McCarthy & Co. worthy of Texas trip

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Michael Hunt
Monday, January 24, 2011
— They do not scrutinize Super Bowl credentials just because a third-string Chicago Bears quarterback put together two scoring drives in a NFC Championship Game that had lost some of its title-worthy authority by the second half.

No, here is what they do with them:

They stamp ’em and validate ’em and get together whatever additional transit papers are necessary to enter the Republic of Texas as a legitimate Super Bowl rep because, partner, the Green Bay Packers are all that.

Even if they didn’t wear their Sunday best against their primordial rivals, who happened to lose quarterbacks in pairs, the Packers are a most worthy NFC delegate because when the time again came for them to represent in a fifth consecutive elimination game, they were everything they had been throughout the course of a season that tried every last inch of their elasticity.

So quibble about some of the things that didn’t quite make the 182nd playing of Packers-Bears, for a conference championship, everything that it was billed to be, but the Packers will take and cherish their 21-14 victory because they are going back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1998 as a very dangerous team that just became even more formidable, in spite of it all.

“I’m numb,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I’m just so proud of this football team.

“We always thought we were a very good football team. Now we have a chance to claim greatness and bring the Lombardi Trophy back home.”

That they took the George Halas Trophy at Solider Field says one thing.

That McCarthy has the Packers in the Super Bowl in his fifth season—the same timetable on which Mike Holmgren operated—during a year in which the Packers lost more than a dozen players to injury says quite another.

‘This was the path that was chosen for us, and it has forged a hell of a football team,” McCarthy said.

They were every bit the NFC favorite on that hot summer night when Jermichael Finley declared that the Packers were headed to Dallas, but to do it without their playmaking tight end and so many others brings home that McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson were right about so many things.

They were spot-on correct in 2008 about Aaron Rodgers, whose tackling ability against Brian Urlacher, and not necessarily his $65 million right arm for once, has made the Packers the first sixth-seeded NFC team ever to reach the Super Bowl.

They were right about their ultra-gifted first-round pick last season, because it was B.J. Raji’s interception return that has made the Packers one of just four NFL teams to win three consecutive playoff games on the road.

And they were so right about Sam Shields, the rookie free agent who had two interceptions against the Bears and typified the kind of unknown, unheralded player who stood up time and again for the Packers this season.

I was one of the critics who questioned Thompson at the beginning of the season for not supplementing what had every appearance of an excellent roster with veteran free agents. Even when players began to go down in bunches, Thompson stuck to his plan without yielding to the chorus. He stayed, for example, with James Starks, who had 74 yards rushing against the Bears.

“I can’t say enough about Ted,” McCarthy said. “He built this house.”

I was one of the critics who wondered if McCarthy, who couldn’t seem to win the close games, was a terrific position coach who otherwise could not get the Packers beyond a certain point. And now, they are a game within a world championship.

And if you want to know the difference, why the most acclaimed franchise in NFL history is so close to bringing it home again, start with those two guys and add in a whole lot of intangibles.

“Character,” Rodgers said. “Look at our roster and a number of players who were not with us or were not counted on to play a big role. The biggest difference between last year and this year is our character, and that we believe in each other.”

All the way to Texas.

Last updated: 9:50 am Monday, December 17, 2012

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