Adversity (ad-VUR-sit-ee) Noun: adverse fortune or fate, a condition marked by misfortune, calamity or distress.
If there's one word to sum up this incredible season of the Green Bay Packers, that's it. The Pack has overcome it all to reach Super Bowl 45 by beating the Chicago Bears 21-14 at Solider Field to claim the NFC Championship. It was a dramatic day against their legendary rival, meeting for the 182nd time and just the second post-season matchup. The Packers have become the first sixth seed in the NFC to reach the Super Bowl and they did it by beating three straight regular season division champions on the road after winning their final two regular season games just to qualify. They will meet the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas in two weeks for the Vince Lombardi trophy. Pittsburgh advanced to it's record tying 8th Super Bowl by holding off the New York Jets 24-19 after leading 24-0 in the second quarter.
The skies were sunny but there was a chill in the air at kickoff, 20 degrees and a wind chill of 7. The offense picked up right where they left off in Atlanta, driving 84 yards in 7 plays on the game's opening series to take a 7-0 lead. Aaron Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for 26 and 22 yards on the first two snaps and it was Rodgers who capped the drive with a one yard bootleg around left end, just reaching the pylon for the score. Even though they failed to sustain subsequent drives, they played for field position with punts pinning the Bears at their 16 and 2 yard lines to end the opening quarter. Completions of 16 yards to Brandon Jackson and 15 to Jordy Nelson set up James Starks four yard touchdown run and a 14-0 lead with 11:13 to play in the first half. Late in the quarter, Green Bay moved into Chicago territory again but a short pass bounced off Donald Driver's shoetop and was picked off by Lance Briggs at the Chicago 42. Two plays later, Jay Cutler tried to go deep to Johnny Knox but rookie free agent Sam Shields made a leaping interception at the three yard line. Cutler opened the third quarter but lasted only one series, his day would be finished by a knee injury. Green Bay moved from it's 17 to the Chicago 6 where on third and goal, Rodgers threw a horrible pass into the hands of Brian Urlacher who had a chance to go the length of the field for a touchdown but was tripped up by Rodgers after a 39 yard runback. Both defenses were digging in now and after backup Todd Collins failed to pick up a first down on two straight posessions, the Bears turned to third stringer Caleb Hanie, a third year pro out of Colorado State who had a total of 8 NFL passes to his credit. But give Hanie credit, he moved the Bears offense, a 32 yard completion to Knox put the ball at the one and Chester Taylor scored from there cutting Green Bay's lead in half. After an exchange of punts again had Chicago deep in their end, Hanie made the big mistake. The Packers dropped a zone blitz on the young QB and when he tried to hit Matt Forte on a crossing route, nose tackle B.J. Raji snared the pass and lumbered 18 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-7 Packers with 6:04 left in the game. Hanie answered immediately, using only 4 snaps to cover 60 yards, hitting Earl Bennett on a 35 yard touchdown pass with 4:53 to play. The Packers couldn't move and Chicago had one last chance to tie. Hanie converted a third and 9 and 4th and one and drove the Bears to the Green Bay 29. On 4th and five, Hanie's deep ball over the middle was swiped by Shields, his second pick of the game and he brough it back 32 yards to allow Rodgers to take a knee and salt away the Pack's first NFC title since 1997. Statistically, the Packers had the edge in yards (356-301), first downs (23-17) and in time of posession (34:04-25:56) but the offense managed just 104 yards in the second half and turned the ball over twice. Rodgers finished 17 of 30 for 244 yards and the two picks for a passer rating of 55.4. The three Chicago quarterbacks had a combined passer rating of only 45.2. Greg Jennings caught 8 passes for 130 yards, James Starks ran 22 times for 74 yards. Forte was the big weapon for Chicago, rushing for 70 and catching 10 passes for 90 more. The special teams were outstanding, Tim Masthay punted 8 times with 5 downed inside the 20 and Devin Hester managed only 16 yards on three punt returns. Chad Clifton suffered a neck stinger on Rodgers' touchdown run and T.J. Lang had to step in at left tackle until Clifton returned in the 4th quarter. Just another example of the Packers dealing with adversity and overcoming, it's been the story of this Super Bowl season.
Here's a collection of post-game locker room quotes from the Packers.