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Green Bay Packers: Super Bowl Champions

“I have been wounded but not yet slain. I shall lie here and bleed awhile. Then I shall rise and fight again. The title of champion may from time to time fall to others more than ourselves. But the heart, the spirit and the soul of champions remains in Green Bay”

There’s something very enchanting about the Green Bay Packers. Perhaps it is their first two Super Bowl wins. Perhaps it is their association with Vince Lombardi, a pioneer and an inspiration, his name now adorns the trophy that the Super Bowl winners are awarded. Perhaps it is Lambeau Field, a stadium with a rich heritage, always packed to the rafters.

But rather than harking back to the glory days, the current crop of Packers have much to celebrate after overcoming the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV.

Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant went down early in the year

What was most remarkable about the Packers winning it all this year was the sheer number of injuries they incurred. In total, 15 players were placed on the injured reserve list, a staggering figure.

Injuries are a part of the NFL, there’s no getting away from that. But the Packers more than most suffered this season and it’s what makes their accomplishment even more remarkable.

The Packers roster revelled in the next man up principle, meaning injuries were rarely felt in the way they could easily have been. Michael Lombardi said on NFL Network that (with the exception of Jermichael Finley):

“The one thing about this Packer team every injury they had, the player that stepped up actually might have played better than the one who got injured”.

The loss of Finley and running back Ryan Grant early on threatened to derail the Packers’ post-season aspirations. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers stated after the Super Bowl victory that this team would be considerably stronger when Finley returned. Finley is widely respected throughout the league and considered by many to be the best tight end out there.

Taking away two of the biggest offensive weapons had limited impact on the Packers. Although Aaron Rodgers missed a small part of the season he was to remain fit when it mattered and with the wealth of talent at his disposal, Green Bay never faltered.

Crucially they also kept a steady offensive line to protect their most valuable asset.  The bookends of Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga were particularly important. Bulaga had a terrific rookie season and Clifton, who was sorely missed last year, earned a Pro Bowl call up.

On defense too the whole roster got a work out with a number of injuries hampering the Packers. Aaron Kampman departed this off-season and so the Packers won’t have been pleased that the linebacking core was depleted further with Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga, Brandon Chillar and Spencer Havner all ending the season on IR.

In the Super Bowl, the Steelers’ experience far outweighed the Packers’, so to lose a veteran of the calibre of Charles Woodson was devastating to Green Bay. But just like they had done all year, they persevered.

Young stars Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji impressed on defense

The truth strength of the Packers cannot be attributed to a single player on that roster. In every part of the game, the Packers excelled and with a depleted roster, there can be little doubt that the thing which set them apart from every other team was their strength in depth.

Their defense was the second best in overall points conceded (interestingly enough, the Steelers were the best) and fifth in yards per game. They were second in sacks, interceptions and touchdowns.  

On offense, they ranked ninth in total yards, fifth in passing yards, fourth in passing touchdowns and eighth in third down conversions. They were continually lauded through the off-season for their red-zone conversion percentage, even more impressive considering their first choice running back and tight end were sidelined.

And little was made of the fact that they did it all on the road. They demolished the Falcons who have been virtually untouchable at the Georgia Dome under Matt Ryan’s stewardship. They ran all over the Eagles with an unknown rookie running back and they held on against a resolute Bears defense.

So if we take into account their strengths across the board, if we consider the multitude of injuries they’ve had to contend with and if we acknowledge that their on-field chief and current Super Bowl MVP may be the most in-form player in the league right now, the future looks very bright for the Packers.

The average age of their roster (25.88 years) is below the league’s average (26.04) and it speaks volumes that their better performers this post-season Clay Matthews (24), B.J. Raji (24), Tramon Williams (27), James Starks (24) and Aaron Rodgers (27) have plenty more years left in the tank.

Don’t bet against the Packers repeating.

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