Wednesday, February 16, 2011
The Green Bay Packers were not expected to even make it into the playoffs this year. Early in the season they stumbled, and mid-season they fell. Then they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and started all over again.
It wasn't a true do-over; they still stood with a record of 9 wins and 6 losses going into the last game of the season against the dreaded Chicago Bears. The Bears had already clinched the division title and playoff eligibility. The Packers? They had to win if they wanted to play post-season games.
They did it that cool Sunday. They beat Da Bears 10-3 in a defensive battle. The underdog, the one not expected to win, pulled it off and won themselves the right to keep playing in a Wild Card slot.
The team headed to Philadelphia to play the Eagles. We served Philly pepper steak with cheese; delicious. Aaron Rodgers and company ate up the field and pulled out a win and the privilege to travel to another away game, this time in Atlanta. The Falcons had beaten the Packers early in the season in a heartbreaker of a game. Both teams had played their hearts out, but the Falcons scored a field goal in the last minute of the game to win 20-17. Heartbreaker? It hurt to watch, and it hurt to remember.
The Packers had lost the last meeting with the Falcons; that's the main focus. Would they lose again? Or would they turn the tables and win a close one? Coming in as the underdog, what would the results be?
They beat the heck out of the Falcons. Underdog? They outplayed the birds 48-21. No doubt about it; this was not the same Packers team that had barely lost the previous contest in November.
This was the game that had me re-thinking the term Underdog. An underdog, according to various dictionaries, is one who is not expected to win or one at a significant disadvantage. With a final score of 48-21, I had a hard time considering Rodgers et. al. to be at a significant disadvantage. They had the ability, the motivation, and the advantage that day. Underdog? The only disadvantage they had in Atlanta was that as a Wild Card team, they didn't get home field advantage. In the end, it didn't seem to matter.
After eating peach cobbler and drinking Coke products during the Packers-Falcons game, we prepared for the big one: the NFC Conference Champions, a re-match with Da Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago. We decorated the house in green and gold, served bear claws for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and ribs for supper. The Packers had won the last meet-up; were they an underdog this time?
Nope. No underdogs this week; the only disadvantage was the condition of the field, a problem for both teams. Green Bay played another strong game, winning the Halas trophy and the right to play in the Big Game: Super Bowl XLV!!!
Sometimes the opponent underestimates an underdog, one not expected to win, leading to an upset or unexpected dramatic score. The Pittsburgh Steelers organization sported five Lombardi trophies to Green Bay's three, not counting championships won before the Super Bowl began. Terry Bradshaw, while admittedly biased toward his old team, waved a Terrible Towel and predicted the Steelers to win handily. Steelers starting quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger had been playing longer than Aaron Rodgers and had a Tough Guy image to go with the experience. We almost expected Ben in a black cowboy hat and Aaron in a white one coming out for a duel at the 50 yard lines instead of a coin toss.
Chuck served up kielbasa and pierogies with Klondike bars for dessert as we awaited the kick-off time. Commercials? We were here to watch the game!
Ultimately, the "underdog" didn't play like one. Green Bay had one weak quarter (the third, after injuries to two major players hurt their momentum and concentration), but otherwise controlled the game. They forced three turnovers and scored from each one. The defense refused to allow Pittsburgh to move downfield one last time, knocking down a pass on a critical fourth down.
Underdog? Not this Green Bay Packers team. Led by a talented and classy MVP quarterback, the boys in green and yellow were more like late bloomers. They started the season with some inconsistency, lost many important starters to injuries, but then they pulled together and became the team that wouldn't lose any more.
A week later, the city of Green Bay and the state of Wisconsin are still basking in the glory of our Green Bay Packers. XLV was no underdog accident; it was a well-deserved and well-earned achievement.Stumble It!