They led 16-0 at halftime. They led 19-7 with less than three minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

And still, they lost.

The Green Bay Packers haven’t forgotten what happened in last year’s NFC Championship, when they choked away a pair of double-digit leads and lost in overtime, 28-22, to the Seahawks in Seattle. The Packers, who return all 11 starters on offense, enter this season hoping to right last season’s wrong.

How close are they to winning another ring?

“They’re as close as any other team in the NFL right now, and that’s because they have No. 12 behind center, Aaron Rodgers,” former NFL linebacker and current analyst Brady Poppinga said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “If (he’s) not the best (quarterback in the league) – which, he was considered (the best) last year being the MVP of the NFL – then he’s one of the best quarterbacks out there. And when you have one of the best – or the best – NFL quarterback, you have as good a chance of winning the whole thing as anybody.”

Poppinga knows from experience.

“All it takes – and I learned this in 2010 when I won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers – is for that quarterback to get hot,” he said. “And lo and behold, the rest is history. When a quarterback gets hot like an Aaron Rodgers – you can put Tom Brady in there – those guys become unstoppable and the team feeds off of that and the team itself becomes unstoppable. So as we see it right now, I’d put the Packers in my top three of potential Super Bowl contenders and champions.”

Amy Lawrence wondered why it’s so difficult to game-plan against Rogders. If anyone can answer that question, it’s Poppinga, who was drafted in the same year as Rodgers, played with him for six years in Green Bay and played against him as an opponent in 2011.

“The No. 1 thing is he makes very little errors,” Poppinga said. “I played against him when I played with the St. Louis Rams after my time with the Green Bay Packers. We had a Steve Spagnuolo defense. It’s very aggressive, lot of blitzes. We went into that game, and guess what? We literally tabled all of our blitzes. Usually you go into a week’s game with 10 blitzes. We had all of them tabled except one, and we ran the most vanilla defense – just basically saying to Aaron, ‘You know what? We’re not going to do anything that’s going to expose us to potentially get burned.’ And guess what happened? There was one time where Steve Spagnuolo (decided to blitz). We had them down on their one-inch line (and decided to use that one blitz we had in our game plan). He decided to run it. And guess how that turned out for us?”

Jordy Nelson, 99 yards, touchdown.

“We know that if you have areas of weakness in your defense, which happens when you pressure, there’s always got to be a give and a take,” Poppinga said. “You give a guy in the pass rush, you’re taking somebody out of coverage. Aaron’s as good as anybody of finding those weaknesses in your defense and then exploiting them.”


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