The storyline looks strangely familiar.
Over the last three seasons, when the situation appears to be particularly bleak, the Green Bay Packers do their best work. Conversely, when they seem to be set up to succeed, they inexplicably find a way not to.
The 2012 Packers seem to be reverting to the 2010 storyline: adversity followed by triumph.
The Packers defeated the Detroit Lions Sunday night, 27-20, improving their record to 9-4. The win gave the Packers sole possession of the lead in the North Division, and calmed a Packer fan base that has been in a nervous frenzy for the majority of the season.
The Packers stumbled out of the blocks this year, dipping to 1-2 after the infamous last-second loss to the Seahawks. Many people in Wisconsin thought the anger over the blown call controversy would spur the Packers, but Green Bay found itself below .500 again just two weeks later after a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Panic spread quickly in Cheesehead Nation, with fans thinking the unthinkable: this team might not make the playoffs.
Since then, the Packers have won seven of their last eight games, and currently are in position for the third seed in the NFC. If the Packers defeat the Chicago Bears next week, they will clinch the NFC North Division and a spot in the playoffs.
This all comes after an onslaught of injuries, similar to the 2010 season. In 2010 the Packers lost starting running back Ryan Grant to injury, along with tightend Jermichael Finley, defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, linebacker Nick Barnett, and offensive lineman Mark Tauscher among others. Despite these key injuries, the Packers made a late run, winning five straight on their way to the Super Bowl. The Packers managed to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, even after losing Charles Woodson in the first half to injury.
The 2011 Packers looked like a team prepared to make a run at the Super Bowl again, with minimal adversity faced the entire season. The Packers lost only one regular season game, and suffered no major injuries outside of a spinal injury to safety Nick Collins. They built momentum over the course of an entire season, only to fall flat in their first playoff game against the New York Giants.
This year, the team has been much more frustrating to watch, but you cannot deny its recent effectiveness. Their 9-4 record comes despite an onslaught of injuries yet again. Running back Cedric Benson, cornerback Charles Woodson, linebacker Clay Matthews, wide receiver Jordy Nelson, wide receiver Greg Jennings, offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga, cornerback Sam Shields, and offensive lineman Derek Sherrod have all missed considerable time due to injury. Yet somehow, the Packers have powered through and found ways to win. With Jennings returning against the Lions, and Matthews and Woodson due back against the Bears, the Packers are slowly returning to a healthier-looking team nearing the playoffs.
Maybe the recipe in Green Bay isn’t to play great football year-long, but rather to build character along the way and win when it counts. Ironically over the two previous seasons, the Packers did better dealing with adversity than they did dealing with prosperity. Packer fans can only hope that this 2012 team continues to contend with adversity the way that the 2010 team did.