At 4-6, Green Bay’s season seemed over. Eight straight wins later, however, the Packers are one win away from the Super Bowl.
What changed, you ask? It’s simple: The Packers have overcome injuries better than any team in football.
“When I look back at the Packers’ last four seasons, it’s always been injuries,” former Green Bay receiver Antonio Freeman said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “This year, it was no different. You start off losing Eddie Lacy. Then you lose his backup, James Starks. Then you’re making a trade for Knile Davis in the middle of the season. That doesn’t work out. Then comes Ty Montgomery, a guy that was inserted, looking forward to the opportunity, and turned out to be just what the Packers needed.”
Montgomery, 23, rushed for 457 yards and three touchdowns and caught 44 balls for 348 yards this year, with most of that damage coming after Week 6. Montgomery has been solid in the postseason as well, rushing 22 times for 74 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and two touchdowns, while also hauling in nine receptions for 75 yards,
“Then they’re able to go out and get Christine Michael as a reserve backup as well,” Freeman said. “So overcoming injuries – this team has overcome injuries as (well) as any team in the league, and now you look at Jordy Nelson being injured. Last week, having to go on the road in a huge game against Dallas, and now you’re relying on young guys like Geronimo Alison, Randall Cobb, and it just shows. A new guy just shows up.”
Allison and Cobb combined for 10 catches for 106 yards in Green Bay’s 34-31 over Dallas on Sunday. Jared Cook, meanwhile, had six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. He also had clutch reception that set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal.
“I’ve been waiting for him to come around all year, and over the last six weeks, I’ve watched Jared Cook become more of a factor in this offense,” Freeman said. “That’s what they’re going to need if they’re going to go all the way with this thing: contributions from everybody across the board.”
Freeman, 44, played for the Packers from 1995-2001 and again in 2003. He helped Green Bay to a 35-21 win over New England in Super Bowl XXXI. He’s a Packer through and through – which is why Doug Gottlieb made him compare Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
Freeman gave Favre the nod with arm strength and Rodgers the nod with accuracy, but the issue of toughness made him pause.
“That’s a tough one,” Freeman said. “I’d give toughness to Favre. Rodgers has a different type of toughness. His toughness is mental. Anytime you tell people to r-e-l-a-x and you tell people, ‘Hey, we got to run the table,’ that’s a different type of toughness. So they both had it, but I’m going to go Favre.”
Freeman also gave Favre the edge in leadership and football IQ but gave Rodgers the edge in athleticism. He also clarified that giving Favre a slight edge in a certain category isn’t a knock on Rodgers. There could also be some bias – or just personal experience – at play.
“I was in the huddle with Favre, so I watched his leadership,” Freeman said. “I was a part of it and I witnessed it. I’m not in the huddle with Rodgers.”
Freeman did say, though, that Rodgers takes better care of the ball.
“Instead of taking a sack, which we’ve seen Rodgers settle on, Favre tried to make the play and the play often turned into an interception,” Freeman said. “I know the IQ was there, I know what the intent was, but there’s many things that can break down a play and cause a turnover. You’re seeing Aaron Rodgers and that offensive line (giving him) sometimes seven to nine seconds to find a receiver down the field. That’s irreplaceable to have that offensive line protect the way they’re protecting for Aaron Rodgers.”