Many events that have taken place the past year across the country have been termed as rare, surprising, or unlike anything seen before. For the Green Bay Packers, they hope this weekend’s NFC Championship Game fits some of those descriptions in a positive way after several disappointing results in the past 10 years.
Standing in the way of the team’s hopeful breakthrough are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who humiliated the Packers in the regular season meeting, 38-10. Turnovers loomed large in that game, but have been the difference in wins and losses for both teams throughout the season. Today’s musings examine the records for each team in multi-turnover games this season, but also look at the return to Green Bay for a former Super Bowl winner.
However, today’s musings cannot end without a comparison of two special celebrations in two special seasons of Packers history.
Turnovers, as is usually the case, will be a strong determinant of the game’s outcome
There is nothing shocking about the heading of this section. Turnovers help win ball games. But for the Packers, that is certainly the case, finishing the season with a 1-3 record when losing the turnover battle (the lone win coming against lowly Jacksonville). One of those losses was to Tampa Bay in which the Packers failed to notch a takeaway while Aaron Rodgers tossed two critical interceptions, including a pick-six. The momentum of the game instantly turned on Jamel Dean’s second-quarter defensive score which, along with offensive line mishaps, led to a nosedive that continued into the second half.
On the flip side of the coin are the Buccaneers. While New Orleans is not a slouch, Tampa Bay’s victory came largely as a result of an assist from the Saints and their four turnovers. Still, it says something that the Bucs were only able to win by 10 points despite a plus-four turnover differential. As one would expect with a Tom Brady-led team, Tampa Bay was able to close the game well, scoring 17 points on its final three full possessions. But until late in the second half, the team was extremely vulnerable and could have dug a deep hole if not for some costly head-scratching Drew Brees interceptions and a careless fumble from Jared Cook. In fact, Sean Murphy-Bunting’s near pick-six was eerily similar to Dean’s interception against Green Bay in terms of how quickly Tampa Bay was able to close the gap.
The Packers have been quick starters in many games this year and that was no different in the matchup of these two teams during the regular season. But multi-turnover games have been brutal to Green Bay this season when they have happened and Tampa Bay forced nine of them in the regular season, winning seven of those games as a result.
Signing of Tramon Williams gives Green Bay a memory of Super Bowls past
With the addition of Williams earlier this week, the Packers increased the number to three - three players from Super Bowl XLV on the current team roster. Of course, Williams played an instrumental role in the team’s run to the big dance. His interception against Philadelphia in the final moments of the wildcard game helped seal a road victory, while his pick-six immediately before halftime helped put the Packers in cruise control the very next week in Atlanta. The sheer volume of games played in a green and gold uniform by Williams makes him an important Packer of the past decade and a half, but his crucial turnovers in the Super Bowl run will always be his calling card.
This time around, the game-changing defensive plays will not be expected from Williams, who is on the practice squad at the time of this article. But his ability to potentially help in a reserve role could be a benefit in the event of injuries and his reliable nature as a punt returner could help fairly immediately. If nothing else, Williams’s leadership presence and postseason experience alone could help a lesser experienced secondary during such a pivotal time.
A few weeks back, the Friday musings mentioned some similarities between this season and the previous Super Bowl squad. Adding Williams only furthers that narrative by adding a direct contributor to that championship.
The Championship Belt vs. The Gold
Back in 2010, the championship belt concept took off with Aaron Rodgers and lasted for quite a few years. Rodgers’s hand gesture after touchdowns became an iconic part of the Super Bowl run, capped off by a WWE belt picture with Clay Matthews on the post-game podium. Instantly, a national phenomenon was born and soon the belt gesture would be featured in a popular discount double check commercial.
During this year’s run, the touchdown celebration has moved from a championship belt to gold. Crowning moments between Rodgers and his receivers, shouts of “I Love Gold” from Rodgers himself, and “gold zone” terminology have come to dominate a more team-oriented commemoration of scoring drives. The jury is out on if it is gold or silver, but even Aaron Jones’s “G” chained necklace flashes into cameras after reaching the end zone. As has been described in plenty of articles, the “gold” celebration was derived from the movie “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” a favorite of Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. But the symbol has taken on just as much fun as the belt did back in 2010 and come to be a great representation for the team’s top red zone scoring ranking across the NFL.
Lil Wayne’s most recent rendition of “Green and Yellow” went viral this past week, another repeat from the last Super Bowl chase. But the gold celebration has come to be a good symbol for this particular team’s chemistry that could be remembered for years to come, just like Aaron Rodgers and his championship belt.