Ted Thompson’s 2014 offseason might go down as one of his best ever, and the players he brought into Green Bay were a huge reason the Packers were able to beat the Dallas Cowboys 26-21 and advance to their first NFC Championship game since 2010.
The headliner was Julius Peppers, and he was the best player on the defensive side of the for the Packers yesterday with Mike Daniels a close second. Peppers came to Green Bay to play these type of games and delivered in a big way. It was a shocking move that was so uncharacteristic of Thompson, but you knew if he was going after a veteran like Peppers that Thompson thought he would make a big impact. He has done that in a big way on the field and in the locker room as a veteran leader getting elected one of six playoff captains.
Peppers made it known from the beginning of the game yesterday he was there to play. Peppers lined up over Dallas guard Ronald Leary in Green Bay’s NASCAR package on third-and-5 on Dallas’ first possession. He toasted Leary off the line and got the sack and fumble of Romo, but Dallas recovered and was forced to punt.
However, that certainly was not Peppers’ biggest play of the day. Green Bay was down 14-10 to Dallas and DeMarco Murray was starting to wear down the Green Bay defense. They needed a big play to wake up the lethargic crowd and offense. Murray got the ball on a stretch play and was about to run through the hole the size of an ocean. All he needed to do to score a touchdown after running through that hole was break the tackle of one safety. Peppers was blocked on the play, but used his freakish long arms to come out of nowhere to knock the ball away from Murray and Datone Jones recovered it.
Thompson’s offseason really paid off from the veterans like Peppers and Letroy Guion to the rookies. Thompson’s rookie class had a marvelous season and that continued in the game yesterday. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix didn’t have his best game, as he took some bad angles in the run game and was one of the culprits on the 38-yard touchdown to Terrance Williams. However, he has had a solid rookie season and looks like a very good safety for years to come.
Other than the snap when Aaron Rodgers was not looking, Corey Linsley was his usual awesome self. The rookie stars from this game though were Davante Adams and Richard Rodgers.
These were the players who needed to step up in the postseason if the Packers wanted to have another shot at the Lombardi Trophy. Adams caught seven balls for 117 yards and one huge touchdown. The Cowboys’ best cover corner Orlando Scandrick was on Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson was doubled a lot of the time, so much like the game against the New England Patriots the matchup dictated this was his game to shine.
Adams was struggling coming into the game with only four catches in the final three games if the regular season, and it looked like more of the same early as he and Rodgers seemed to not be on the same page a few times in the first half. However, Rodgers stayed with the rookie and his confidence in him was rewarded with a big second half from Adams.
Late in the third quarter, the Packers faced a third-and-15 from Dallas’ 46-yard line down 21-13. Conventional wisdom suggested they would just try a pass to get them into long field goal range or a chance to go for it on fourth down. Adams beat Sterling Moore off the line and caught Rodgers’ pass over the middle and juked out safety J.J. Wilcox at about the 20-yard line. He then took it all the way to the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown.
Rodgers looked to Adams again on another big play on a third-and-3 with under three minutes to go and the Packers needing to put the game away. Rodgers threw the back shoulder fastball to Adams a little too far up the field, but Adams made the catch in tight coverage and got up the field for a 26-yard gain.
Richard Rodgers’ selection in the draft came with a lot of scrutiny since most draft analysts considered him a reach. Unlike Adams, Rodgers was coming on at the end of the year and was carrying momentum into the playoffs. Rodgers caught the game winning 13-yard touchdown and it was a bullet in between two defenders that could have easily been dropped if Rodgers lost focus. He didn’t make many plays in this one, but like the New England game he made the big play.
Offseasons like the one Thompson had in 2014 are why he’s one of the best general managers in the NFL, and the Packers are 60 minutes away from playing for a Super Bowl.——————