Deep in the bowels of the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Mike McCarthy’s team sat around their dressing room at a safe distance from the Black Eyed Peas’ alarming attempt at a half-time show, counting the cost of having built up a sizeable lead.
Courtesy of two quick touchdowns in the space of 24 mad seconds in the first quarter and a further TD in the second, Green Bay had the Pittsburgh Steelers grappling for survival.
Although the scoreline was tightened by Pittsburgh before the break, a 21-10 half-time lead was still a thing of wonder — but it was tainted by three key injuries, Woodson, Sam Shields and Donald Driver each having their Super Bowl dreams ended prematurely.
Woodson’s fractured collar bone was a painful blow but he still took it upon himself to address his teammates just before they re-entered the fray.
“I just asked the guys to understand how much I wanted it,” Woodson recounted before adding that he broke down in tears.
“That’s all he could get out,” linebacker Desmond Bishop said.
“He was all choked up, and there was just something about it that motivated all of us.”
Woodson was still in pain after the game, but he said: “I’m a champ, so it doesn’t matter. World champion. That’s what it’s all about.”
Despite a Pittsburgh fightback, Green Bay held out for a 31-25 victory that was rooted as much in self-belief as it was in the talents of their MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Indeed McCarthy, the Packers’ coach, revealed yesterday that he had his players fitted for Super Bowl rings on Saturday night, a little motivational tool that went a long way.
“I talked to our football team a lot about having real confidence, and those are just examples and opportunities to express that,” McCarthy said at a press conference yesterday.
“I felt that the measurement of the rings, the timing of it would be special; it would have a significant effect on our players doing it the night before the game.
“I just told them that we’re going to get measured for rings, at snack. I felt it was the right time to do it. I talked to (New Orleans coach, last year’s Super Bowl winners) Sean Payton about some of the things he did from a scheduling standpoint. Scheduling is so important during the course of the week, and you want to do certain things at certain times, and I felt that was the appropriate time. I thought it would be special. I thought it would give us a boost of confidence to do it the night before the game.”
Another decisive tactic was to delegate the all-important pre-game speech to Rodgers and Woodson.
“Letting the captains speak to the football team before we go out in pre-game, frankly was really an opportunity to try to develop leadership,” McCarthy said.
“I wanted to look for ways for Aaron Rodgers to continue, for his leadership to develop and grow, and it has tremendously this year. Same with Charles Woodson.
“It’s an excellent football team that we feel is going to continue to grow and get better, and it was just a thought of trying to develop leadership.
“Ego, everybody has an ego, but you have to discipline your ego and look for those types of opportunities, even coaches too.
“We have assistant coaches that talk before practice on Friday, and it’s an opportunity for them to grow and express themselves and give a good message, because it’s about the team, it’s about growth, it’s about development, and that’s something we did a very good job of as a football team.”
The Pittsburgh native also admitted that the famous Wisconsin outfit’s fourth Super Bowl success — and 13th NFL title overall — was yet to sink in.
“It was a fun night,” he said. “I can’t put into words the experience post-game in the locker room. But we had a party back at the hotel. We’re a community-owned football team, so you can see all the fingerprints on our trophy. It was passed around. Everybody had a lot of fun with it. Spent a lot of time with family throughout the evening. I’m sure it will sink in when we get off that plane in Green Bay.”