I think the Green Bay Packers have played outstanding and have surpassed everything that I thought they could and would do this year. They have answered every question that I had in the beginning of the year. At the beginning of the year I wondered where the running game would come from and they answered with Ryan Grant, who has emerged as one of the best running backs in the NFL.
The other question I had was about the offensive line. How was it going to adjust to the zone blocking scheme with "Jags" moving on to Boston College? Again they answered that question by throwing the ball until the running game came around.
Another question I had going into training camp was who was going to emerge as the safety next to Nick Collins, and was Collins going to start because he wasn't consistent last year. If you remember I was a fan of Atari Bigby way back in mini camp, but even I didn't see him be that impact player that he has been.
Again for all the questions I had the Packers, as players and coaches, answered all of them by getting to the NFC Championship Game. But is getting to the NFC Championship game enough?
Before this weekend's events I was sure that the Packers would win against the Seattle Seahawks, and they did. To me that would have been good enough. Then if they would have gone to Dallas and lost I would have said, ‘What a good season because nobody expected this team to get this far' and I would have given them an out and a stamp of a successful season. But I can't do that now. The road to Super Bowl XLII goes through the Frozen Tundra, and the Packers are expected to win. Not only has the advantage shifted, but so have my expectations.
Football is a different game; often you have heard me say things like ‘seizes the moment' or ‘taking advantage of the opportunity,' so if you are a Green Bay Packer player or coach this can't slip through the fingers. That's why I say this season has been a success but it can't be successful unless they beat the Giants this weekend.
How are the Packers going to beat the Giants this Sunday?
For the Packers to beat the Giants Mike McCarthy will have to remember that as good as he has been as a coach this game is about the players. His job this week is very simple: Put his playmakers in position to allow their skills and athletic ability to take over. Sometimes coaches out-think themselves and see ghosts, and think that teams figure them out, but they don't.
Mike McCarthy can't out-think himself. He simply has to realize that his team is better than the Giants and play that way. He has to run the ball until the Giants stop them, then when they do by putting too many players in the box, then turn Brett loose by throwing slants - his favorite throws. Of course, they have to neutralize the Giants pass rush and they can do that by getting rid of the ball quickly as well as using play-actions to keep the linebackers guessing, or bootlegs so that Brett gets on the edge. But isn't this the same thing they have done all year long? All Mike McCarthy has to do is coach the same way he has been. It sounds simple, but it really is that simple. The worst thing he could do is take the players out their comfort zone and make them have to think more then they need to. An example of that is when I was with Mike Holmgren. When we would put together RED ZONE plays Mike told the coaches to use as many plays as we could from the current playbook, so that players wouldn't have to think to much at the most crucial times. Mike McCarthy's hardest job this week might be to trust himself. He must use that same philosophy this week against the Giants and keep it simple and just turn his players loose.
The players have to realize that they are the best team and understand that they will get the Giants' best shot. Just like last week, they have to weather the storm and just relax and play. They simply have to let their athletic ability take over and play the game they have played since they were kids, and be patient and just understand that this is their MOMENT OF TRUTH. All they have to do to get to the Super Bowl is play every play like it's their last play.
Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at email@example.com.