Sunday, December 15, 2013
Halftime speech has Woodson-like impact
By Rob Demovsky
ARLINGTON, Texas -- In this very stadium, Charles Woodson delivered one of the more important halftime speeches in Green Bay Packers' history.
It was Super Bowl XLV, and the Packers' defensive leader was out for the rest of the game with a broken collarbone. He stood in front of his team and told them how much he wanted them to win it before he was moved to tears.
Sunday’s halftime talk, led by defensive tackle Johnny Jolly and backup linebacker Jamari Lattimore, may have rivaled that in importance and impact.
Down 26-3 at halftime, something had to change for the Packers, who would go on to match the largest comeback in team history and pull out an improbable 37-36 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
“Jolly had a lot to say,” Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji. “He was talking about how, ‘Just keep playing, keep fighting.’
“And actually Jamari Lattimore really spoke from the heart, got real emotional. I think the guys really felt them on that.”
Like Woodson was in the Super Bowl, Jolly was sidelined with an injury -- a shoulder that would prevent him from returning in the second half.
“I just came in and told them ‘keep fighting,’” Jolly said. “We took their best shot in the first half, and we knew if we kept fighting and stuck together something would break for us soon. We went out there and fought hard and those guys fought to the end and the results came out and proved we were right. If we stick together like we did, everything will fall in place. A couple of things didn’t go our way in the first half, even in the second half, we kept playing and made things happen. It was good to see the guys fight through it.
“Guys need to hear those things. I’m on the sidelines seeing what’s going on, so they need to hear it. They know I’m right there and I’m going with them. Hearing it from, it gave them a little push, and they went out there and did what they had to do.”
On the other side of the room, the offensive players -- separated from the defense by a wall of lockers -- could hear what was going on.
“We’re more the quiet side, but we definitely could hear what he was saying on the other side,” running back Eddie Lacy said. “And we took what we heard as if he was talking to us even though he was on the other side.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he told the team at halftime that this was the most adversity this team had faced and the season was on the line.
“We’re not going to panic,” McCarthy said he told the team. “We’re going to take it one play at a time. This game’s going to come down to the last sequence of plays. You’ve got to believe in that.’
“I addressed the offense, what I felt they needed to do. The defense and special teams, and our players did it. I can’t say how proud I am of our football team, especially our players, because they just stayed after it one play at a time.”
From the first play of the second half, a 60-yard run by Lacy, it was clear those messages had been received.