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Game Notes: Lang Steps Up When Needed

CHICAGO - It was probably only fitting that in the Packers’ biggest game of the year, a backup player responded when called upon. On Sunday in Chicago, it was tackle T.J. Lang.


On the opening drive of the game, veteran left tackle Chad Clifton sustained a neck stinger on quarterback Aaron Rodgers' 1-yard touchdown run and missed the next three series before returning in the middle of the second quarter.

Taking Clifton's place during that time was the second-year pro Lang, who started a total of three games last season at both tackle spots but had been limited to special-teams duty this season.

"When I first got out there, I was shaking I was so nervous," Lang said. "It was tough. After the first couple of plays I think I kind of settled down a little bit. I think I did some good things but a few things I need to fix as well. It's always tough coming off the bench. Being the sixth guy, you've got to make sure you know all four positions, both guards and both tackles.

"I thought I got in there and did some good things, in the run game especially. My pass protection, I'm going to have to look at the film and try to correct what mistakes I made to let up a few pressures."

On Lang's first snap with the Packers at their own 10, Rodgers handed off to running back James Starks, who took it off left end for a 16-yard pickup.

"The first play I was out there we called a run to my side," Lang said. "I think that showed some confidence, to go out and run behind me on the first play and we got a nice gain out of it.

"I finally started to get into a little bit of a groove and Chad came back in and finished the game. I'm just glad I could get a few plays out there and contribute."

Lang was matched up with Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers for much of his time in the game, with Israel Idonije occasionally flipping with Peppers over to Lang's side. Clifton and Lang didn't give up a sack to Peppers all day, limiting him to just two tackles and a quarterback hit.

Facing the No. 3-ranked run defense in the Bears, Green Bay posted 120 yards on 32 carries (3.8 avg.), with 74 of those coming from Starks on 22 carries (3.4 avg.). Head Coach Mike McCarthy had said leading up to the game that he was hoping to hit the 30-attempt mark as a team, and with the win at Chicago, the Packers are now 8-1 (.889) this season and 27-4 (.871) under McCarthy when they do so.

"James Starks ran the ball real well," Rodgers said. "When he runs the ball like that, it really opens up some of the play-action stuff for us. He's been big the last two weeks.

"I'm not sure how many yards he went for today, but the way he ran the ball was real important for us. When he can bust out those runs – especially when you're backed up there on one of those drives, and he had 16 or 17 yards to start the drive – that's big for us."

Long time coming
No player on the Packers' roster has played in more playoff games than wide receiver Donald Driver, and his 13th one in Dallas in two weeks will be the most special.

"You've got to love this moment," Driver said. "When you play in the league a long time, that's everybody's dream to get to the 'Big Dance.' In '07, I expected to get there and I didn't, and you never know when you are going to get there again. We had an opportunity right in front of us and we took advantage of it."

Fellow receiver Greg Jennings had talked during the week about how badly the other wide receivers wanted to see the 35-year-old Driver get to the Super Bowl.

"I gave him a huge hug when we got in here," Jennings said. "He was tearing up, which he should be. The opportunity, it doesn't come too often. For us to have this opportunity to bring back the Lombardi Trophy, just to compete for it, it says a lot about our team and our resiliency and our ability to fight against adversity."

Kept in check
A priority all week was limiting the impact that Pro Bowl return man Devin Hester had on the game, and the Packers were able to accomplish that goal on Sunday.

Hester recorded just a 5.3-yard average on his three punt returns, with a long of 11 yards. Two of punter Tim Masthay's punts were downed, including one late in the first quarter that was deflected from defensive back Jarrett Bush to cornerback Brandon Underwood at Chicago's 2-yard line.

Masthay finished the afternoon with a 41.8-yard average on eight punts with a 34.5 net average. He placed five punts inside the 20, which tied Craig Hentrich (vs. San Francisco, Jan. 11, 1998) for the single-game franchise playoff record.

Masthay boomed a career-long 65-yard punt at the end of the third quarter, the longest punt in Packers' playoff history. Boyd Dowler previously held the mark with a 64-yard kick vs. the New York Giants on Dec. 31, 1961.

100-yard clubJennings led the offense with 130 yards on eight receptions (16.3 avg), his second 100-yard game of the postseason and the third of his career in the playoffs.

With the three 100-yard games in the postseason, Jennings tied wide receivers Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks for the career franchise mark.

Four of Jennings' receptions on Sunday were at least 20 yards, and he now has 239 receiving yards in this year's playoffs. That ranks No. 3 in team annals for a single postseason behind Freeman's 308 in 1997 and Brooks' 281 in 1995.

Road warriorsWith the win at Chicago on Sunday, their third straight road victory this postseason, the Packers became the first No. 6 seed in the NFC to advance to the Super Bowl since the league moved to a 12-team playoff format in 1990.

The only other team in the NFL to advance to the Super Bowl as a No. 6 seed was the franchise the Packers will see in Dallas in two weeks. The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers won three consecutive road games as the No. 6 seed in the AFC to advance to Super Bowl XL, where they beat Seattle.

Super Bowl XLV will be a matchup of the two teams with the highest postseason winning percentages in league annals. Green Bay ranks No. 1 among NFL teams with a 28-16 mark (.636) in the playoffs, while Pittsburgh is right behind with a 33-19 record (.635).

Dual threatRodgers had another productive day on the ground, finishing with 39 yards on seven carries (5.6 avg.), with the big gain coming in the second quarter.

Rodgers' 25-yard run down the left sideline was the longest by a Packers quarterback in the postseason since Irv Comp's 27-yarder at the Giants in the NFL Championship Game on Dec. 17, 1944.

Injury/participation updateOther than Clifton, Jennings (knee) and linebacker Erik Walden (ankle) were the only other injuries reported from Sunday's game.

Jennings bruised his knee on a 21-yard reception late in the first quarter, but only missed a few plays before returning.

Walden sustained his injury in the third quarter and did not return. First-year man Robert Francois took over for Walden at right outside linebacker.

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