Gameday Notebook: Sting Of 2007 Lingers

We clean out our jam-packed notebook in time for today's key game against the Giants with our signature feature of the week. Leading off: Rewinding to a bitterly cold and disappointing day. Plus, Collins' toughness, sacks, third down, dynamic backs and much more.

It was an unforgettable night.

Minus-3, with a wind-chill of minus-24.

A trip to the Super Bowl at stake.

The setting, Lambeau Field, was perfect.

And then it was over. Brett Favre threw an interception in overtime and Lawrence Tynes banged home a 47-yard field goal. Giants 23, Packers 20.

"It was a heartbreaker. A heartbreaker," then-rookie receiver Greg Jennings told Packer Report this week. "I remember them celebrating on our field because they put an end to our season. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. I remember sitting in my locker after the game with all my equipment still on and just absorbing it all in, in shock, like, ‘Wow, this really happened?'

"For me, it was crazy because my parents, nobody came to that game but everybody was booking their flights for Arizona. It was like, ‘We won't come to that game. We'll just go out to Arizona for the Super Bowl.'"

Instead of the King of the Cold, Favre, getting back to the Super Bowl a decade after back-to-back appearances, it was Eli Manning and the Giants who went to Arizona and pulled off a shocking upset of the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl.

"(I remember) trying to go out for warm-ups and it was just me and my receivers two hours before and cutting that short because it was just too cold to be out there at that time," Manning recalled in a conference call with Packers beat reporters on Wednesday.

"Warm-ups, you go out there, it's a little slower paced, and we just kind of sped through it. I think it was good that we got out there and got prepared for how cold it was. I didn't have my handwarmer out there, or I had it out there and I didn't get to put my hands in it because I always had a football in my hands. My hands got pretty numb, and I was having trouble throwing it. The receivers, their hands got cold and they were trying to catch everything with their chest or their body, and I just kind of looked at them and said, ‘Y'all warm?' and they all nodded their heads even though we were about a third of or halfway done with our workout. So, we went back in, warmed back up, and I kind of learned right there, I said, ‘I cannot afford to get cold. I have to sit by the heaters, keep my hands warm at all costs.' Because once your hands get cold, it's hard to get them back warm. That was my No. 1 priority, to stay as warm as possible."

To be sure, Sunday's game isn't about revenge. Still, the Packers would relish a victory that would keep their Super Bowl dreams alive while knocking the Giants to the brink of elimination.

"That's the closest I've been (to the Super Bowl)," Donald Driver said. "I think you get over it because you have to move forward, but it's something that's going to always stick in your mind. Because you think about it and you were that close to getting to where you want to go. I think the guys that were here, we missed that opportunity and we want it back. And we've got an opportunity to get back into the playoffs and that's to win the next two."

One tough customer

Nick Collins' name is probably in ink on coach Mike McCarthy's injury report.


Nick Collins
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Collins injured a knee against Chicago in Week 3 and was limited at practice but listed as probable on the injury report through the bye. After a couple of weeks of being relatively, Collins was limited again but listed as probable entering the Week 13 game against San Francisco because of an ailing shoulder. Collins was off of the injury report last week but is back on it again after being knocked out of last week's game because of injured ribs.

McCarthy expects Collins will be in the starting lineup on Sunday, even after what he called a "minor" setback at Friday's practice.

"He is a tough guy and I know he wants to be out there Sunday," McCarthy said.

Collins missed three game in 2007 with a knee injury but has made 54 consecutive starts, including playoffs.

"I think it says a lot about the individual," McCarthy said. "Certain people can play through more than others. I think it's a big part of this business. You go back to the building stones of your program, and I go back to the first meeting I had with the football team. The availability and the accountability of every individual will be very important in your time here, and we've had a lot of players here that have been available. You talk about Daryn (Colledge), you talk about Nick, the way they fight and scratch to get back on the field. They don't miss games."

It's a testament to Collins, who almost never shies away from contact.

"If I feel like I'm able to play, I'm going to play," he said. "It's not a pride thing. I'm just a competitor. I love this game and I love what I do. That's how I approach every day and I go from there."

Collins' combined total of 13 interceptions in 2008 and 2009 led all NFL safeties. He has just two this season but his playmaking ability was missed against the Patriots.

"Our productivity as a whole was down on Sunday," safeties coach Darren Perry said. "You only get some more opportunities, and any time you take Nick off the field, that potential of making a splash play, big play, diminishes. That's what he does. He's got great ball skills. You take him off the field, that's a guy who's a game-changer. More than anything else, it's his big-play ability."

New York Sack Exchange

Aaron Rodgers, after missing last week's game, didn't want to think about it.

But the Giants' powerful pass rush has inflicted plenty of pain this season. The Giants have knocked five quarterbacks out of games (Carolina's Matt Moore, Chicago's Jay Cutler and Todd Collins, Dallas' Tony Romo and Detroit's Shaun Hill), not to mention putting Minnesota's Tarvaris Jackson on injured reserve.

"That's not something I think about extra," Rodgers said. "I think you've got to give them a lot of credit, the way they've played up front, very talented group. And with us, we start making a game plan, we think a lot about protection. So, we've got to find a way to block those guys up."

Given the Giants' ability to sack the quarterback (42) and the Packers' propensity for allowing sacks (37), this is not a good stat: In games in which Rodgers has been sacked four or more times, the Packers are just 5-9.

While defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck are the headliners with 10 sacks apiece, a total of 14 players have had a hand in the Giants' 42 blitzes. It's an aggressive system under defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

"They have a pretty comprehensive package," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "They're not afraid to blitz man and go empty and bring one more than you have and play true man-to-man in the back, which some teams may not do any of that. They're certainly not afraid to do that. They'll do overload blitzes. They've got a good package there. They stand Tuck and move him around so it causes you some identification issues if you're not alert. They've got a good package and they've got a good four-man rush, as well. They're a lot to handle."

One-two punch

You know about the Giants' two-headed running back monster of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. But here's some perspective:

— With 1,182 rushing yards, Bradshaw has rushed for more yards than all of the Packers' running backs combined (1,093).

— Jacobs has rushed for 727 yards. That's more than the Packers' leading rusher, Brandon Jackson (645).


Ahmad Bradshaw
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Needless to say, Green Bay's defense faces a major challenge this week. The Packers fielded the best run defense in franchise history last season but not so this year, with a No. 19 league ranking with 117.0 yards allowed per game and a scary 4.6 yards allowed per rush. They've been gashed in their last two games to the tune of 5.3 yards per carry.

Nonetheless, this is the type of game the Packers' defense was built to play. Without injured Cullen Jenkins, their base 3-4 defense will feature Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji and Howard Green, who range from 330 to 360 pounds. And when they've needed to stop the run, they've done so, as evidenced by their fourth-ranked six rushing touchdowns allowed this season.

"I like our matchup against these guys," Raji said. "They do some things that I think we do pretty well to counter their attack. It's going to come down to our mentality, our execution on Sunday. Hopefully, we get the job done."

Third-down battle

Here's the battle within the battle: Green Bay's third-down offense against New York's third-down defense.

Not surprisingly considering the Giants' strong pass rush, they lead the league in third-down defense by allowing opponents to convert just 31.1 percent of the time. Only Jacksonville (10-of-16 in Week 12) has even reached 50 percent in a game.

By contrast, after a slow start, the Packers' offense has moved up 20 notches since the Dallas game and now ranks sixth, moving the chains 42.5 percent of the time. Rodgers has been instrumental in that. In his last five games, he has completed 27-of-37 passes for 391 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions, good for a passer rating of 146.5.

Seven points

— Quietly, the so-called "Lambeau Field Mystique" has returned of late. In the Packers' last 10 home games, they're 9-1. Only New England (10-0) is better. To qualify for the playoffs, the Packers will have to win regular-season-closing home games against the Giants and Bears.

— For all the lamenting about the Packers' slow starts, which have been a trouble spot offensively, they've outscored opponents 60-33 in the first quarter.

— Driver needs 127 receiving yards in these last two games to break James Lofton's franchise-record 9,656. Driver has had that back-to-back production only twice this season, with 150 yards against Chicago and Detroit in Weeks 3 and 4 and 147 yards against Detroit and Washington in Weeks 4 and 5.

— Turnovers are always critical, and will be this week with the Giants boasting the most takeaways but also the most giveaways. Crucially, the Giants rank fourth in the NFL with 97 points off of takeaways and the Packers have yielded just 32 points off of their giveaways. Only twice have opponents scored a touchdown off of a Packers turnover, including last week's interception return by the Patriots.

— Raji was born in New York City and went to high school in New Jersey. He grew up a Giants fan and Michael Strahan was his favorite player. "Times have changed. I'm all grown up now. No more Giant fan."

— The Packers hogged the ball for more than 41 minutes against New England. They'll be hard-pressed to do that again. The Giants lead the league in time of possession with 33:14 per game and are 8-3 when they win the battle of the clock. The Packers, however, have a league-high 28 drives consuming five-plus minutes.


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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