Green Bay Packers center Corey Linsley is in his seventh NFL season. He’s also preparing to play in his fourth NFC Championship Game.
Unfortunately for Linsley and the Packers, though, Green Bay is 0-3 in conference title games since he arrived in 2014. The Packers (14-3) hope to change that when they host either New Orleans (13-4) or Tampa Bay (12-5) on Jan. 24.
“The level of urgency is definitely heightened and the desire and everything,” Linsley said Saturday night after the Packers defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 32-18, in the divisional playoffs. “It’s not like it wasn’t there before, but this is a big one for all of us.”
Only two current Packers — quarterback Aaron Rodgers and kicker Mason Crosby — were around when Green Bay won the 45th Super Bowl in 2010. Green Bay has now reached four NFC Championship Games since that memorable 2010 season, as of yet, though, hasn’t returned to the Super Bowl.
Here’s how those NFC Championship Games have played out:
• 2014 — Seattle defeated Green Bay, 28-22, in overtime. The Packers led, 16-0, at halftime and 19-7 with just three minutes remaining before unraveling down the stretch.
• 2016 — Atlanta routed Green Bay, 44-21. The Falcons built a 31-0 third quarter lead and were never challenged.
• 2019 — San Francisco whipped Green Bay, 37-20. The 49ers led, 27-0, at halftime and were never seriously threatened.
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Excluding Rodgers and Crosby — who have Super Bowl rings — there’s a large number of Packers that have played in multiple NFC title games who are looking to finally get over the hump.
Linsley, star wide receiver Davante Adams, and offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Lane Taylor are all 0-3 in NFC title games. Bakhtiari is currently on the injured reserve list, while Taylor has been on I.R. at the end of the last two seasons.
Defensive tackle Kenny Clark, defensive end Dean Lowry and offensive lineman Lucas Patrick are 0-2 in NFC title games while in Green Bay.
For those players that have come one game short of the Super Bowl on multiple occasions, they can’t wait to get another shot
“I was telling all my teammates in there, we gotta kick the door on this one,” Clark said. “This is my third one. Guys don’t even get to one. This is my third NFC Championship I’m going to. We gotta just lock in, kick the door down and get over that hump and get in there. It starts with our preparation and how we prepare during the week at practice and watching film. We just have to give it our everything we got on gameday.
“We’ve been there before. I know I’ve been there plenty of times. I know the feelings and everything. I’m experienced with it. A lot of guys don’t get a chance to get many chances to go to three NFC Championships. Hopefully, this third one is the charm.”
It certainly could be.
Green Bay has been the road team for its last four NFC Championship games. The Packers defeated Chicago, 21-14, in 2010, then lost their last three conference title appearances.
Green Bay will be home, though, for this year’s NFC Championship because it had the conference’s best record. The Packers undoubtedly fed off their home crowd in their win over the Rams, and hope to do the same in the conference title game.
“The amount of fans in the stands, it definitely added a whole new level of energy out there,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of the roughly 9,000 fans at Lambeau Field Saturday. “It was great to be back out there with all the people in the stands and hopefully we can get more in here next week.”
Green Bay has hosted just three conference championship games in the Super Bowl-era.
The Packers defeated Dallas, 21-17, in 1967 in a game best known as the “Ice Bowl.” Green Bay whipped Carolina, 30-13, in 1996 and earned their first Super Bowl appearance in 29 years. And the New York Giants defeated Green Bay, 23-20, in overtime in Brett Favre’s final game as a Packer.
Now, Green Bay will host its first NFC title game in 13 years. And for the Packers that have experienced heartbreak in multiple conference title games — and have yet to reach a Super Bowl — they can’t wait.
“Like I’ve said millions of times at this point – you come into Lambeau, you’re playing a different brand of football,” Adams said. “It takes you out of your element as far as the way you talk, the way you play. You get rattled, man. It’s tougher to communicate. We got fans in there today, so they had it rocking. Everything was on our side, so it was just about coming out and playing Packer football. We do that and nobody can stop us.”
Source: Forbes – Business