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Packers battle hardened for rematch with 49ers

Posted Dec 29, 2013

Aaron Rodgers’ return makes Packers hot team for the playoffs

CHICAGO—It’s official: The Packers will not be shutting Aaron Rodgers down to play for a higher draft pick.

Nope. In fact, the Packers will be doing just the opposite. They’re going to put him back under center next weekend and play for the Super Bowl.

Go back to Thanksgiving Day, folks. Go back to the Packers’ lopsided loss to the Lions when, with 4:17 to play in the game, the Lions had outgained the Packers 563 yards to 56. Remember that? Did you think then there was any chance the Packers would win the NFC North?

That’s what they did on Sunday, on a jaw-dropping 48-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb on fourth-and-8 with 38 ticks of the Soldier Field clock remaining. The Packers’ 33-28 win capped one of the most thrilling games in Packers history and put an exclamation point to a final-month-of-the-season charge that has every fingernail in Wisconsin bitten down to the nub.

You want it? You’ve got it. Say hello to Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers, who’ll be coming to Lambeau Field next weekend for a cold-weather playoff rematch for which Packers fans have been dreaming since the 49ers hung 579 on the Packers last January.

“We’re in; that’s the important thing,” Rodgers said when asked his opinion of the Packers’ playoff chances. “I think the NFC is wide open,” he added.

The Packers’ chances? They’re good, very good, for one reason: Rodgers is back, baby. He changes everything. Rodgers makes the Packers special.

“It was a special win. There were a lot of opportunities for us to give up. We want to keep this journey going,” he said.

The Packers could’ve given up at halftime of the Atlanta game, trailing 21-10. They rallied to win. The Packers could’ve given up at halftime in Dallas, trailing 26-3. They scored five touchdowns in five second-half possessions to win the game.

One of the most bizarre, zany, unpredictable and inspiring seasons in the storied history of the Green Bay Packers will have Lambeau Field at a fever pitch next weekend. Kaepernick and the 49ers have drawn an assignment no team wants: a hot team at home. Yep, that’s what the Packers are and it’s because of Rodgers.

Team of destiny?

“I feel like a team that just won a division championship,” McCarthy said, electing not to celebrate the win too briskly. After all, the 49ers are a very good team.

“Playoff football is different. I’m thankful we’ve had a chance to play in these types of games. We’ve been playing playoff-like football. We’ll be ready to go,” McCarthy said.

Yes, the Packers are battle hardened. That’s what playing without Rodgers for seven weeks has done to this team. You know the details: Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien, Matt Flynn, the Thanksgiving Day meltdown and a loss last week to Pittsburgh that left McCarthy to give his team the sad news that it had been eliminated from playoff contention. It wasn’t, McCarthy would embarrassingly learn.

After this game, he happily told them they were NFC North champs.

“I got it right this week,” he said.

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