In the wake of the New York Giants' stunning and commanding 37-20 upset of the No. 1 seeded Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, I've read a number of claims regarding why the Packers were a fluke as a football team this year.
- That they played an easy regular season schedule.
- That they came out rusty and unprepared in the playoff game.
- That the defense was a liability.
- That they were favored by the officiating.
- And finally, that for this entire season, the Packers were an overrated football team.
Packers fans will be fuming at such outrageous claims, while other fans from around the league will be reading this and nodding their heads in agreement.
As a die-hard Cheesehead fan, I for one look at these and see the absurdity of some claims (that they played an easy schedule and that they were favored by the officiating all year) while with others I have no choice but to clench my teeth and agree (that the defense was a liability and that the team was rusty for the playoffs).
However, I do not believe in the slightest that this diminishes what the team accomplished this year or makes the team overrated.
Here is a short list of accomplishments the team achieved during the past year:
- A team-record 15 regular season wins, including a 13-game winning streak to start the year and a 16-game winning streak stemming over from last season.
- The offense put up records for scoring and yardage in a season including 14 different offensive players and 19 players overall scoring touchdowns for the team.
- Aaron Rodgers broke every single significant team passing record, set a new NFL mark for quarterback rating in a season, and is a likely candidate for the league's MVP award.
- Matt Flynn set a team record passing yardage with 480 yards and for touchdown passes in a single game with six (seriously, what kind of backup does that?)
- The defense forced a league best 31 interceptions and the team was only behind the San Francisco 49ers in turnover differential.
One might say that such records and numbers are meaningless under the harsh light of finishing this season without a championship and maybe they are. However, critics fail to take into account the circumstances under which these marks were set.
Rewind to the beginning of this season, and this was a team coming off of a Super Bowl victory the year before, in which Rodgers asserted himself as an elite quarterback in the league and in which the defense was one of the league's best.
Crucial players lost to injury last year were coming back, and the Packers were only going to get stronger than last year. In short, this was a team trying to do something that few others could: repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Furthermore, it was a widely known fact what the Packers were going to do to teams each and every week, a fact only reinforced after the season began: This was a team that was going to throw, throw, throw the ball offensively with Rodgers spreading the ball around in the Packers laser precise attack and create havoc and turnovers defensively to keep feeding this prolific offense.
Essentially, teams had the Packers' gameplan handed to them every week and given the challenge of stopping it. As we have seen, very few were successful.
If anything, this Packers team outperformed any and all expectation for this season by winning their first 13 straight games and seemed to be a legitimate threat to finish the regular season undefeated. These three factors combined to paint a gigantic bullseye on the back of this team for the entire year.
Opponents would see that the Packers game was coming up and would prepare that much better and play that much harder just for a shot at knocking off the top team in the league. All of this pressure and expectations meant that Green Bay wasn't just playing games each and every week: It was facing an opponent's very best efforts to knock them off week in and week out and they still only lost two games all year.
And through all of that pressure and expectation, this team still had a remarkable season where so many others have choked on the prospect of being the best all the time.
No this team was not perfect, yes the Giants outplayed them today and as such, the Giants are deserving of moving forward one step closer to a championship. But in no way, shape, or form does this diminish how incredible this season was for the Men of Lambeau. The only real thing wrong with it was an ending that doesn't feel quite right at the moment, but in the end, that's fine. After all, who can deny that this team won't be right back on top of the league next year?