Chicago Bears wideout Brandon Marshall hasn’t been a part of his team’s historic rivalry with the Green Bay Packers for very long, but he already harbors many of the same feelings that the Monsters of the Midway have held toward the Green and Gold for quite some time.
“I’m not going to use the word ‘hate,’ but I really dislike the Green Bay Packers and their players. But the talk, you have to back it up. We’ll go out there and we’ll do everything we need to do to get a win. I’ve never felt this strong in sports versus any team or any players. ”
Marshall has only taken part in this rivalry once, the Packers’ 23-10 win over the Bears in Week 2, a game in which he was held to just two catches for 24 yards and where Jay Cutler threw four interceptions. But it clearly hasn’t taken him long to understand the importance of these rivalries, the level of which he did not experience in his time in Denver or Miami.
There’s the famous Lovie Smith quote from his introductory press conference, in which he said ”Our number one goal, the number one goal we’ll have, is to beat the Green Bay Packers.”
So yeah, these rivalries, especially in the Midwest, are kind of a big deal.
The Packers are coming off a 27-20 victory over one of their rivals, the Detroit Lions, in Week 15. But two of their last three games are against their biggest rivals in the entire league, at Chicago this week and at Minnesota to close out the regular season.
Recently, I was given an opportunity to speak with football great Dave Robinson, who was an All-American and College Football Hall of Famer in his time at Penn State. He went on to play for the Green Bay Packers, where he won three world championships (two Super Bowls) manning the left side of Vince Lombardi’s defense at both defensive end and linebacker.
(You can buy his book, Lombardi’s Left Side, which he authored with fellow Packers Hall of Famer Herb Adderley and author Royce Boyles, at www.lombardisleftside.com or here on Amazon.)
The Packers have been playing the Lions, Vikings and Bears since Robinson’s playing time in the 1960s, and in the case of Chicago versus Green Bay, since 1921.
I asked Robinson what the division rivalries meant to him, and he immediately recounted his rookie season in 1963.
“In my first year, the Packers were trying to win their third consecutive world championship,” Robinson said, as the Packers had won titles in 1961 and 1962.
“Vince was fired up, the team was fired up, and I thought we had a better team.”
Unfortunately, the Packers had their five-game winning streak against Chicago snapped, losing 10-3 in Green Bay and 26-7 in Chicago in 1963, Robinson’s rookie year.
“Somehow, the Bears beat us twice that year, and of course, then they went on to win a world championship of their own.”
Robinson also brought up a 1962 Thanksgiving Day game against the Detroit Lions, which was the only game that Green Bay lost that season. The Lions jumped out to a 26-0 lead and held on to win 26-14.
Our conversation wasn’t too long, but it appears that the tough losses to division rivals were the ones that have been the thorns in his side after 50-plus years.
“Having won in 1961, we were there to prove that we were no fluke. It was going to be a revenge game from the year before, and it turned out to be one of the hardest hitting games of my life,” Robinson said of that 1962 game, which became known as the Thanksgiving Massacre.
It’s not to say that the NFC North and the Midwest are unique in the fact that they have rivalries, but there is no denying that they are some of the best games, year-in and year-out in today’s NFL as well.
With Detroit having proven itself as a contender in recent years (although having a down 2012) and Minnesota, Chicago, and Green Bay all sporting over-.500 records, these teams will undoubtedly provide some memorable football over the next three weeks, and likely into the playoffs as well.