ATLANTA—They overcame the league's worst rash of injuries last season to win the Super Bowl. This season, they've twice overcome early deficits to rally for wins. They are more than Green Bay's team. These Packers are also adversity's team.
"To me, that is clearly the most important characteristic of our football team that we have accomplished so far. That's what we talked about at halftime. We talked about adversity football. We're building something special here," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following his team's 25-14, come-from-behind win over the Falcons.
The Packers' adversity on this night inside the Georgia Dome was a two-touchdown deficit after just two offensive possessions by the Falcons. The Falcons were pounding them with a power running game. The first drive went 80 yards in 13 plays; the second drive traveled 60 yards in 10 plays.
Michael Turner pounded and ripped at the Packers' midsection with runs of six, 15, four, six, seven yards and, finally, a one-yard plunge that flattened two Packers defenders and finished with Turner barreling into the end zone to the delight of a howling Georgia Dome crowd. At 14-0, there weren't a lot of Packers fans thinking about an undefeated season.
Only five plays later, the Packers' adversity worsened when left tackle Chad Clifton left the game with a hamstring injury that ended his participation and introduced first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod to the violent world of the NFL. As you would expect, the kid quickly whiffed on a block.
Slowly, though, the tide began to turn. Led by Aaron Rodgers and despite a flurry of dropped passes, one at the goal line by tight end Jermichael Finley on a perfectly-thrown pass, the Packers began to seize control of the game.
Seriously, did it surprise you?
"It's about winning. That's the bottom line. We've got better football to offer," McCarthy said.
How much better does it get than being able to win in a hostile environment against a team that had circled this game in its heart, if not on its schedule, and to have done so with a rather comfortable margin at game's end? This was not some donkey the Packers were shutting out over the game's final 42 minutes and 29 seconds. This was an Atlanta team that had lost only three times all last season.
"It lets you know we have a team that shows a lot of poise. Nobody panicked. We thought we gave them two early scores. We felt if we stopped these guys the rest of the way, our offense would put up points," cornerback Charles Woodson said.
Of course, it would. There was no doubt.
One man makes that mindset possible: Rodgers. He gives the Packers an advantage only a few teams in the league enjoy. The Patriots have long enjoyed that advantage with Tom Brady. The Packers have it with Rodgers and it's the very best thing about the Packers franchise because Rodgers is just coming into his prime years.
There was no panic because Rodgers is the Packers' quarterback. There was no panic because Rodgers moves the football as no other quarterback in the league is doing these days. There was no panic because the Packers knew they were going to win. They did. You did, too.
Rodgers was so good, again, that he was able to reverse a lopsided time-of-possession advantage for the Falcons and finish the game with a six-minute and 22-second advantage for the Packers. The Packers converted nine of 15 third-down attempts and had the Packers not gone into run-out-the-clock mode late in the game, Rodgers would've likely set a personal-best yards-passing mark for the second consecutive week.
Is there any chance the guy has another level or two left in him? This is starting to get a little scary, in a good way, of course.
"It's clear the type of talent Aaron has. It always seems that he gets us into the right plays. He can make a lot of good things happen. There was no sense of panic from him. He's definitely a special guy to play with," guard T.J. Lang said.
"We have a lot of confidence. We expect to win when we take the field," Rodgers said.
They expect to win because they have a lot of quarterback. Additional coverage - Packers vs. Falcons