The feel within Lambeau Field yesterday was palpable.
Without doubt, it had the feel of championship football. It was of course, and it didn’t disappoint.
A stadium record 79,704 hearty soles packed themselves into venerable Lambeau Field to watch a game featuring two iconic teams slugging it out to advance in the Super Bowl Tournament. On this day the better team, The Green Bay Packers, won 26-21.
Big plays dominated coverage the game, however it was a great team effort that sends this team to the NFC title game next weekend in Seattle.
Here’s a look at my first hand observations of the best, worst and most interesting of yesterday’s game.
• Aaron Rodgers in simply the best player in the NFL. His Quarterback rating for the day was 125.4, with an amazing 142.0 in the second half. That rating was his second best in the post season. His tight-quarters laser strike to Richard Rodgers in the north end zone, in what would end up being the winning score, was one of the best of his career. It was obvious his left calf injury was limiting. Even on a bum leg his competitiveness, skill and moxie are evident.
• After a two week rest, veteran free agent pickup Julius Peppers had an outstanding game. One of the most impressive plays of the day came on the Dallas opening drive of the third quarter when All Pro running back DeMarco Murray broke through the line and seemingly had nothing but daylight between him and end zone. Peppers deftly stuck out this hand and dislodged the ball which the Packers recovered. Where would this Packers defense be without Peppers?
• With the exception of Josh Boyd who left the game early but later returned, the Packers appeared to avoid any additional injuries. The Packers will need all-hands next week in Seattle.
• I think I have run out of bad things to say about Brad Jones performance. The Packers dominated the early offense and defense series. Then on the Cowboys second series with a decisive three and out secured, Jones held running back Murray and was flagged for defensive holding. The result was a Dallas first down and ultimately a score. Had he just stuck with coverage on the play the catch would have been far from a first down and would have resulted in a punt. Jones was also guilty of a special team penalty and showed very little positive impact when he did play. Jones and his large contract are wearing out their welcome in Green Bay.
• Tramon Williams tackling was atrocious. The long Dallas TD was a direct result of poor technique. This has been a year-long issue, but was glaring and costly on this day.
• The 15 yard penalty on T.J. Lang with the Packers first and goal. It was admirable that Lang went to the defense of teammate Devante Adams, who endured some rough treatment from the Cowboys after his big catch. Lang simply must have the self-control to avoid this type of costly penalty. Ultimately the Packers scored, however it could have been a disaster.
• Five prominent members of the 1967 Ice Bowl game were on the field and introduced to the crowd in the second half: Donnie Anderson, Chuck Mercein, Jerry Kramer, Dave Robinson and Boyd Dowler. The 1967 heroes delighted the fans by appearing at a pep rally the night before the game.
• Honorary Captains for the game were Super Bowl XXXI champion defensive linemen Sean Jones and Santana Dotson. Dotson was introduced wearing his familiar #71 Packers jersey with sleeves rolled up to the shoulder exposing his bare arms. His machismo an obvious show of oblivion to the cold temps.
• Prior to the December 27 Lions Game the Packers initiated a new theme to fans called “Get Loud Lambeau”. Along with a ‘Get Loud Lambeau’ towel give-away to fans entering the gates, the Diamond Vision board reminded the crowd throughout the game to “Get Loud”. It worked. Not only was the record crowd in full throat, but for the first time in anyone’s memory the crowd was on its collective feet the entire length of both games.
The Packers have been installed as 7 point underdogs for next week’s NFC Title game. This is a far different Packers team than the one that lost to Seattle in week one. It ought to be a great game. Go Pack!——————
Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .