Lots of people picked the Packers to make the Super Bowl in the preseason. Those hopes faded as the year wore on, where the injuries mounted and the winnable games were left unfinished. After finishing 10-6 and earning a 6th seed, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Chicago Bears, all on the road. Each win was more surprising than the last, leaving us all with the feeling of "Wait...is this really happening?"
It never truly hit me until today at, say, 2:30PM. The realization that the Packers were in the Super Bowl still seemed like a dream, an ultra-realistic Franchise Mode in Madden. Then, the nerves kicked in, as I realized what the stakes were.
A championship. The championship. All the work from the players, coaches, trainers, management, and support staff was totally geared towards reaching this platform and playing for the ultimate prize. The coin flip is when I started noticing butterflies, at least in myself.
Could they do it? I mean, really? PIttsburgh is the one team that, if you had to pick one, matched up against the Packers the best. They run a similar defense that's designed to force pressure and mistakes in the passing game while bottling up the run game. They have a dynamic passing attack supported by a powerful run game on offense. If anyone could knock the Packers off their hot streak, it was this Pittsburgh Steelers team.
Then, the team scored first on a beautiful Jordy Nelson touchdown, and then jumped out to a then-monumental lead on Nick Collins' electrifying-in-the-moment-but-downright-unbelievable-after-watching-it-seventeen-times interception return, and the feeling of elation started seeping in. Prematurely, of course, as three of our most valuable players (Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, and Donald Driver) left the first half with injuries.
Green Bay kept fighting, and kept extending the lead to just barely enough. Pittsburgh, however, would not relent, and it took an unprecedented stand by Green Bay's secondary scrubs (Pat Lee and...Jarrett Bush?!) to secure the six-point win.
It still didn't feel real, at least not to me. It wasn't until the second kneel-down, where Aaron Rodgers was struggling to organize the offense because all the players were celebrating...as the clock passed below 0:20...then 0:15...all the way down to 0:00.
I was on my knees, my jaw dropped. Never saw it coming. I had written this team off. Don't make that face, you did too, and if you claim that you didn't, then I say you're delusional. No team wins five consecutive must-win games just to get to the Super Bowl, much less comes away victorious (and in such dramatic fashion). But this team did, and now we get to feel something we haven't felt since 1997: complete satisfaction.
I called my dad. I called my best friend. I texted everyone in my address book who had any interest in my reaction to the game. I high-fived the friends I had watched the game with. I hugged my wife so hard that she forgot to be disinterested in the game. I just soaked it all in, which is all you can do. Just savor it.
Savor this victory, friends. You never know when one might come around again. Even if Green Bay goes on to build a dynasty with the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, and Tramon Williams, you never know how long it will be until our team gets another shot. Shoot, with the expiration of the CBA casting the shadow of a lockout over the league for 2011, we might not even have NFL football next year. So savor this now, while it lasts.
As we move into the offseason, basking in the afterglow of a championship win, remember this feeling. It might come next year. It might come next decade. It might. It might not.
But right now, it feels pretty good, wouldn't you say?