the real world so quickly? The real world means sports coverage that consists of midseason NBA trade talk and debating who will be the Yankees setup man. I don’t know about all of you, but I’d much rather hear about the Packers in the Super Bowl for 24 hours each day.

I was 14 the last time the Packers were in the Super Bowl. Obviously, I remember everything about the game, but I don’t remember much about the buildup. I wasn’t able to process or comprehend just how amazing having your favorite team in the Super Bowl is because I was only 14 (and the Internet, Twitter and 300 ESPN channels weren’t readily accessible yet).

Now I have Twitter running in the background at work and the NFL Network to complement a smorgasboard of ESPN networks. Every time I look at my computer screen I’m seeing Tweets about the Packers and the Super Bowl. When I get home at night I turn on the TV and watch people talking to or about Packers players — in HD, on a big screen — while I eat dinner. Before bed I wind down by reading an endless amount of features, op-eds and blog posts about the Packers in the Super Bowl. I enjoy all of it.

To be fair, it’s been a crazy week at work. When I get home, I haven’t had much energy to do anything else besides catch up on the Packers. Today we even had diversity training at the office. Diversity training during Packers Super Bowl week is torture. It’s what Hell must be like. Perhaps if I wasn’t so busy during the day, I wouldn’t feel the need to immerse myself in Packers coverage when I get home. But I doubt it.

31

January

Packers – Steelers Roots Run Deep: Connecting the Dots to Super Bowl XLV

As a resident of Pittsburgh and a native of Wisconsin, I have been indoctrinated as both a fan of the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. My father’s side of the family prays nightly to St. Lombardi, while my mother’s side of the family wear their black and gold with the utmost pride.

Luckily for me, these two teams play in different conferences and rarely meet, so I can almost always root for both teams without much contradiction. They have only played each other 27 times dating back to 1940, and Super Bowl XLV will be the first time they ever meet for the NFL Championship. (My personal dream come true.)

In my relatively unique situation, I have come to realize how similar these two franchises have become. In fact, the Packers have much to owe Pittsburgh for their recent success, especially on the defensive side of the ball. And no matter how much you’ve read this past week, there is a lot more to this story than just Mike McCarthy being a “yinzer.”

FROM “TITLETOWN” TO “SIXBURGH”

When you look at the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s hard not to think about their reputations as championship teams. After all, both teams have set some historic precedents with their past dynasties.

The Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s won five NFL championships over a seven year period under legendary head coach Vince Lombardi. These five titles concluded with the victories in Super Bowls I and II. From this success was eventually born the nickname “Titletown, USA,” which the city of Green Bay boasts on its official seal. Additionally, the Super Bowl trophy awarded to winning teams was renamed to commemorate Vince Lombardi after his sudden death in 1970.

Meanwhile, the 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers – under head coach Chuck Noll – became the first team to win more than two Super Bowls, as well as the only team to win four Super Bowls in six years. Along with the championship successes of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pitt Panthers, the Steelers helped define Pittsburgh as the “City of Champions” during that decade.

Now, after winning Super Bowl XLIII, the Pittsburgh Steelers lay claim to the most Vince Lombardi Trophies, with six. This, of course, prompted the nickname “Sixburgh” to boast their NFL record. The Packers, meanwhile, continue to hold the record for the most national football championships of any team, with nine NFL Championships and three Super Bowls wins.