Win 10 of them, the Green Bay Packers' coach has said numerous times, and you'll probably get in the playoffs. And once you're in the playoffs, you've got a chance to win the Super Bowl.
The latest example is the Baltimore Ravens, who won the Super Bowl on Sunday after finishing 10-6 in the regular season.
Recent history has shown that home-field advantage and first-round byes mean absolutely nothing. Other than needing the requisite number of wins to get into the playoffs, the regular season has become much adieu about nothing, as well.
The Giants went 9-7 in 2011. The Packers went 10-6 in 2010. The Giants went 10-6 in 2007. The 2006 Colts went 12-4 and the 2005 Steelers went 11-5 but were wild-card teams. Six of the last eight champions spent wild-card weekend on the football field rather than on their couch. Five of the last eight champions were on the road for their conference championship games.
Would the Packers have fared better in the playoffs with the first-round bye that would have been attained with a Week 17 victory at Minnesota or with the win that was taken from them in the infamous Fail Mary game at Seattle? Perhaps, though some defensive discipline against the 49ers would have been infinitely more helpful.
Here's what else we learned:
Momentum: Nothing matters more than momentum. Right? Well, the Ravens turned that theory on its head. With four losses in their final five games entering the postseason, the Ravens couldn't have been any colder had the late Art Modell moved the team to Pluto.
Again, nothing matters more than getting into the playoffs. Everything else can be figured out on the fly.
Numbers that matter: Statistically, the Ravens and Packers were relative equals during the regular season. Green Bay scored 433 points; Baltimore scored 398. Green Bay allowed 336 points; Baltimore allowed 344. Green Bay was plus-7 in turnovers; Baltimore was plus-9.
So, if there's a template to be followed, what is it?
The NFL, for all of its evolution to spread passing games, remains about stopping the run, first and foremost. San Francisco finished fourth in yards allowed per carry (3.7) and Baltimore was eighth (4.0). Green Bay? Way down the list at 26th (4.5).
(As an aside, Green Bay finished 31st by allowing 4.7 yards per attempt in 2010. That doesn't ruin the meaning of the statistic, though. The Packers' run defense slammed the door during the first five games of their six-game run to the championship.)
Stopping the run puts the defense in position to get off the field on third down. The 49ers tied for third in third-down defense (33.0 percent) and Baltimore was seventh (35.8 percent). Green Bay? A so-so 15th (38.1 percent).
Numbers that matter, Part 2: There are two paths to being a dominant defense. One is being flat-out dominant, like San Francisco, which slammed the door on practically every front. The other is being a situationally dominant defense. The Ravens finished 17th in yards allowed but not only were excellent on third down but in the red zone, with a second-ranked touchdown percentage of 43.4. That dominance, of course, was on display in the Super Bowl. The 49ers went just 2-of-9 on third down despite rolling up 468 yards. Plus, they settled for three red-zone field goals and gained but 2 yards when they were 7 yards away from the championship.
The Packers? Well, they weren't dominant on defense (11th in yards) or in the red zone (29th at 61.7 percent). Good just doesn't cut it against very good teams.
3-4 rules: By the way, both Super Bowl teams run the 3-4. In the last three Super Bowls, five of the six teams have run the 3-4. It's probably a good thing that McCarthy kept Dom Capers.
Captain Clutch: Whether the read-option attack is a gimmick or here to stay remains to be seen. What we do know is big games are won by big-time quarterbacks who make clutch plays.
Two years ago, the Steelers had pulled within 28-25 and had the Packers in deep trouble on third-and-10 when Aaron Rodgers threaded a bullet to Greg Jennings between two defenders. The 31-yard gain set up the clinching field goal. Similarly, Baltimore's Joe Flacco made an equally clutch third-down throw. Needing inches for a first down, Flacco audibled and threw a perfect back-shoulder pass to Anquan Boldin against Carlos Rogers' tight coverage. Like Rodgers-to-Jennings, the big completion led to a field goal and forced the 49ers into a touchdown-or-bust drive.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.