Evan Siegle/Green Bay Packers
Micah Hyde celebrates after his interception against the Cowboys.
At this point, it’s safe to toss around a sports-writing cliché and call the 2016 Green Bay Packers a team of destiny. How else can you explain the resurgence of a team that two months ago was 4-6 in the NFC North Division — with fans calling for the forceful removal of head coach Mike McCarthy — and now is one game away from the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl appearance?
The Packers almost needed overtime to beat the Dallas Cowboys in an instant classic on Jan. 15. But kicker Mason Crosby, who already held the NFL record for most consecutive postseason field goals at 21, booted two more from 56 and 51 yards in the final 93 seconds of the game to beat the best team in the NFC, 34-31, and send Green Bay to Atlanta for the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 22.
One could argue that Green Bay wouldn’t still be in the playoffs were it not for a 42-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to wide receiver Randall Cobb in the closing seconds of the first half against the New York Giants the previous weekend. That score put the Packers up 14-3 in an NFC Wild Card game at Lambeau Field and shifted all the momentum toward Green Bay, which easily won, 38-13.
Then there was Rodgers’ bold, even arrogant, claim following a brutal 42-24 loss to the Washington Redskins that his team “can run the table.” At that time, the Packers were two games out of first place.
But Green Bay did “run the table” — and then some — winning the final six games of the regular season and barreling through the playoffs with a refusal to lose. By contrast, in 2014 and 2015, premature exits from the playoffs plagued the Pack, who let victories slip away in overtime.
During the 2016 regular season, the Falcons quietly compiled an 11-5 record and led the league in touchdowns with 63. They also beat the Packers by one point, 33-32, at the Georgia Dome on Oct. 30 — marking the beginning of Green Bay’s four-game midseason skid.
This time, though, Atlanta will have a tough time beating the Packers. Green Bay has put together a championship run that won’t stop until Rodgers hoists the Lombardi Trophy after beating the New England Patriots on Feb. 5 in Super Bowl LI.