Grand Finale Fittingly Painful

Charles Woodson and Donald Driver finally have their Super Bowl rings but they had to watch from the sideline on Sunday. Woodson broke his collarbone and Driver had a boot on his left ankle. The joy outweighed the pain for the two proud veterans.

ARLINGTON, Texas – Charles Woodson, choked up with emotion, had a message for his Green Bay Packers teammates in the locker room at halftime: Just win.

"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."

That they did, just as they have all season.

With a league-high 91 games lost by starting players and six starters on injured reserve, the Packers defied logic again and again during their late-season run to Super Bowl XLV. With the heart and soul of the defense, Woodson (broken collarbone), and the heart and soul of the offense, Donald Driver (ankle), sidelined before halftime, the Packers dug deep and beat the powerful Pittsburgh Steelers 31-26 on Sunday night.

"It means a lot," said Woodson, who was thrust into – and then embraced – a leadership role down the stretch. "We've accomplished what every man in the NFL wants to accomplish, and that is to win the Super Bowl trophy. For us, we walk those halls everyday at Lambeau and we've seen all the greats. This is our opportunity to get on the wall so it means a great deal to us."

Woodson said he cried at halftime after seeing the X-rays. The Packers were leading 21-3 when he went down while breaking up a deep pass up the left sideline. Moments later, it was 21-10. Woodson, who has lived and breathed this dream for years, didn't want it to slip away.

"I got out a couple of words, just told them that they know how much it means to me," he said. "All season long, guys have stressed how much they wanted me to win it. Why? I don't know, but they have said it and they said the same thing again today. It means a great deal to me for those guys to come out and, to me, express that, and they finally got it done."

Said Driver: "I was still in the training room. But I heard a bunch of yelling and screaming, so I knew Wood was telling them to go get this thing."

Cullen Jenkins was among the players who said he was inspired by what was said.

"Man, I'll tell you, the message he had for us, it wasn't much but it meant a lot," Jenkins said. "It just really meant a lot."

"There was something in Charles' voice that just touched me," added linebacker Desmond Bishop. "All he could get out was, ‘Man, you don't know how bad I want this.' When he said it, he was choking up. Something about that just inspired me. I grabbed a piece of Wood and I took it with me and I went out there and let it all hang out."

Without Woodson for the second half and Sam Shields for most of the second half, Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush served as the second and third corners. Bush, in particular, had his struggles, but Bush also had an interception that set up a touchdown and they held firm on the Steelers' final drive.

"That's the way it's been the whole year," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "That's one of the most gratifying things about this team. Nobody's used that as an excuse. When guys have gone down, we come in and say, ‘Who's going to go in and play?' Those guys that we've put in have made big-time plays for us."

Driver was injured in the second quarter after being stopped about a foot short of a first down. In the locker room after the game, he was wearing a boot on his left ankle. Driver said the doctors tried to tape his ankle for stability but he couldn't jump on it so he was ruled out, against his wishes. The pain, and the disappointment of being injured in the game he's dreamed of playing in for years, did nothing to lessen his joy after the game.

"It's truly amazing. It's truly, truly a blessing," he said. "This is something I've dreamed of for a long time and it's finally here. When that clock was ticking down, I didn't know what to do. I'm glad that I'm now able to say I am part of history."

Without Driver, Nelson had a career game with nine catches for 140 yards. He opened the scoring with a 29-yard touchdown and set up another with a key 38-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter.

"He stepped up tremendously," Driver said. "The crazy part is, those guys came in there and saw my eyes they told me, ‘We can't cry because you're crying right now.' So, I told them to go out there and win it all. Jordy stepped up when probably no one expected him to do it. He stepped up and filled my shoes and that's the type of guys you have to have on your team. We have great receivers and that's why I love those guys to death."

In a way, the injuries were a fitting ending to a season in which the Packers lost 1,200-yard rusher Ryan Grant in the opener.

"The team has been very resilient," general manager Ted Thompson said. "Obviously, you take (Woodson and Driver) out of the equation in the second half, you kind of start checking your (lineup) card. This team has been that way, that's the reason it's so special. I think they can stand on their own with all the championship teams that have been here."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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