NFL Direct Snaps: Green Bay Packers Bring Lombardi Trophy Back Home

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NFL Direct Snaps: Green Bay Packers Bring Lombardi Trophy Back Home
Al Bello/Getty Images
Aaron Rodgers forever erased the stigma of being the guy who replaced Brett Favre with a sparkling Super Bowl performance

Let's turn back the clock two-and-a-half years for just one moment.

At that time, Aaron Rodgers had sat on the Packer bench for three years biding his time until the legendary Brett Favre walked away.

Rodgers could have demanded a trade, or God forbid walked away, but somewhere deep within the confines of his mind, he knew that the Packers didn't just draft him to be Favre's lackey. They saw him as their quarterback of the future.

The problem was that no one knew when the future would be.

So when Favre announced his retirement shortly after Green Bay's NFC Championship loss to the Giants three years ago, it appeared that Rodgers' time had finally come.

However, Favre changed his mind, and assumed that because he's a Green Bay legend, the Packers would welcome him back with open arms.

But Packers GM Ted Thompson stood firm in his conviction that Rodgers's time to lead to Pack to championship glory was right then and there. Rodgers was just too talented a quarterback to sit on the bench for another year.

Although Thompson was villfied by the both the press and the fans for cutting his ties with the man who brought the team back to contender status, he believed that it was time to start a new chapter in Packer lore.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Jordy Nelson pitched in nicely with 9 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl 45

The faith Thompson showed in Rodgers manifested itself last night, as Rodgers was able to lead his team to a championship with a sparkling performance in Super Bowl XLV.

Yes, Ted Thompson may have pushed aside arguably the most popular Packers player of all time, in favor of youth.

But is anyone questioning his decision now?

Maybe they won't after they read this.

Five Things That Impressed Me About Super Bowl XLV

1. Aaron Rodgers

Who else?

If there's was anyone that still felt that Aaron Rodgers was a home wrecker for forcing Brett Favre out of town, their argument no longer has any merit.

Rodgers threw for 304 yards and three scores, while committing no turnovers and registering a quarterback rating of 111.5

It was as if he knew he had to erase the stigma of following in the footsteps of Favre, and he did so by winning four playoff games on the road, culminating in that Sunday night's brilliant performance.

Now he has as many titles as his predecessor, and from the way he's been playing, he may have only just begun.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Nick Collins finds the end zone as his interception put the Packers up by 11 in the first half.

2. Jordy Nelson

While Nelson's night wasn't perfect because of several dropped passes, he did set the tone for a great offensive night by beating the Steelers' William Gay for a 29-yard touchdown for the first score of the evening.

From there on, Nelson remained a reliable target for Rodgers all night, catching nine passes for 140 yards and the aforementioned score.

Needless to say, he's a lot more well known across the country then he was 24 hours ago.

3. Howard Green

It's likely that Nick Collins's pick-six will be remembered by Packer fans for years to come.

However, it's also likely that the hit by the Packers backup nose tackle that forced the interception will be overlooked in due time.

So, I've decided to give Green the credit he deserves because he able to break free from the clutches of the Pittsburgh offensive line and hit Ben Roethlsberger's arm, forcing the bad throw that Collins took to the end zone.

4. Hines Ward

The Steeler's all time leading receiver was resilient in the defeat, catching seven balls for 78 yards and a touchdown.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Hines Ward second quarter touchdown helped the Steelers gain momentum

But it was his play on the scoring drive that was really impressive.

Ward caught a beautiful Roethlisberger pass in the middle of the field to set up the goal to go situation.

On the next play, he totally fooled the Packers Jarett Bush by making a quick cut back to catch the touchdown pass.

All in all, it was a terrific game for the wily veteran.

5. Antwaan Randle-El

The former Indiana quarterback was a relative afterthought this season in his return to the Steelers from the Redskins, as he only caught 22 passes all season.

Although, last night, Randle-El pitched in for the Steeler offense by catching a key long pass on their first touchdown drive, and running for the two-point conversion that cut the Packer lead to three in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps, they will use this dual threat a little bit more next season.

Five Things That Depressed Me About Super Bowl 45

 1. Rashard Mendenhall

It's too easy for me to say that Ben Roethlisberger was the sole cause of the Steeler defeat last night. He did throw two interceptions, but did not make the costliest play of the game.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Rashard Mendenhall gave a good performance, but his key fourth quarter fumble may have done the Steelers in.

That dubious honor belong to Mendenhall, who with the Steelers trailing by three in the fourth, was stripped by Clay Matthews, thus killing any chance Pittsburgh had of knotting up the game or taking the lead.

It was just an ill-timed play, kind of like Jackie Smith dropping the sure touchdown in Super Bowl XIII.

Hopefully, it won't tarnish an otherwise good performance by Mendenhall.

2. Ben Roethlisberger

Big Ben threw for 263 yards, but his inability to accurately throw long passes, and his bad throw on the Collins interception overshadowed his attempt to lead the black and gold back from what was once a 21-point deficit.

He may feel like he let the entire city of Pittsburgh down, but to pin the loss totally on him would be unfair, as he was not the sole reason that the Steelers lost.

3. Charles Woodson

I know he was on the winning side, but it was unfortunate that Woodson left the game with an injury and did not return when you consider the fact that he was able to penetrate the offensive backfield on several occasions.

It also seemed to me that the Steelers were not able to effectively run the ball until after he left.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Big Ben was good, but not great.

Woodson deserved better because was the catalyst of this terrific Packer defense, as well as the veteran leader who could have done more to keep the Steelers off the scoreboard.

But at least he now has a ring to show that his hard work over the past 13 years has not completely gone all for naught.

4. Troy Polamalu

The NFL defensive player of the year did not record a tackle until the fourth quarter, ineffectively blitzed Rodgers on two occasions, and was the closest defender on both of Greg Jennings's touchdowns.

But he still would have gotten my vote for defensive player of the year. He is one tenacious player.

5. Shawn Suisham

A 52-yard field goal is never a given, even in an indoor facility, but Suisham's 52-yard third quarter field goal attempt was more off target than an amateur at a shooting range.

You could just hear the amazement in Joe Buck's voice as he felt the need to point out that the kick wasn't even close to the crossbar.

Idle Thoughts

1. Anyone who's about to sing in front of 100,000 people and millions others watching on TV has a right to be nervous.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Troy Polamalu did very little to live up to his defensive player of the year billing.

But anyone who considers themselves a true red-blooded American can't forget the words to our National Anthem when they're a professional singer like Christina Augilera did last night.

2. Just when you thought A-Rod couldn't give his haters anymore ammunition to pick on him, the Fox camera catches Cameron Diaz feeding him popcorn. I'm sure he would have ate it himself if he knew the camera was on him.

3. It was nice of Steven Spielberg to lend the Black Eyed Peas ET's spaceship for the halftime show.

4. The commercials last night were the worst batch I've seen in years. I only mildly chuckled at the Darth Vader one and the Best Buy ad with Ozzy Osbourne.

5. Did Troy Aikman really feel the need to use his telastrator to circle John Madden?

Although I got to give Madden credit for knowing how to send to text at his age, even if it was a request to Jerry Jones to send down more food and drink.

6. I read the Sports Illustrated piece on Roger Goodell the other night, and while I do think he's a little bit of an egomaniac for openly fining players and changing the rules on helmet-to-helmet hits in the middle of the season, I do believe that he's a good communicator.

I also think he will listen to both sides concerns in the labor mess, and work diligently to avoid a work stoppage.

Do you think the Packers can repeat as Super Bowl champions next year?

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7. I love the fact that ESPN reported in their magazine that some college recruiters in women's sports feel the need to promote a family atmosphere for their program in fear that a potential recruit will bypass them for a coach who's gay or  lesbian. As if college recruiting isn't corrupt enough.

8. The Celtics are quickly turning into an infirmity.

9. The Hanson brothers would have loved the beginning to the Stars/Bruins game last Thursday night, it was the epitome of old time hockey.

10. Who's the genius who voted for LaGarrette Blount for the league's comeback player of the year? Don't they know he's a rookie?

So ends year four of this column, I appreciate your support.

As in previous years, I must stress that this column may not return in the fall do to time constraints. However, I will continue to write for Bleacher Report as time permits.

Here's to another great NFL season!

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