If you want some insight into what it’s like to play for a 13-3 team heading into the last round of the playoffs, ask a guy who’s been there.
NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley knows all about magical seasons. Just a second-year guy in 1962, he played a key role on what some have called the greatest Packer team ever.
The 1962 Packers rolled to a 13-1 record and beat the Giants 16-7 to win their second straight NFL Championship.
As I’ve written about before, Coach Lombardi drafted Adderly as a halfback in 1961, but switched him to cornerback during halftime of the nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game that year.
“I was too stubborn to switch him to defense until I had to,” Coach Lombardi said. “Now when I think of what Adderley means to our defense, it scares me to think of how I almost mishandled him.”
Defensive players did not accumulate a lot of stats back in 1962, with no one tracking things like PDs (passes defended) and FFs (forced fumbles), but Adderley racked up a bunch. He intercepted seven passes in that 14-game season, including one with less than two minutes remaining during a pivotal game against Detroit that he returned 41 yards to set up Paul Hornung’s game winning field goal.
Adderley liked what he saw on the Packers’ roster back in 1962, and he likes what he sees now.
“Ending up 13-3 and winning the division title was an outstanding accomplishment by the players and coaching staff,” he said during our email conversation yesterday. “Winning 13 games in the NFL is very difficult to do.”
“If the Packers don’t get to and win the Super Bowl it will be a disappointing finish. It will be hard to win 13 games and the title in 2021. The time is now to bring the Lombardi home.”
That sense of urgency comes from the wisdom of a man in his ninth decade of life, and the understanding of an athlete who knows how fleeting moments of excellence can be.
He has some specific advice for the current Packers.
“The defense has to avoid penalties, shut down the run and force 49er quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to throw,” he said. “Keep a vicious pass rush, including blitzing the linebackers to keep Garoppolo on his heels or back. The D-backs will have to cover good receivers, especially the tight end. Keep them under 21 points and the Packers can win.
“In order to do that they must have a good week of practice. The 49ers are a very good team, No. 1 on defense, so it will be a tough assignment. They will have to play a disciplined, mistake-free game on offense, eliminating penalties. It’s essential that the O-line block to get the running game going and, more importantly, keep #12 on his feet. Receivers have to get open against the the best pass defense, and catch the ball. Getting #80 and the tight ends involved will help loosen up the secondary for the other guys to get open. I think it will take 21 or more points to win and the running backs will be needed to also catch the ball coming out of the backfield.”
Hear that, fellas? One of Lombardi’s greatest players think you’re about to bring his trophy home. Now, go get it!
Also, I’m going to sign off on this post the same way Mr. Adderley generally ends our conversations…
“Hi to Peggy Fey and Go Pack Go!”