Once again, life interrupted my pursuit of football appreciation. Like Brandon, I too had to work the weekend, but I didn't even have the luxury of computer access. From 10 AM until 8 PM on Sunday, I had to rely on errant phone calls and glimpses of televisions tuned in to the Arizona-Dallas game to see if my team had won or not. I didn't even get to set my fantasy football lineups! (Note: everything would turn out alright; I'm winning handily in all three of my fantasy leagues.)
But if there's one Sunday activity I follow more closely than my trio of Chris Andersen's Birdmen ("I Fly In Any Weather"), The Rubber Duckies (::squeak!::), or My Swag is Phenomenal (thank you, Gilbert Arenas, for existing)...it's Packer football.
I, like you, felt nervous optimism. After all, we have Aaron Rodgers! Greg Jennings! Aaron Kampman! Charles Woodson! Kregg Lumpkin...I mean...DeShawn Wynn! Seattle, on the other hand, was missing Matt Hasselbeck and was about thisclose to giving Steve Largent a call. Should be an easy Packer win, right?
And it was...kind of. Ending that 3-game losing streak at this point in the year was the key to turning around the season as a whole. After all, 3-3 is waaaaay better than 2-4, especially in a division where three teams are tied for first at .500. This 27-17 victory is one of the most important nondescript wins in Packer history.
In fact, you know what it reminds me of? November 24th, 1996. Week 13, Green Bay at St. Louis. Green Bay had dropped two games to Dallas and Kansas City, giving them a record of 8-3. Certainly not a bad record, but given the dominance of the NFC that year, they were doing themselves no favors in the playoffs by losing. The Packers were even down after the half, but used a Doug Evans (remember him?) interception-for-touchdown as a rallying point and, well, you know how that season ended.
Obviously, there are several differences between the 1996 season and the 2008 season. The 1996 team had the highest scoring offense and the fewest points allowed on defense, whereas the 2008 team is far from elite in either category. But it was that St. Louis game that got the team refocused and back on the right track. Let's see what got back on track in 2008 against Seattle:
- Ryan Grant and the Offensive Line. Sounds a bit like a Manitowac polka band name, but infinitely more important to Green Bay's success. While his average was less than impressive (2.7 yards/carry), the carries (33) were. While 90 yards may sound like a paltry total, put it in the context of the game where Green Bay notched 37:26 in time of possession. Now that's how you control a game with the run. Now if he'll only break the century mark and score a touchdown or something...the mighty Birdmen depend on it.
- De-fense! ::clap-clap:: De-fense! ::clap-clap:: Annoying chant at Bucks games that goes completely unheeded? Yes. Vital component of any possible success this season? Double yes. Even though the Bucks might not play defense, Green Bay does, and they sure did this game. Limiting Charlie Frye (yes, that Charlie Frye) to 83 yards passing (with three sacks and two picks) and Julius Jones to 44 yards rushing was huge. Forcing the Hawks to punt 3 times in the third quarter was huger. Closing the game with Charles Woodson (aka Hero of the Universe) and Tramon Williams interceptions was hugest.
So that's what was fixed, but there were other things that stayed the same:
- Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings. This connection is beautiful to watch. I want to buy Greg Jennings a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches and a leather messenger bag, that's how badly I want the "Professor Jennings" nickname to catch on. The guy has 653 yards in week 6. Wow.
- Charles Woodson is earning a nickname. Any nickname. He's tied for the league lead with 4 interceptions. On a broken toe.
- Charles Woodson is PLAYING WITH A BROKEN TOE. I just wanted to point this out again.
- Tramon Williams. Four career starts. Four interceptions in those four starts. What effect does his performance have on Al Harris' return? More on that question later in the week.
There is one thing, though, that bugs me; Aaron Rodgers showing the onset of fumbilitis. Let me know if I'm overreacting, but he's got 5 fumbles this season. He's in the top-5 in the league in fumbles, joined by the likes of Drew Brees, Tony Romo, and Derek Anderson. While he's only lost two of them, I don't like it when my quarterback puts it on the ground that often. You know who else has fumbled five times this year? This guy. And I don't want my quarterback to handle the ball like this guy.
Overall, I'm happy. This is the kind of win that doesn't get on SportsCenter, but it gets your team winning. Let me get my Dr. Phil on...