Packers win Super Bowl, bring Lombardi home


Packers win Super Bowl, bring Lombardi home

Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011
Posted 9:19 p.m. Updated 9:59 p.m.

Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas - Forget Lombardi on Broadway. Green Bay has the newest Super Bowl hit: Aaron Rodgers.

Capping one of the greatest postseasons for any quarterback, Rodgers led the Packers to their first NFL championship in 14 years Sunday, 31-25 over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers reclaimed the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named for their legendary coach who won the first two Super Bowls and is making his own star turn in New York these days in the play named after him.

Rodgers, the game's MVP, thrilled his legion of Cheesehead fans with a spectacular six-game string that should finally erase the bitterness of the Brett Favre separation in Green Bay. He's now equal with Favre in Super Bowl wins, and he extended the Packers' record of NFL titles to 13, nine before the Super Bowl era.

"It's what I dreamt about as a little kid watching Joe Montana and Steve Young," Rodgers said, "and we just won the Super Bowl."

The Packers QB threw for three touchdowns, two to Greg Jennings, and the Packers (14-6) overcame even more injuries, building a 21-3 lead, then hanging on to become the second No. 6 seed to win the championship. Coincidentally, the 2005 Steelers were the other.

Rodgers threw for 304 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson, who had nine catches for 140 yards to make up for three big drops. Rodgers found Jennings, normally his favorite target, for 21- and 8-yard scores.

"Wow! It's a great day to be great, baby," Jennings said.

Then the Packers held on as Pittsburgh (14-5) stormed back.

"We've been a team that's overcome adversity all year," Jennings said. "Our head captain (Charles Woodson) goes down, emotional in the locker room. Our No. 1 receiver (Donald Driver) goes down, more emotions are going, flying in the locker room. But we find a way to bottle it up and exert it all out here on the field."

Few teams have been as resourceful as these Packers, who couldn't wait to touch the trophy honoring their coach - and their title. Several of them kissed it as Roger Staubach walked through a line of green and gold.

"Vince Lombardi is coming back to Green Bay," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said as the silver prize was handed to the team.

After sitting for three seasons, Rodgers took the Packers to two late-season victories just to make the playoffs as a wild card. Then he guided them to wins at Philadelphia, Atlanta and archrival Chicago before his biggest achievement - against a Pittsburgh team ranked second in defense.

They barely survived a sensational rally by the Steelers, who still own the most Super Bowl rings with six in eight tries. But Pittsburgh failed to get its third championship in six years with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Roethlisberger's season began with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. It ended with Roethlisberger standing on the Pittsburgh sideline, his head hung, hands on his hips, feeling something he never experienced: defeat in a Super Bowl.

Not even a decidedly black-and-gold crowd, with Terrible Towels swirling throughout the 1.2 billion stadium, could make a difference for the mistake-prone Steelers. Their two biggest defensive stars - Defensive Player of the Year safety Troy Polamalu and outside linebacker James Harrison - were virtually invisible. The offense didn't seem to miss outstanding rookie center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle injury), but Roethlisberger only occasionally made key plays until the second half.

The biggest plays were left to Rodgers, Nick Collins with a 37-yard interception return for a TD, Jennings, Nelson, and the rest of the guys in green and gold. They gave coach Mike McCarthy, who grew up in Pittsburgh rooting for the Steel Curtain, something Lombardi got in the first two Super Bowls, and Mike Holmgren won in 1997 with Favre.

"This is a great group of men here, a lot of character," Rodgers said. "We went through a lot together."

Even on Sunday, they did. Woodson went out late in the first half with a collarbone injury, a few plays after Driver was sidelined with an ankle problem.

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Vikings handling of Sam Bradford offers object lesson for Bears transition to next QB

Vikings handling of Sam Bradford offers object lesson for Bears transition to next QB

Call it variations on a theme. The Bears on Monday night will face not only the Minnesota Vikings, but also Sam Bradford, the latest quarterback opponent that hints at possibilities in the Bears’ own future far beyond what was once the norm.

That norm is what can reasonably be expected from a new quarterback, one coming into a new system, new environment, even a new league, and having near-immediate success. Quarterback changes can involve upheaval of staff, personnel and even franchise identity, as the Bears can confirm based on their last eight years with Jay Cutler.

The experiences in Dallas, Minnesota and Philadelphia point to the kinds of quarterback transitions the Bears may be in search of after the 2016 season.

Bradford arrived in Minnesota via trade just eight days before the season opener, yet has proceeded to post the best results of his career: for completion percentage (67.5), interception percentage (0.6 percent; 7 TD’s vs. 1 INT), yards per attempt (7.4) and rating (100.3, vs. a previous best of 90.9).

More important, without the Vikings’ starting left tackle (Matt Kalil) and running back (Adrian Peterson), Bradford has the Vikings leading the NFC North and tied for the NFC lead at 5-1.

“[The Vikings] had the misfortune of losing their quarterback, they go out and make a bold move to get him and they haven’t missed a beat offensively,” said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “He’s been getting better and better.”

This all holds particular relevance for the Bears, who saw Brian Hoyer step in and deliver four straight 300-yard passing games, something he’d never done in his career and no quarterback in Bears franchise history had done. Cutler’s personal best was two straight, for purposes of comparison.

The Bears are expected to have a new quarterback in some form or other next year. In the meantime they have been victimized by two rookie quarterbacks already this season (Carson Wentz, Philadelphia, and Dak Prescott, Dallas). The experience of Bradford, Prescott and Wentz, all new in 2017 to their situations, suggests chances of dramatic improvement over the Bears’ recent history with Cutler, for example.

“A good quarterback can influence the guys and make guys around him better,” Wentz said. “So it’s one of those things where the quarterback usually gets too much credit and too much of the blame as well. It’s just kind of the nature of the position.”

Prescott and Wentz were 2016 draft choices and had offseasons and training camps with their respective teams. Bradford had none of that, yet began his year throwing 130 passes without an interception.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

How that happens may be illustrative for the 2017 Bears. The Vikings traded for Bradford, a one-time starter for the Rams and Eagles. But because of the late-offseason timing of the deal, necessitated by the season-ending leg injury for Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Bradford had to be eased into the new offense.

“I think that’s honestly one of the bonuses of coming during the regular season,” Bradford said on Thursday. “Obviously it would’ve been nice to have some practices in training camp. But once you get into the regular season, it’s not like you have the whole playbook in each game plan. Each game plan is very specific for that week’s opponent, so it’s considerably less than would be in your training-camp installs.

“So I think that helped a little bit. But as far as it being cut down, the volume wasn’t so much cut down as how the plays were called, naming some concepts with some things I was familiar with. That really helped me.”

Bears Talk Podcast: Jay Cutler returns against one of NFL's best defenses


Bears Talk Podcast: Jay Cutler returns against one of NFL's best defenses

Jim Miller joins Pat Boyle as they discuss the return of Jay Cutler as he gets ready to face one of the toughest defense’s in football. Plus, the key to a Bears win on Halloween night.

Listen to the latest Bears Talk Podcast here: