Players believing and improving

Now that I've had a chance to digest that disappointing loss to the St. Louis Rams, I'm ready to face the reality that this indeed was a very successful season for the Green Bay Packers. There were so many positives to be gained from the 2001 campaign. Remember this team had not been in the playoffs recently and seemed to lack that killer instinct.<p>

Let's start with a young offensive line that proved to be the best unit throughout the year week in and week out. This unit made every adjustment imaginable along with William Henderson that allowed Brett Favre and Ahman Green to have Pro Bowl seasons. They played solid ball all year and experienced a lot together, especially playing on the road in loud arenas. This seems to be a very together group that will only get better.

The receiving corp, which I had some reservations about at the start of the year, seemed to step it up and show some promise and give us hope on what to expect next season along with maybe a key acquisition. This unit needed to play well. With Green having an All-Pro year, every defensive coordinator concentrated on stopping the run and they showed heart and tenacity in key third-down situations with some great catches.

When you talk about fearless, Antonio Freeman is the man. "Free" ended the season like the "Free" of old, catching passes in a crowd and most of all taking the big hit. He not only showed courage but leadership both on and off the field as well as in the community. He's back, back with the Pack …. I hope so.

The defense is where the Packers also get a lot of cheers. This unit played through injuries to key players (LeRoy Butler, Antuan Edwards, Nate Wayne, John Thierry, Gilbert Brown), adversities (Chris Akins situation) and personnel adjustments all year and they never complained. Not once. With all the media you think someone might let it slip that "if we had so and so" line. Never happened. They just trusted the scheme and who was playing next to them on game day and played the game of football. After all it's about hitting and tackling.

You want to talk about adversity? How about not getting the performance out the most accurate kicker in the league, or worse, not having an offensive weapon in your return game. This team found a way to get through all of this. Ryan Longwell found his groove and the "Horse" Dorsey Levens at least picked up the kickoff return game a bit. You saw against the Rams what a healthy Allen Rossum can do. He returned a kickoff 95 yards that was nullified because of a penalty. He had the game-winning touchdown with a punt return against Tampa Bay in early November.

So, who gets the credit here? We're talking about creating team chemistry, which seemed to be lacking in recent years. Develop an attitude of making winning a habit. It looks like the coaching staff gets the kudos. Their job is to assemble the best athletes on the field and to have the best winning combination. To do that you have to have players around you that believe your system. That they did.

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