Composed, smart and confident

Young Packers continue to show that they are mature in many ways, says PackerReport.com's Matt Tevsh

This Packers' season has defied conventional football wisdom, so it should come as no surprise that the myth-busting theme has rolled into the post-season.

Facing a major disadvantage to the Seahawks in playoff experience, and on the scoreboard early in Saturday's NFC divisional playoff game, the Packers did what they have done all year. They answered the call against the odds.

Two Ryan Grant fumbles in the first quarter which led to a 14-0 Seahawks lead at the 10:59 mark could have easily crushed the young Packers, but instead it merely provided drama for one of the most exciting halves of playoff football in recent memory.

The Packers scored touchdowns on their next six drives to reverse the game's flow and prove that they were the better team. As a result, they sent the Seahawks home with a 42-20 loss amidst a snowy Lambeau Field setting worthy of a slice of Americana as maybe Norman Rockwell could capture.

Next up for the beyond-their-years Packers is the NFC Championship game against either the Cowboys or Giants who face each other on Sunday afternoon at Texas Stadium.

"Everybody wants to talk about inexperience, but we're a confident football team. You could see that throughout the year," said Packers' head coach Mike McCarthy. "They believe that they're going to win the Super Bowl and this is the first step. The second step is the NFC Championship. That's our focus. They do a great job staying with our plan and focused throughout the week."

This Packers' team would not appear built, based on their limited years, to respond to such early adversity against the Seahawks like they did. Heck, even a veteran team may have been wondering if the football gods were against them after nearly being knocked out from two early touchdowns by the opposition.

The Packers, though, never panicked.

"After they jumped out on us 14-0, we had to keep our composure," said linebacker Nick Barnett. "We knew that it was a long game ahead of us. It was in the first quarter. Lucky it was right in the first quarter early that we knew that we knew could keep our composure and keep battling through, and it turned out the way it did. We didn't expect it to turn out like that but it did."

Really, only a handful of Packers on this year's roster have had significant playoff experience. Besides quarterback Brett Favre (20 games), long snapper Rob Davis (10 games), and cornerbacks Al Harris (10 games) and Charles Woodson (seven games), the Packers were overmatched on paper by the Seahawks, who have been in the playoffs the last five seasons. The Packers last played in the playoffs when Mike Sherman was their head coach, so with a bye in the first round this year, McCarthy was a rookie to the post-season as a head coach as well.

The Packers downplayed their lack of experience in the two weeks leading up to the game, however, sending a sign that they seem to possess some intangibles which makes them a tough team to beat.

"I really wasn't worried about (the lack of experience) because it's really something I can't control," said McCarthy. "Our guys weren't going to grow up any faster during the week and that's really the approach we took. I didn't even address it with the football team. We are who we are. We're here for a reason. We're a good football team that continues to improve and I think we put our best foot forward today, and that's what you need to do in the playoffs."

Saturday's disastrous start was something uncommon to the Packers this year since they really have played with the lead in most of their games. Through 16 games, they led for 535 minutes and 51 seconds and trailed in just 188 minutes and 12 seconds. In only two of those games, at Dallas and at Chicago, did the Packers trail for the majority of the game.

So falling behind to the Seahawks was not only a shock in the way that it happened, but that it even happened at all. For all the myths the Packers have busted throughout the year – winning early in the season without a running game, winning with an "aging" quarterback, and continuing to win with the NFL's youngest team - this was a challenge they had not seen.

"Nobody on this team has any fear," said fullback John Kuhn. "Being down 14-0, not one guy panicked. And being a young team and not one guy panic, I think that says a lot about the guys' character and courage on this team."

Added 10-year veteran Woodson of his team's youth: "These guys are just happy to be on the field. They're happy to be playing. Everybody's gone through a struggle to get to this position and to be on the field. All these young guys have had to battle to get here ... and the guys are playing a lot smarter."

The Packers are wise beyond their years. Young teams should not be this smart – or this good. Usually that is reserved for championship teams, which is what the Packers are now one step closer to being.


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