So, the cheese stands alone.
At least in the National Football Conference.
And because the Green Bay Packers earned the right to represent America’s dairyland – and the NFC – in the Super Bowl, we may now use them as a measuring stick for all other conference foes.
If you are a fan of the Seattle Seahawks, you might be audacious enough to remind others that the local lads entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the conference, compared to the Packers’ No. 6 seed.
So, if the Packers could get there, the Hawks must have been close, eh?
Well, no. Please try to regain rational thought.
The Hawks lost to Chicago, 35-24, at Soldier Field a week ago and the Packers defeated the Bears on the same scruffy turf Sunday by a 21-14 count.
The Packers had to defeat three consecutive higher-seeded teams on the road to enjoy the satisfaction of collecting the George S. Halas conference title trophy in front of the fans of the rival Bears. They were convincing in the process.
On Sunday, they did it by doing the things the Seahawks couldn’t the previous week. They got off to a good start and jumped to a lead. They confounded Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and put him out of the game. They stopped the Bears on third down. They ran the ball effectively, and their receivers came up with big plays.
Yes, but the Seahawks suffered from so many injuries and had to shuffle starters Certainly that played a role in their 7-9 regular-season record. Right?
True. But according to figures compiled by the website footballoutsiders.com, the count of games lost by starters because of injuries for Green Bay was 83, even more crippling than the Hawks’ 69 games lost.
Statistics can mislead, but the Packers’ league ratings (No. 9 offense and No. 5 defense) are a fair representation of efficiency relative to Seattle (No. 28 offense, No. 27 defense).
More telling is the turnover ratio: Green Bay, plus-10; Seattle, minus-9.
Green Bay had five players voted to the Pro Bowl, the Seahawks none.
So, how did the Packers get to this point?
They were built primarily through the draft. And the Packers are proof that it’s not always a function of when you draft but how you go about it.
In 2009, for instance, the Seahawks had the luxury of the No. 4 pick. With a choice that was considered logical at the time, the Hawks took Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. At best, he’s been steady and apparently is improving, but his production has not yet met the expectations created by his draft position.
Much later in the first round, the Packers picked a linebacker, too, USC’s Clay Matthews. Matthews has 231/2 sacks in his first two regular seasons and has become one of the most disruptive defenders in the NFL.
Let’s look at a couple of cornerbacks from the University of Miami … Green Bay rookie Sam Shields and Seattle veteran Kelly Jennings. Shields was an undrafted free agent this year; the Hawks used a first-round pick on Jennings in 2006.
On Sunday, Shields intercepted two passes in the huge win over the Bears. Jennings has intercepted two passes in his entire five-year career.
But there’s a thing about the Packers’ success that should create a bit of enthusiasm among Seahawks fans.
If there’s anybody on another team in the league who understands the approach that has worked in Green Bay, it’s Seahawks GM John Schneider, who was part of the Packers’ front office. He’s seen it all first-hand.
As the Packers head to the Super Bowl in Dallas, the Seahawks enter a curious and unpredictable offseason that could be profoundly disrupted by the unsettled labor situation. Nobody really seems to know how player movement and free agency will be affected.
It’s bad timing, because the Seahawks have a long way to go in elevating their talent. But it could help that Schneider at least understands the path.