As we prepare for another Super Bowl, I want to tell everybody in Seattle, all the 12s, how very, very proud I am to be attached to you. We’re different from everybody else around the league.
There is nothing like the feeling I get when I come out the tunnel, and just hear the love. I love the way you love us. That type of love is rare. My grandmother told me that as she walked around the stadium and people found out who she was, they opened their arms, they hugged her. They wanted her to sit in the sky seats. My family always tells me how the 12s always take care of them.
I appreciate that.
The Sunday of the NFC Championship was one of the biggest tests of my career. I’m hurting, but I’m glad we won and I’m happy for another opportunity – something else to really motivate me and to add to my legacy. I think, with how my body feels right now, this will be a hell of a story to tell when I get old and everything is finished.
Before the game, I mostly kept to myself. That’s usually my routine. But the energy in the room was undeniable. You could feel it. Guys were having fun with each other and dancing around. That’s just how we always feel before we play. It was kind of business as usual in that respect.
I think the only thing that felt different was that we knew the stakes were higher. By getting back to that point — reaching another NFC Championship at home — we proved that we were who we’d been saying we were the whole season. Winning the game, in my mind, would mean backing up our claims even more.
The fact that we’d been in the same situation last season and hosted the NFC Championship game was beneficial. Last year, the feeling was fresh. I’d never been there before, so I was more edgy and nervous. This year, it felt like it was supposed to be this way.
We knew what to expect in terms of the atmosphere. Playing in front of that crowd is always incredible, but on that stage, it’s on another level. When we give them something to cheer about, that just makes everything bigger. The stadium music hits, you get in a flow, and your energy matches that of the atmosphere. With all of that and the 12s behind you, it almost feels like it’s two-on-one sometimes. I felt proud to be a part of it. And as kickoff approached, I felt emotional. I felt the butterflies.
But once the game started and Green Bay started putting points on the board, I never flinched. I was just into the game, and throughout everything that happened, good and bad, we just kept playing.
Right from the start, the Packers did a great job of keeping us off rhythm, especially Aaron Rodgers. I have to give Rodgers a lot of credit. Going into the game, after watching the tape of their game against Dallas, I honestly didn’t think he was that injured. I was preparing for the real Aaron Rodgers, not the hurt Aaron Rodgers.
But that guy was really hurt out there. Going against him in the game, I could tell immediately that he was really in pain. And it sounds funny, but that actually caught me off-guard. Now that I’m dealing with an injury of my own, I have even more respect for him and what he did. A tremendous amount of respect.
He used a lot of quick-strike plays against us, and he attacked certain spots on the football field. It played to his advantage that they were playing an aggressive team like us. We were flying all around, but he was moving so slow and smooth. His focus was on point. I think that gave him an edge in the game.
He also used his cadence to disrupt our rhythm. He was double counting, triple counting and the ball wasn’t getting snapped until two seconds were left on the play clock. They did a great job of controlling the game in that aspect. When you talk about a football game, the game is always won up front. We have a great secondary, but our front allows us to have a lot of leeway, and all of us were just off rhythm early on.
We didn’t expect anything but to have a dominant performance in that game. But when that didn’t happen, we didn’t panic. I remember telling a couple of guys that the Packers were trying to get us out of our rhythm, and that we had to stay locked in. We did that. We refused to lose confidence in ourselves. We stayed true to who we are. I thank God for helping us do that.
We have a lot of talented guys out there playing for our team. And as tough as things got, we knew: All it would take was one guy making a splash play, and that might be the difference. We have great leaders on this team. They really understand that in life and football, you can’t give up.
My injury and dealing with it was part of that. I’d never dealt with anything like it before. I don’t miss games. I’ve barely even missed any plays on defense in my career. I missed a few plays in a game earlier this year due to dehydration, but this was much different. For one thing, the stakes were a lot bigger.
The play I got hurt on was kind of an inside-out tackle on Randall Cobb as he was sprinting toward the outside. It was a tough angle to make the tackle because he’s a very good athlete. I dove and grabbed at his feet to try to wrap him, and I ended up tripping him up. He fell down, and as I was going to the ground with him, I felt something pop.
I got up and knew right away it was my shoulder. I went to the sideline. The coaches saw it, and then the trainers were talking to me. But when I’m in that zone, I don’t really hear or feel anything. I just wanted to go back in, and I was in a rage that they wouldn’t let me. They saw it was separated, and told me to go to the locker room. That was going to be it for the day.
I told them I was going back onto the field. There were only a few minutes left before half. They could check me at halftime.
When they saw my reaction, they talked to Coach Carroll, who came over to talk to me. “You need to go get checked out now,” he said.
Back in the locker room, they reset my shoulder. I felt it pop into place, and that was it. I felt much better immediately. I felt like I could go play. They did some X-rays, and while I waited, I kept telling myself, “Just finish the game.” I had to go out there and finish. That would have been the regret of my life if I didn’t finish that game. And to the training staff’s credit, they got me fixed up and ready to go really fast.
When I got back in there, I wanted to make someone feel me. My first opportunity was a receiver, so I grabbed him with one arm and tackled him. I didn’t feel any pain. That was a confidence booster. My next chance didn’t come until the third quarter. They ran a zone run with their big running back, Eddie Lacy, and I smacked him with the shoulder that I’d just hurt. I hit him so hard at the sideline that he went all the way to the bench and sat down. It fired up my teammates. I could hear them yelling and shouting after the hit.
That’s when I was like, “Man, E, it’s now or never.” I actually said that to myself.
A TEAM OF PLAYMAKERS
There were so many incredible plays late in that game from our team. So many guys stepped up.
The first one was our punter, Jon Ryan. Jon is a pro, and a guy I have a lot of respect for. We’ve practiced that play, so I’ve seen them do it plenty of times. He ran it like he has so many times in practice, smooth and calm. He took the snap, rolled out and threw it to Gilliam, who caught it and scored. I was just like, “Wow.” I didn’t get too crazy like everybody else did because I was trying to keep myself together, but I was motivated. We had a chance.
Their defense made it hard on our offense the whole game, and Russ wasn’t getting in his rhythm like he normally does. Getting on the board with that play was just a little sigh of relief. You need that type of hope.
I was very surprised at how conservatively Green Bay’s offense played in that fourth quarter, but I don’t like being in the position where offenses try to do that to us. I felt this mental surge and got real aggressive. I was playing straight run, so there were nine men in the box instead of eight, and we just kind of capitalized on them playing it conservatively.
When we scored our second touchdown, I kept thinking, “E, don’t look at the scoreboard. Stay focused.” You have to tell yourself to stay true. You have to tell yourself not to look to where you don’t need to look. Your focus and your energy need to be right. You just do it inch by inch. You can’t get it all back in an instant.
After that second touchdown, we were going for the onside kick. I had not done kickoff coverage all game, but I was on the field for that one, and watched it happen right in front of me. It was incredible. I just threw my hands up when I saw Chris Matthews catch it. I couldn’t believe it. Stuff like that doesn’t happen. That was the point when I started to feel like we almost weren’t in control of the situation. It was like there was some greater energy at work.
We were in the end zone again in no time after that on Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown run. Marshawn was pure Beast Mode late in the game. There’s a reason they have his picture on the side of CenturyLink when you come into the stadium. He showed everybody why. Marshawn deserves a lot more credit than he gets from the media. I have so much respect for everyone on our team, but Marshawn and Kam Chancellor teach us all about what it is to be true to who you are.
And man, Marshawn ran hard, doing what he always does. He made great catches, too. And by the way, it’s hard to tackle that guy — harder than anyone else in football right now. His touchdown was a perfect example.
Then we got that two-point conversion, and that was all Russell Wilson. It’s hard to describe stuff like that. I was shocked when that ball landed in Luke Willson’s hands. That was amazing. Honestly, Russ is incredible. To bounce back the way he did from having such a tough game — I’ve only ever seen one quarterback do that. His name is Russell Wilson. He did something similar against Houston last year. He’s just made for big moments.
When the offense gave us the lead, we were excited, but we knew there was still time left on the clock. We had to stop them from getting a field goal. We didn’t. I was mad because we could have won the game right there, and we just didn’t get it done. A big part of that is because, as I said before, Aaron Rodgers is a bad man. You could just see him going through his reads. He already knew where to go with the ball. He was very well prepared. I like stuff like that, man. You have to respect that.
Thankfully, we had another chance. Once the offense got the ball in overtime, it was bang-bang, two quick strikes, and that was it. I ran on the field, amazed. I couldn’t believe it. It happened so quickly. The momentum just shifted, and we took it.
WHO WE ARE
When I got back to the locker room after the game, I was in a trance. I was crying in my locker. I was just overwhelmed with the emotions. I stayed in my locker for a long time, just sitting there, trying to take everything in.
Beating the 49ers last year to go to the Super Bowl was great. But I can say without a doubt that this year was better. I say that because of how hard we had to work for it. When you’re the champion, there’s a target on your back. You really, really have to work to get back to this place.
That game, what we were able to do, what we overcame, it symbolizes who we are.
It was like a movie. When I think about it, I just see everybody battling. Sherm, Kam, myself, Marshawn, Russell, everyone. Everybody was battling something. We weren’t crisp. Things didn’t go our way. There was adversity everywhere.
But how we fought, how the offense fought, how we fed off each other, how Coach Carroll never gave up on us, how our position coaches never gave up on us, it says a lot about us. We all battled to get back to this point, and it happened.
Since Sunday, a lot of people have been saying that we are a team of destiny. I believe that, too. But I can’t let that distract me. I have to keep flowing with what’s going on, and keep working. You always have to keep working at everything. At the game of football. At being a good dad. Everything. That’s life, and I don’t want to get caught up in anything else.
I’m going to enjoy these next two weeks with my daughter and my family. I’m going to have fun and not put any pressure on anything. That’s my key to success, especially at this moment and this time in my life.
For us to finish this, I just have to play my part and be me. That’s it. Own my role.