Winner: Randall Cobb, WR: The second round draft pick from Kentucky was electric in his first game as a professional, hauling in three passes for 60 yards and returning two kickoffs for 29 yards apiece. Cobb is built in the mold of a young Donald Driver/Percy Harvin and adds a new dimension to the Packers’ offense.
Loser: Pat Lee, CB: The biggest loser of the night was Lee, who was burnt early and often. He looked slow covering both Josh Cribbs and rookie Greg Little, and the outstanding play of fellow cornerback Josh Gordy may have cost Lee a roster spot. He is most likely on the outside looking in after tonight’s performance.
Winner: Morgan Burnett, SS: After missing all but four games in 2010, Burnett returned in a big way. On back-to-back plays in the first quarter, Burnett blew up an inside run on second down and made an open-field tackle on tight end Evan Moore to force a fourth down. His time was limited, but he sure made the most of it.
Loser: Second string offensive line: For the most part the starters on the offensive line were stellar, giving Aaron Rodgers plenty of time to stand in the pocket. But for as good as they were, their backups were just as bad. Marshall Newhouse (see below) looked lost at right tackle and T.J. Lang was just as bad at left tackle. The second group will need work.
Winner: Derek Sherrod, OL:
In every sense of the word, the Packers’ 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV was a microcosm of how the season had played out up until that point.
When Packers’ fans saw wide receiver Donald Driver and cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Sam Shields exit the game in the second quarter, it was as if they didn’t blink an eye.
OK, maybe one blink.
But the truth was fans had been there and done that with injuries. Over the course of the regular season head coach Mike McCarthy had lost 15 players to Injured Reserve, including starters Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, Nick Barnett, and rookie Morgan Burnett.
Packers’ starters lost 83 games to injuries, and that doesn’t even include players like Brandon Chillar and Justin Harrell, who weren’t starters but important nonetheless. That number also doesn’t include Al Harris and Atari Bigby, who began the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
The Packers struggled to begin the season, going 3-3 and not knowing who would fill roles left by the injury bug. But just like they did Sunday, lesser-known players stepped up in huge roles and it culminated with the Lombardi Trophy coming home.