Thursday, November 29, 2007

Carving Up the Thanksgiving Lions

Packers 37 - Lions 26

"I threw it. They caught it. Nothing spectacular."

You've gotta' love Brett Favre's humility this year. A year in which he's not only breaking Packers team records and NFL records, but one in which he's breaking personal records he set in his MVP years. At this point in the season, it's unfortunate that the Patriots are undefeated because it makes everyone take notice of a pretty regular QB in Tom Brady and naturally assume he's a shoo-in for this year's MVP. As a team, sure, the Pats are playing some amazingly consistent football. But is Tom Brady better than Brett Favre this year? No way. Not by a long shot. Again: He's playing better this year than in any of his previous years, and he has already been the NFL's MVP more times than any other player. If you improve on that greatness, how could you not be considered the MVP?

Of course, having said all that, the first play snapped to Favre in this game probably isn't exactly the representative play you want to put on your reel to make your case. He tripped as he pitched the ball back to "Dorsey" Grant and the Lions recovered with excellent field position. Then the D really tightened, though, and we held them to just a field goal. Kampman didn't have quite as many sacks as I had expected he would (just two), but his presence was definitely felt. KGB and Williams both got a sack in, too.

The excitement started just after we said our Thanksgiving dinner prayer (I say it much differently than most, especially when the Packers are playing). Aaron Rouse got a pick early in the second quarter and ran it back 34 yards to the 11. One play later, Favre and the Jennerator had chalked up another TD and we were up 7-6. We didn't really turn it off again after that until the fourth quarter. More on that in a moment.

The most remarkable thing about this game was probably the passing streak that Favre set up. In the two-minute drill at the end of the first half, he had seven straight. In the third quarter, he did not have an incompletion. By the beginning of the fourth, he had broken the Packers team record and the league's record was in sight. Two straight incomplete passes in the end zone meant that he stopped at an amazing 20 straight passes... and we had to settle for just 3 points on that drive. Meanwhile, though, the Lions had done nothing of consequence -- one field goal to our 20 points.

But the rest of the fourth quarter was a little unnerving. Perhaps the tryptophan of hundreds of thousands of fans on one side of the TV screen somehow reached the defense on the other, because all of a sudden, they had allowed Detroit to score touchdowns instead of field goals, and the lead was down to just 8 points. Same thing happened last week. I don't want that to become a habit. I don't know what's more stressful: Having to come from behind to win it or being up and going all conservative and having to hold on by the skin of our teeth. Now, an 11-point victory isn't skin-of-our-teeth close, but it should have been more like 20. We need to have that Patriots don't-just-plunge-the-dagger-into-their-hearts-but-twist-that-sucker-a-few-times-too mentality and just own these games. That's what I want to see happen tonight, anyway.

I have not been this giddy about a game in a loooooong time. Two 10-1 teams meeting on a national stage, both in the NFC, playing for what could end up meaning home-field advantage in the Playoffs. Holy fucking shit.

Here's hoping Romo's too distracted by Jessica Simpson's boobs to play well in the spotlight.

Wait, what was I saying?

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

OAQBs

Packers 31 - Panthers 17

The combined age of the starting QBs in today's game: 82. That's the same combined age as Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Cullen Jenkins... or two years younger than the combined age of the four people in my household (sorry, dere, Bob). Testaverde was the QB in Tampa Bay in the first game Favre played in for Green Bay (one week before the streak began, when he played a second-half relief role) in Florida in Week 3 of the 1992 season. FOX said Sunday afternoon that Vinnie had been to Green Bay to play against the Packers a total of 12 times... and 8 of those were before Favre started playing for us.

But who cares? We're 9-1! This is our best start since 1962, when we started 10-0 (and won our 8th championship, BTW). The World Champion Indiana-noplace Colts have lost two games in a row (although they won this weekend), so we're ahead of them. We're still tied with the Cowgirls, and Bill Belicheat's Pats are still undefeated, so we're in very good company at the top of the league standings... and, for the first time in years, #3 in the Power Rankings. This weekend, both Dallas and New England had individual receivers catch four TDs (Owens and Moss, respectively -- not respectfully). Meanwhile, we're known for spreading the ball around. I'm fairly certain that Favre completed passes to 20 different receivers in this game. So if Driver or Jennings is catching four each, watch out, 'cuz the score's probably going to wind up something like 66-12. I'd be okay with that.

Actually, Favre's 3 TDs in this game meant he tied (with Marino again) the NFL record for most games with 3 or more. I'm hopeful that the Turkey Day outing will make #63 so he can put another record behind him.

One of the plays of the day came from Tramon Williams in the first quarter. It looked like Carolina would try a field goal after making it to the 34 yard line, but John Kasay did a pooch punt instead and Tramon was ready. He caught the ball and ran like a hot knife through the coverage's butter (with an escort by Jason Hunter -- the least he could do after nearly knocking Tramon down at the 25!) and 94 yards later the score was 7-zip.

The second quarter was an exciting 14-point affair, with TD passes to the Jennerator and Donald Lee. Lee then caught his second TD pass in the third quarter, which meant we were up 28-3. After keeping Minnesota scoreless, it would have been nice to have been able to keep the Panthers out of the end zone completely, but we did somehow allow them in not once but twice before the end of the match. Luckily we got 3 turnovers and gave up none. Also, if this is the only thing I can find to complain about, we're in pretty damn good shape.

The most-impressive-but-somehow-easily-forgotten play was the one that started the clock ticking in the second half. Koren Robinson returned the kickoff 67 yards to the Carolina 28. That was our longest kickoff return so far this year, and it set up Lee's second touchdown four plays later. Not forgotten at all was Favre's 47-yard completion to Double-D on a play fake that was so good the folks at FOX nearly missed it completely. That led to Jennings' TD five plays later.

The Lions are in second place in the NFC North, and if we win in Detroit on Thursday, we'll be four games ahead of them. My predictions for the game: The Lions are good at taking the ball away. Brett's probably due for a pick, so maybe they can get one on him. As long as we don't have bad turnover luck like we had in the Chicago game, though, I think we'll come through unscathed. In fact, given how bad Detroit's O-line is at protecting Kitna, and how awesome Kampman (and even KGB) has been doing, we may force twice as many turnovers as they could hope to.

Frankly, the thing I'm most immediately concerned about regarding this Thursday's game is having to watch it on my sister- and brother-in-laws' crap-ass console TV from 1972. Pass me the HDTV.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Well-Balanced Shutout

Packers 34 - Vikings 0

You read that right. Zero. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Bupkis. Et cetera. Look, I know how the Vikings "fans" feel. But damn if it don't feel good to me right now!

Things are going right for the Packers this year, where last year they were going very wrong. We kept losing the close games. Now we're doing what we need to do to win them. I was lamenting last week how we hadn't really just run away with a game yet. Even in our worst season, when we only won four in 2005, we absolutely killed the Saints.* I wasn't calling for a 52-pointer, but a game in which it felt like we could do no wrong would have been nice.

Enter the surprisingly-accommodating Vikings.

In this game, even when something bad was about to happen, it turned around in our favor. Two cases in point, both from the 4th quarter:
  1. The Vikings take advantage of a roughing-the-passer penalty and string together some good pass plays and a run to get all the way down to the 7. On 1st-and-goal, Woody picks off Bollinger's pass at the 2, preserving the shutout.
  2. On our possession following the INT, with just under 6:00 to play, Favre throws it to Ruvell Martin in the end zone on 3rd-and-5 from the 17. Cedric Griffin and Darren Sharper** both tried to pick it off, but collided. The ball popped up and landed safely in Ruvell's hands for his second TD of the game.
The other Packer to catch a TD pass was Donald Lee. His grab marked the 200th touchdown pass Favre has thrown at Lambeau Field. This was also the 250th consecutive regular-season sellout at the frozen tundra -- 264 if you count the playoffs (and you should). I've been to more than a dozen of those, of course, and Bob, Jeff, and Bob, Jr. will be making the pilgrimage together again for the Oakland game on December 9th for #266.

Along with the excellent defense, the run game made another resurgence in this game. The Packers ran for over 100 yards for the first time this season against the Broncos two weeks ago. This week, Ryan "Dorsey" Grant had already run for 81 yards by the end of the 1st quarter, including a 30-yard jaunt into the end zone to put us on the board. When he was done, he'd racked up 119 against a stingy defense, while the Vikings' rookie phenom Adrian Peterson had only 45 yards on 11 carries, and left the game with a boo-boo on his knee. We were expected to be able to run against Denver because their defense if the worst against the run in the NFL. Before this game, though, no one had been able to run for 100+ yards against the Vikings this season.

And of course the passing game didn't go away. In the 2nd quarter, Favre became the second QB in NFL history to pass for over 60,000 yards. He wound up with 351 on the day, which means he only needs 1,105 more to surpass Marino for that record.

One more stat: Favre wasn't sacked in this game, so kudos, too, to the O-line.


*This week's game was the second-highest margin of victory we've achieved since that Saints game. That was also the last time I got called out by Lisa for being a jerk to her... which also happened again this week. I have a penchant for unknowingly offending the people I love by either appearing to take them for granted... or by actually doing it. Frankly, I am always surprised by this when it happens because I can't imagine that someone would care that much about a lack of attention from me. Lisa just had a baby, and I couldn't be more thrilled for her and Nate.
video
When Brett was born six years ago, we were oblivious to the outside world. When I got the good news about baby Griffin, I was excited and anxious for Lisa, but didn't figure she'd give a shit whether I had anything to say about it or not. All of the cards and messages we'd gotten were nice and all, but I couldn't tell you who sent most of them or what they said. One thing I know for sure, though, is that Lisa sent us an awesome and very thoughtful care package. We always remembered that and we certainly wanted to repay that favor. We have prepared a care package, but part of it only just arrived, and now it's been almost a month, so we feel bad about not having sent it yet. Lisa, I'm sorry. I love you and I'm really thrilled about your growing family. Your care package is on the way, and I look forward to a play date sometime soon!

**Griffin (the Vikings player, not Lisa and Nate's son) and Sharper were also involved in another great Packers reception in the 3rd quarter, when they failed to beat the Jennerator to a 34-yard throw which led to Lee's TD two plays later. Thanks again, Darren!

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

K. C. Masterpiece

Packers 33 - Chiefs 22

Last week, Favre won in Denver for the first time. This week, he beat the only team he hadn't beat so far in the NFL, so he's now joined Manning and Brady in that regard. Those two managed to reach that milestone last week, but actually, since there have definitely been games in which Favre has caused the Packers to beat themselves, I'd argue that Brett Favre is the only QB to have beaten all 32 teams in the NFL.

So there.

This game was a back-and-forth affair, and that actually made it fun. (Well, okay, it's much easier to say that when we win....) The difference of 11 in the final score is misleading. That's thanks in large part to Mr. Charles "Woody" Woodson, who came alive in the 4th quarter. He started with a huge 27-yard punt return, and ended with a 46-yard pick-6. In fact, in the last 3 minutes, we scored 17 points. The first in that chunk was a deep-middle 60-yarder to the Jennerator. Amazing. That was his second, actually (all he does is catch touchdowns). His first was on one of my favorite crossing pattern plays at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Favre had a couple of interceptions in this game, and one was quite controversial. At the end of the half, the guy who wanders around on the sidelines with a headset and a laminated play sheet (I'll call him "Oblio") made an odd choice. Favre had thrown an almost-lateral pass on 2nd-and-2, and Morency wisely made sure the ball went out of bounds... by kicking it (and thus I learned that in a game called "football" it is actually illegal to use your foot to do that!). At the start of that play, there were about 40 seconds left in the half. Five minutes later, I think, the zebras had finally resolved that the throw was not a lateral but an incomplete forward pass, and there would not be a 10-yard illegal kick penalty on Morency... but there would be a 5-yard delay-of-game penalty on him. I think it was the damned zebras who were delaying the game, TYVM! Anyway, after all of that, with 35 seconds left, Oblio said, "Hey, let's throw the ball instead of safely running for the first" (yes, I know, the one time we actually want him to call a run), and Favre threw a pick. That led to a KC TD, meaning instead of going into halftime up by 6, we were down by 1.

At least the defense kept the Chiefs from earning their own first down on our half of the field until late in the game. I love how the D is playing this year. They're a very cohesive group. They're playing the way Green Bay defenses played when there was an emotional veteran player like Reggie or LeRoy leading them. We just have a strong group of guys. Kampmann and Barnett are class, Hawk is coming on (he had a pick in this game), and KGB has even made a difference this year. They just need to make sure guys like Bigby can keep their game honest and they'll own the NFL.

This is the youngest team in the league. They're 7-1, on pace with the Cowboys... and when we play one another the week after Thanksgiving, it's possible we'd both only have one loss. Not to get too far ahead of myself, but that game might just be a preview of the NFC Championship game. We beat them, it's bring on the Patriots for a Super Bowl XXXI rematch!

Okay, mommy says I need to go take my pills now.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Monday Night Magic III

Packers 19 - Broncos 13 (OT)

Man, the 'Brettrospectives' have really be flying around this season. FOX did one back in Week 4, when they had the Vikings game in which Favre was sure to crack Marino's TD record. Last week, it was ESPN showing all of his great moments from "MNF." Ah, memories.

In Monday night's game, Favre did not disappoint. He had two pass plays in this game that went for over 75 yards (has that ever happened?), and they both resulted in touchdowns. In fact, those two plays constituted 13 of the team's points, while the other six took the team 27 plays to earn! It was the last play of the game, though, that will be cemented in history as official 'Favre Monday night magic.' Greg Jennings -- originally dubbed on this blog as "The Jennerator" (so I have dibs once the merchandisers catch up, ahem) -- was on a double-go on the left side of the field, defended by Dré Bly. Favre threw a beautiful play action pass that dropped right into Jennings' arms. 82 yards later, we were going batshit crazy, yelling, hugging, and high-fiving in the basement (the kids somehow slept right through it), and the Packers were 6-for-6 in overtime games behind Brett Favre.

The first TD was a similar 79-yarder on the right side of the field to rookie Jimmy "JJ" Jones, who was being defended by Champ Bailey. All weekend long, those picking the game were going on and on about how Bly and Bailey were two of the best corners in the league. I think they probably are the best in the AFC. Favre's seen a lot of Bly over the years since he played for both the Rams and the Lions. Perhaps that helped, but there were tons of factors involved and many pieces that fell into place in order for that play to have succeeded the way it did. What a credit to Favre, Jones, and Jennings, though, that the two biggest offensive plays were against the two greatest players on the Broncos' roster.

Now, on the other side of the coin, we racked up a totally unacceptable number of penalties. For one thing, that led to points on the board for the Broncos, and for another, it kept us from scoring more points of our own. Denver's ability to march down the field was made possible in large part by our guys' stupid mistakes or poor choices. Atari Bigby made my blood boil; first, with an unnecessary roughness penalty and then a pass interference penalty, both on third downs in the Broncos' touchdown drive in the 1st quarter; next, on a stupid delay of game penalty in the 4th, when he kicked the ball in frustration; and finally, in one more interference call on the first play of the Broncos' last drive, when they were backed up on their own 7 yard line, and wound up tying the game. Bigby wasn't the only one at fault, though. After the 2:00 warning in the first half, we drove down to the Broncos' 1, but then false-started ourselves back to the 8 and had to kick a field goal.

Similarly, in one of the most unfortunate oddities of the game, at the beginning of the 2nd quarter, we had started a drive on our own 1 and made it all the way to the Broncos' 1, where we also had to settle for 3 points. How often do you see a 98-yard scoring drive wind up in only 3 points on the board?

But thanks to the one-play touchdown in overtime, we're 6-1, and Packers fans are enjoying a phenomenal (if back-and-forth and often heart-stopping) season.

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