Pack prevail despite key injuries
Charles Woodson's collarbone was broken and his voice was about to crack, too. The speech was going to be short.
Standing in the middle of the Green Bay Packers' locker room at halftime, Woodson knew he wouldn't be able to get back on the field to pursue the Super Bowl win he'd wanted his entire career. So he tried to tell his teammates how much winning meant to him, and push them to go out and get it without him.
"I could barely get it out," Woodson said. "The emotions were running high. I was very, very angry at the fact that I couldn't go out there and play any longer. I was able to get out that they knew, or understood, what this moment meant to me and just go out and fight. And they did."
As if being without their defensive cornerstone wasn't enough, the Packers' wide receivers couldn't seem to hold onto the ball. Veteran Donald Driver was also out with an injury to his left ankle.
Somehow, they found a way to win the Super Bowl.
Green Bay's 31-25 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night was a fitting end to the season for a team that found a way to get there despite having 16 players, including six starters, on injured reserve.
"It was the great resolve of our football team," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We had some practice with some guys going down and other players stepping up. It was a very emotional halftime for our football team. We had some bumps in the third quarter but just a tremendous effort and Coach Lombardi's trophy is finally going back home."
Surrounded by reporters in the locker room after the game, Woodson had a sling over his left arm, but that wasn't stopping him from cradling the Lombardi Trophy in his arms.
Woodson joked that holding the trophy made it feel better.
"I played through a lot [of injuries] in my time," Woodson said. "This one wasn't going to happen."
With Woodson sidelined, Clay Matthews forced a critical fumble at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Teammate Ryan Pickett said Matthews recognized the play, called it out and told Pickett to make an adjustment on the fly.
Making up for dropped passes
Then Jordy Nelson made up for some dropped passes by putting the Packers in position to score with a big catch, and Greg Jennings caught what would end up being the decisive touchdown.
The Steelers came back with a touchdown and two-point conversion to cut the lead to 28-25, but Aaron Rodgers' big plays to Jennings and James Jones allowed the Packers to kick a field goal. The Steelers couldn't rally in the final two minutes, and the Packers held on to win.
"That's pretty much the definition of who we are," Jennings said. "We're an adversity-hurdling team. We show a lot of resolve once again today, losing our head captain and losing Drive. But they were still emotional leaders."
Things weren't looking so good in the third quarter, when the game seemed to be slipping away from Green Bay.
The Packers were leading 21-10 at halftime, but would their defence be able to hold without Woodson? And could Rodgers give the defence some breathing room without Driver?
"My receiver group came in there and told me they were going to win it for me," said Driver, wearing a big walking boot on his left ankle. "And I told my guys, 'Go out there and make the plays."'
Jones bobbled what could have become an easy touchdown on the Packers' first possession of the second half — another critical drop for the talented but inconsistent receiver. Nelson made a nice catch for a 29-yard touchdown for the Packers in the first quarter, but he also had a couple of critical dropped passes.
"You stay around long enough, you're going to drop another one," Driver said. "I told my guys when they got to the sideline, just make a play. All this will stop if you go out and make plays."
They did, and so did the defence. Now the Packers are champions.
"Got to give credit to our defence," Rodgers said. "This is a great group of men that we put together here, a lot of character, been through a lot together. It's just great to be able to share it with them."