By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Favrianist
As Green Bay moves on to the NFC title game with a 42-20 win over Seattle, we offer 10 Cold, Hard Football Facts from the winter parade at Lambeau Field.
1. The Packers are who we thought they were. Green Bay's stats across the board have been fantastic all year, and we've learned that numbers rarely lie. So we've been telling everyone that'd listen that this team was more than just Brett Favre and a bunch of overachieving kids.
Against Seattle, they showed just how tough they were in all aspects of the game, leaving Seattle punch-drunk by the start of the fourth quarter. The infamous Frank Cooney voted Favre MVP because the talent around him wasn't there – on Saturday the Packers blew holes right through his theory.
All three levels of Green Bay's defense were great. The defensive line registered two sacks, the front seven stopped the run (15 carries, 28 yards, 1.9 YPA), and the secondary shut down the pass (5.87 yards per attempt, not figuring for sacks). The Packers held the Seahawks to 3-of-11 on third down.
2. Packers GM Ted Thompson's trade for RB Ryan Grant in preseason gets more amazing by the day. Mike Sando's piece about Thompson's architecture in Green Bay told the story, and Thompson's trade for Grant was a masterpiece. Dealing a 6th-round draft pick for Grant, a guy who's never seen the field and wasn't drafted, has paid huge dividends.
Grant is a hell of a back, if you're into 201-yard rushing performances (a Green Bay postseason record) with three TDs after spotting the other team a 14-point lead just for sport. The fact that Thompson even had his eye on a guy who was a practice-squadder and preseason ace shows you where the organization was ahead of the league in the off-season. And that homegrown defense was fantastic, allowing just 200 yards to Seattle.
3. Brett Favre deserves every second of the media ball-washing coming his way. Maybe we're just a little drunk and feeling sentimental, but all of the praise Brett Favre's gotten in times of mediocrity feels well deserved after watching Saturday's game. He threw 23 passes, in a snowstorm, and COMPLETED 19 OF THEM. With no INTs. Against a Seattle secondary that was one of the best in the league. After his team fell behind 14-0 in the first five minutes of the game.
We almost even felt love for the former Old Yeller, but then we remembered that we have no emotions and turned it into simple admiration. One hell of a performance.
4. Mike Holmgren won't be putting this one high on the career resume. Holmgren is a great coach and perhaps a Hall of Famer in the future, but this one was a clunker. After his team was handed a couple of gifts to take a 14-0 lead, he couldn't figure out a way to slow down the Packers. He lost it at referee Mike Carey at the end of the half, for what we're not sure, and in the second half appeared not to realize it was a playoff game. Down 42-20 and facing a 4th and 1 at his own 39, he ... punted? We hate to go all "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" on you, but that was a pretty spineless punt. Then, with 4th-and-8 in his own end and less than 4:00 left (score still 42-20), he punted again. Sure, getting 23 points in 4 minutes during a snowstorm was a long shot, but don't you have to try? Who cares if the Packers tack on six more points?
5. One Weakest Link showed strength, the other snapped. We identified the left guards for each team, Rob Sims of Seattle and Daryn Colledge of Green Bay, as the least effective starters of the 22 in each uniform – the "Weakest Links."
But Colledge played an incredible game, as many of Green Bay's runs seemed to follow him and left tackle Chad Clifton. The Packers rushed for a franchise record 235 yards (no small feat for the most successful postseason franchise in NFL history), and the Seattle pass rush could do nothing up the middle – an A+ day for the 2nd-year man from Alaska.
Meanwhile Seattle left guard Rob Sims and the rest of the suspect Seattle O-line had a pretty tough outing. The Seahawks were good in pass protection (two Negative Pass Plays allowed), but the 1.8 yards per carry average was indicative of a bad season in the offensive trenches (Seattle finished 23rd in our Offensive Hog Index this year).
6. The Goose rules. If there's a "Tony Siragusa sucks" faction out there, it should disband. Although Siragusa did play the game – and well – he also represents every overweight football fan (sound familiar?) who wants to stand on the sidelines and watch the game with an animal pelt on his head and snow in his eyes, occasionally offering an insightful comment or witty joke. We salute you, Goose.
7. Hog of the game: Green Bay RT Mark Tauscher. Green Bay DT Cullen Jenkins had a sack-and-a-half and clogged the middle nicely, but offensive tackle Tauscher deserves a game ball for his work against Seattle DE Patrick Kerney. Kerney had a hell of a season, but didn't even get near Favre as Tauscher and RG Jason Spitz laid down the law on the right side.
8. Atari Bigby is a liability no more. Doing research on the Weakest Links story, we thought that Bigby was going to be a candidate from the Packers. He committed some costly penalties in high-profile games early in the year, and this was a guy who had been released by Miami and Buffalo early in his career.
But Bigby was actually Defensive Player of the Month in the NFC for December, picking four passes off, and Green Bay's defense showed no holes. Bigby lived up to the Player of the Month honor, with several big hits and a sterling game from the strong safety spot.
9. Bonzo is an ignorant ape. We scoffed at Bonzo the Idiot Monkey's random coin flip in this one (Seattle +8½), and the Cold, Hard Football Facts picked the Packers to cover and win easily by 14 points.
Check, CHFF.
Our painstaking Friday Beer Run analysis moved to 4-1 vs. the spread in the postseason with that one, while Bonzo's successful regular-season method of calling "heads" or "tails" is just 1-4. Ah, a wonderful strike for human excellence.
10. The Packers are the best team in the NFC. There's a lot of analysis to be made between now and next weekend, and if Dallas beats New York the NFC title game will be a classic. But after seeing how this team has performed all season and how they've looked in our Quality Stats, we'll be surprised if the numbers don't point to a Packers return to the main stage.