ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 15: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks on from the sideline against the Atlanta Falcons during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Aaron Rodgers
The Green Bay Packers were many "expert" picks to be right here in this position back in August. And while all those "experts" are now tooting their own horns, it wasn't a slam dunk like many might have thought.
In fact, Green Bay got off to a pretty mediocre start due to some key injuries and bad luck. Starting running back Ryan Grant didn't even last a half of the first game of the season when he was knocked out for the year with a leg injury. The Packers workhorse's stats for the entire season? Eight carries for 45 yards. That's ominous.
They went on to win that game and start 3-1 before dropping two straight to the putrid Redskins and Dolphins then at one point late in the season was 8-6, including an embarrassing 7-3 loss to Detroit in which Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion.
That put the Packers in the precarious position of needing to win out in order to make the playoffs, and they did just that, demolishing the Giants and squeaking out a 10-3 win over the Bears in the season finale to back into the postseason as the sixth and final seed in the NFC.
That meant no home games in famed Lambeau Field for the playoffs and a first-round date in Philly with Mike Vick. The Packers' defense, which was the unsung hero of the season, was up to the task along with out-of-nowhere running back James Starks, who rushed for 123 yards in the win over Philly.
Then came the Falcons game in Atlanta, against the NFC's top seed. But even the best team in the NFC wasn't ready for Rodgers. It was one of the most precise, surgical-type efforts by a QB in playoff history as Rodgers absolutely shredded the Falcons defense for 366 yards and four total touchdowns as Green Bay walked all over the Falcons with a 48-21 win.
Then last week, Rodgers struggled, but B.J. Raji scored a defensive touchdown and the Packers held off a late, improbable Bears rally to advance to Arlington.
Rodgers was dinged up against Chicago, but it won't matter. That's what the Packers have been defined by this year — perseverance. The Packers were second in NFL this year behind the Colts in a category you don't want to be "good" at, which is Starter Games Lost. The Packers had 83 games missed by people who would've been in the starting lineup if not injured. Incredible, but not surprising considering the Packers depth built through drafts.
I'll leave you with this, and soak this in Cowboys fans: The Packers' ENTIRE starting offense was drafted by the Packers. That's incredible.