The 2010 Green Bay Packers had the ultimate type of year in the NFL. The Pack won their 4th Super Bowl trophy and also claimed their 13th NFL championship as well. But the Packers did it the hard way when it was all said and done. It was an incredible journey with many hills and valleys, but the expedition led to the prize of all prizes...the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Many of us thought it would be a two team race in the NFC North in 2010, with the Packers and the Minnesota Vikings battling for the division title. But the Vikings were a mess on the field in 2010, as injuries took their toll on the Vikes and the team finished 6-10 and in 4th place in the division. But the Packers suffered even more injuries and still stayed competitive in the NFC North. The surprise team of the division was clearly the Chicago Bears who ended up winning the NFC North with an 11-5 record. The Packers ended up as a Wild Card participant in the NFC playoffs and were the 6th seed. But even that took some doing.
Back to the injuries. The 2010 Green Bay squad was decimated by injuries. It all started with RB Ryan Grant who was lost for the season in the very first game of the year, as was DE Justin Harrell. More quickly followed. Players like ILB Nick Barnett, TE Jermichael Finley, S Morgan Burnett, OLB Brad Jones, S Derrick Martin, DE Mike Neal, OLB Brady Poppinga, RT Mark Tauscher, LB Brandon Chillar and TE Spencer Havner. All told, the Packers lost three starters each on offense and defense.
The Packers also had their fair share of players who have still played in 2010 despite some having some lingering injury issues as well. OLB Clay Matthews, CB Charles Woodson, S Nick Collins, DE Cullen Jenkins, WR Donald Driver and QB Aaron Rodgers are players that come to mind.
In addition to the injuries, the Packers also were hurt by close losses throughout the season. In their six losses, the Packers lost twice by field goals in overtime, twice by field goals in the last 10 seconds of the fourth quarter, and twice by four points, with both of those four-point losses coming on the road with quarterback Aaron Rodgers injured. No team in NFL history had ever before had a six-loss season with all six losses by four points or fewer, according to Stats Inc. In addition to that unbelievable statistic, the Packers never trailed an opponent by more than seven points all season long.
Still, the Packers needed some good fortune to make the playoffs over teams like the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Bucs. Fortune smiled on the Packers in Week 15 of the season, a week in which the Packers LOST to New England. Why would I say that? For one, the Giants allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to score 28 points in the 4th quarter, which included a 65 yard game winning punt return by DeSean Jackson on the last play of the game.
The Bucs also lost that Sunday, as they lost to the Detroit Lions at home 23-20 in OT. The key play of that game was an offensive pass interference call on TE Kellen Winslow Jr. on a play in which he caught a TD pass in the 4th quarter. The play was wiped out and the Bucs had to settle for a field goal only. The NFL later contacted the Bucs and said that the play should have stood and that there was NOT offense pass interference.
The Giants and Bucs both finished 10-6, just like the Packers, but those losses that Sunday allowed the Packers to hold the tiebreaker over both teams. The Packers still had to beat the Giants and Bears at home to make the playoffs, which they did, but it was the events of Week 15 of the NFL season which really allowed the Packers a chance to be a Wild Card team.
To the Super Bowl, the Packers had to play three games on the road and in hostile environments.
It started in Philadelphia, where the Packers had to try and exorcise a demon in the Eagles, who in the past had given the Packers two painful playoff losses in the City of Brotherly Love. The Packers did indeed exorcise a demon with a 21-16 hard fought victory over the 3rd seeded Eagles, who they had also beaten in week one of the season 27-20, also in Philly. The Packers once again got out to a 14-0 lead, but once again the Eagles came back.
But Rodgers and the valiant play of the Green Bay defense didn’t allow the Eagles to snatch another win from the Packers in the playoffs. Yes...the Tramon Williams interception was the final nail in the coffin for the win, but has there ever been a bigger tackle in Green Bay playoff history than the one Desmond Bishop made on the last drive of the Eagles, when he made a shoestring tackle of explosive WR DeSean Jackson?
The next opponent would be the 1st seeded Atlanta Falcons, who had beaten the Packers 20-17 earlier in the season, also in Atlanta. The Packers truly showed how good they could be in a dominant 48-21 victory over the Dirty Birds. The Falcons took and early 7-0 lead, but the Packers behind Rodgers, quickly tied the score. The Packers then had one of their special teams hiccups, as they allowed a 102 yard kickoff return by Eric Weems, as the Falcons took a 14-7 lead.
That would be the last time the Falcons would have the lead as Rodgers had a game for the ages, completing 31 out of 36 passes for 366 yards and three TDs. Rodgers also had a rushing TD to boot. Speaking of boots, the Packers NEVER had to punt in the game, as Rodgers had the Green Bay offense on all cylinders.
Defensively, the star of the game for the Packers was CB Tramon Williams. Williams had ended the game in Philly with a pick and the young CB had two more interceptions in this game. None bigger than the 70 yard pick Williams took to the house with no time remaining in the 1st half. That interception for a TD gave the Packers a 28-14 lead and the Pack never looked back.
The victory over Atlanta led to an appearance in the NFC Championship game in Chicago vs. the 2nd seeded Bears, who had split the season series with the Packers. It would only be the second playoff game between these storied teams in their history. The Packers ended up winning the game 21-14, but the score should not have been as close as it was. But give da Bears credit, they ended up going through three QBs that day, and who would have guessed that the 3rd string QB would have the biggest amount of success against the Green Bay defense.
Rodgers had his poorest game in the playoffs this postseason, but he did get the Packers off to a quick 14-0 start. But his play deteriorated after that as the Bears came back. Defensively, the Packers were dominant until a QB by the name of Caleb Hanie entered the ball game due to injuries to starter Jay Cutler (knee) and backup Todd Collins (shoulder).
The Green Bay defense was led by CB Sam Shields, who had two picks, including the game winning clincher in the final minute of the game. Another big pick occurred earlier in the 4th quarter when NT B.J. Raji on a zone blitz, picked off Hanie and returned the pass 18 yards for a TD. Bottom line, the Packers were heading to Super Bowl XLV.
Led by Rodgers
Rodgers was really sensational in the 2010 postseason. Rodgers had a 109.8 QB rating, as he threw 9 TD passes to just 2 picks for 1,094 yards. Rodgers also had (21) 20+ yard completions in the postseason. It all continued in Super Bowl XLV, where Rodgers ended up with three TD passes vs. no picks for 304 yards and an 111.5 QB rating. That led to Rodgers being named MVP.
But Rodgers could have had an even bigger game, as both Jordy Nelson and James Jones dropped some key passes, including a couple that could have been TD passes. That same affliction happened to Jones earlier this year against the Giants in the regular season and against Philly in the playoffs, when he dropped sure TD passes. But Rodgers never stopped believing in his receivers and his receiving corp paid him back when he needed it.
Nelson had a huge game in the Super Bowl as he had nine receptions for 140 yards and a TD. Nelson dropped at least four other passes though, but he came through big time on the Packers last touchdown scoring drive with a 38 yard reception.
As usual though, Rodgers looked for No. 85...Greg Jennings...when he needed a clutch catch. Jennings had four catches for 64 yards and two TDs, but none was bigger than the 3rd and 10 reception he made with the Packers holding a 28-25 lead with about 6 minutes to go in the game. The Packers were on their own 25 yard line when Rodgers threw a frozen rope to Jennings on a skinny post that led to a 31 yard reception. That catch led to a 23 yard field goal by Mason Crosby which padded the Green Bay lead to 6 points with just over two minutes to play.
The late pass to Jennings was probably the biggest play of the game offensively for the Packers. Defensively, the biggest play of the game had to be the first play of the 4th quarter, as the Packers held a slim 21-17 lead, and the Steelers were driving in Green Bay territory. QB Ben Roethlisberger handed the ball to RB Rashard Mendenhall, who had previously scored a Pittsburgh TD on an eight yard run.
Matthews sensed a play was coming his way though and he alerted DE Ryan Pickett about the upcoming play. Both Matthews and Pickett sandwiched Mendenhall and hit the running back at the same time. The result? A key fumble that was recovered by LB Desmond Bishop. The turnover led to another TD by the Packers, as Rodgers threw an eight yard pass to Jennings to finish the drive.
All told, the Packers scored 21 points off of Pittsburgh turnovers. Twice Rodgers threw TD passes to Jennings, while Collins took back the other for a TD on a 37 yard interception return. The Steelers had three BIG turnovers, while the Packers had zero. Bottom line, the Packers held on to win, as Williams once again made a huge play defensively, as he knocked the ball out of the hands of WR Mike Wallace on 4th down and 5 on the last possession of the Steelers.
The Super Bowl was a microcosm of the 2010 season for the Packers, as they had to overcome significant injuries to reach the promised land. Woodson suffered a broken collarbone late in the first half. Driver also suffered a high ankle sprain. Neither would return. Shields missed significant time in the second half of the game too. Still, the Packers overcame those injuries and did what they needed to do.
Bottom line, the Packers won their 4th Super Bowl and their 13th NFL championship. They accomplished all that under the most difficult conditions a team could possibly overcome. The Packers came...the Packers saw...and the Packers conquered. In Latin terms, it is known as Veni, Vidi, Vici. In Green Bay terms, it's known as Vince. As in the Vince Lombardi Trophy was now home again in Green Bay.