Unfinished business in Cincinnati could make winning habit for Packers
Aaron Rodgers during a Packers-Bengals game in 2009. Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
By Jay Hodgson, Packers contributor. CREATED Sep 21, 2013
Coaches don’t let their players use certain “R” words when discussing upcoming games.
Revenge. Redemption. Repeat. Rebuilding.
Those are all off-limits. Any mention of them will cause a distraction and generate bulletin board material for the opposing team.
Block out everything extraneous, do your job today, and win the immediate game. The future hasn’t been written yet, so don’t look ahead, either. Most importantly, be a professional and act like you’ve been there before.
As Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t don’t things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”
But, make no mistake about it. There’s a lot riding on this weekend’s game between the Packers and the Bengals. This game will highlight if this year’s team wins once in a while or as habit.
The last time these two teams squared off in the regular season was week 2 in the 2009 campaign. If you remember, that game had quite the dramatic finish.
With about two minutes left in the game, the Bengals took a 31-21 lead. That’s when things started to get interesting.
Aaron Rodgers promptly marched the offense down field to set up a Mason Crosby field goal, cutting the score to 31-24. All that was needed to start building the Aaron Rodgers legend was an onside kick recovery and a game-tying touchdown.
And, against the odds, they recovered the kick.
However, during the ensuing drive, the Packers had the ball at the Bengals’ 10 yard line when the clock ran out. Oh, what might have been.
It would foreshadow another clock-expiring heart-breaker later in the season.
In the playoffs, the Packers would lose a sudden death overtime barn burner to the Arizona Cardinals 51-45. The Aaron Rodgers legend would have to wait another year.
The 2009 season was also the last season that defensive end Johnny Jolly was a full-time starter.
Jolly has become the feel good story of the 2013 season. After overcoming a codeine addiction and spending three years out of football, Jolly is once again poised to be an integral part of the Packers defense. He has dedicated himself to rebuilding his image and living a better life. He’s trying to do the right things all the time.
You could call that redemption.
As with life, football is a process. It’s a growing progression, taking time and commitment. You must learn from your mistakes and get better.
The 2009 season didn’t go as everyone hoped. Perhaps, it just wasn’t meant to be that year. Maybe the clutch winning habit was never developed.
But, the 2010 season did end as if it was meant to be. They learned a lot from their 2009 heartbreaks and grew into champions, completing the rebuilding project that Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy set out to do. No clocks ran out on the magic.
Aaron Rodgers hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy after a thrilling victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers and finally cemented his legend in Green Bay. No one would ever again question his game time clutch performance.
The 2013 season could eventually shape into something special. The offense is clicking and the defense is looking stout. But, it’s young and can go in several different directions.
And, Johnny Jolly is a part of it. He is emerging as a leader on that fierce defensive line. His legend is growing and no one questions his heart.
So, while this upcoming game against the Bengals isn’t necessarily revenge, it has a lot of meaning. It could be a springboard.
Winning this game could set a positive tone for the remainder of the season. Learning the killer instinct now can pay huge dividends later, especially in the playoffs. Making winning habit and an all time thing starts now. Two wins in a row is a winning streak.
Despite what coaches say, this game is about redemption.
Players want to atone for that 2009 loss, leaving no unfinished business on the field this time. Have the Packers learned from their heartbreaking 2012 errors? Will 2013 be another championship campaign? A win on Sunday will go a long way towards answering those questions.
Johnny Jolly is fighting to re-establish his personal and professional life. His football clock has just been reset. Maybe the Packers can repeat the 2010 magic and win a ring for him this season for the one he missed. What a redeeming reward that would be.
Beating the Bengals would be a good start on that long road ahead.