We're Black and Blue All Over:
For the first time in NFC North blog history, we're facing two weeks of Super Bowl hype. (!) The Green Bay Packers will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLV, and they opened Sunday night as two-point favorites. It had moved to 2.5 as of Monday morning.
After spending a week at the Epicenter of Humanity, what's left for us? We need a Super Bowl blog post tag that will match the intensity of what we're about to embark on. I'm all open to suggestions. The shorter, the better. It doesn't get any bigger than this.
While we have a moment, let's take our morning spin around the division:
Packers general manager Ted Thompson said it is "really gratifying" to take the team to the Super Bowl, writes Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
The Packers want to bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy back home, writes Pete Dougherty of the Press-Gazette.
The Packers' defensive effort will be remembered from this game, according to Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports.
Gary D'Amato of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Never mind that "team of destiny" stuff. Never mind fate and karma. That's the romantic, pie-in-the-sky way to explain how the Green Bay Packers got to Super Bowl XLV. It would be a disservice to the Packers to focus on the ethereal when the nuts and bolts are staring us right in the face. The Packers beat the Chicago Bears, 21-14, in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday because they blocked and tackled. They won three consecutive playoff games on the road because they prepared and executed."
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers called his tackle of Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher "one of my best plays of the game," according to Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel.
The ability to contain Bears returner Devin Hester was one of the Packers' keys to victory, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
Maybe it's time to use nose tackle B.J. Raji as a receiver on offense, Packers coach Mike McCarthy joked after the game, according to Wilde.
Michael Wilbon of ESPNChicago.com on the Jay Cutler fracas: "Look, you're not going to read in this space any suggestion from me that Cutler's knee injury wasn't serious enough to send him to the sideline or that Cutler was a complete baby for not going back on the field with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake. But any credible analysis of the NFC Championship Game, especially of the Bears' performance, has to start with Cutler, the pivotal figure in the game whether we're talking about his first-half incompetence or his second-half absence. The absence, without question, infuriated more people. In 30 years of covering professional football I've never seen a front-line player crushed by his peers the way Cutler was Sunday in real time."
Tears welled in Cutler's eyes when he was informed of NFL players' criticism of him, according to Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated. Trotter: "I have been a critic of Cutler for years. He has been boorish and, at times, condescending with the media and distant with fans. But the look in his eyes after hearing that players around the league questioned his integrity told me something that an MRI cannot. The pain in his heart was far greater than anything he felt in his knee."
Nancy Gay of FoxSports.com: "In the wake of one of the Bears’ most crushing losses in their storied history, Cutler may very well be done in Chicago as well."
David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: "The mistake the Bears organization made was allowing any ambiguity about the injury and Cutler's status. The team made no announcement that Cutler officially was "out'' and the lack of specificity over the injury allowed hasty speculation to mount. Not that any of Cutler's teammates doubted him."
The bigger issue, writes Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times, is that Caleb Hanie -- and not Todd Collins -- should have been Cutler's backup.
Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com didn't like offensive coordinator Mike Martz's call for a reverse to Earl Bennett on third-and-3 in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield will be added to the NFC Pro Bowl roster because of Super Bowl deletions, writes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune. I'll have a complete accounting on the comings and goings Monday. Remember, Packers players won't be available.