Saturday, January 6, 1996

Can You Believe It?

Oh, baby! Was that a game or what? I'm going to ramble for awhile, as I am still too keyed up to organize my thoughts any better.

Last night, our family went down to the Packers' hotel, just to hang around. We saw Favre, Chmura, Butler, Brooks, Shurmur, Bennett, Wolf, Sean Jones and probably others we didn't recognize. I was impressed that they all seemed so calm, joking around about how many sacks Sean Jones would get, etc., when my stomach was already working itself into a knot. Now I know why! They had the self-confidence they needed.

We all went to the game early (as it turned out, my wife was able to go, too). We had a hell of a time finding the America's Pack tailgate party, but no difficulty at all finding Packer fans. There were thousands of us, as I imagine you could tell even on TV.

We had pretty good sideline seats, in the area mostly populated by long-time season ticket holders. We were not hassled in the slightest at any time. Now that I have been to a couple of Raider games, I can say that the crowd is entirely different. The 49er fans are, for the most part, decent human beings, while the Raider fans are far more intense, but they are really not nice people. Just so that I don't get too carried away with how nice the 49er fans were, I should mention the really classy T-shirts being sold outside the gates, which said "Piss on the Packers." They were pretty heavily discounted after the game, for some reason.

Lots of signs in the stands. My two favorites were "Young will cut the cheese" (well actually he did, sorta) and a Packer sign referring to Super Bowls I, II, and XXX.

What a way to start! A defensive TD on the first play for the 49ers! Then the offense just took over. 21-0 in the 2d quarter? You've got to be kidding me! I didn't even dare to hope for such a thing. I was just hoping that the Packers might have a chance to win it in the 4th quarter. Young getting hammered all day long, Rice kept in check (relatively speaking), no running game for the 49ers, no turnovers for the Packer offense. It was just a perfect day from start to finish.

We have all, if we are old enough, been waiting for 28 years to go back to the NFC Championship game. But my wife and I have been waiting for 15 years of exile in the Bay Area for this particular game, and we will always remember having been there when it happened.

There has been a slight undercurrent around here to the effect that Favre had a great year, but how could you say that he is more valuable than Jerry Rice. Or as this morning's SF Chronicle said "All right, Brett Favre: Prove it." Well, I guess he did. One of my less gracious 49er fan acquaintances asked me yesterday whether I was "going to see the slaughter." Well, yes, but not exactly the slaughter he had in mind.

And what about the defense! I for one have not given them a lot of credit this year, but they came up big time today. It was a pleasure to watch them.

I listened to the 49er radio team during the game, and I watched every local sports report I could on TV tonight. To their credit, I repeatedly heard things like "the 49ers were out-coached, out-played and out-hit today." The 49er players were quite gracious in defeat, too. No whining, no excuses. The truth is this was a total team victory. On the way out of the stadium, in between high-fiving countless dozens of Packer fans, a good number of 49er fans came up to us to congratulate us, wish us well, tell us that they hope the Packers win the Super Bowl, etc.

I hope you all enjoyed this game as much as I did, because if you did you are a pretty happy bunch right now. Good night, and GO EAGLES!

Thursday, January 4, 1996

Falcons Review / 49ers Preview

My 2009 Update

Another old post from the Packfans listserv.


Here are my random thoughts leading up to the big game this week.

I was really encouraged by the Falcons game. I see a BIG improvement from the last 2 years' 1st round games. In 1993, it took that great last-minute TD to Sharpe (not to mention Teague's int return for TD) to win the game. In 1994, despite holding B. Sanders to -1 yards, didn't it take
a defensive stand or a Packer interception to preserve the 16-12 victory? I haven't re-watched the tape, but that is the way I remember it. The point is it was a squeaker of a victory, at home, against what I regarded at the time as a lesser opponent.

Compared to that, how great is it to cruise to a 37-20 victory over a lesser but explosive opponent, where the outcome was really never in doubt from the time the score was 14-7 on? Plus the Packers went 11-5 and with a little better luck could have been 13-3. So I think we have a team here that has made legitimate, verifiable improvement over the last couple of seasons.

Now comes the hard part. As some people have said, that is all fine and dandy, and it does mean something, just not a hell of a lot, if they lose the next game, like they did the past 2 years.

So now they play the defending world champions, at SF, and have Young, Rice et al to contend with. What are their chances? I am realistic enough to believe that the chances are that the Packers will lose. But I am enough of an optimist to believe that they have a very good chance to win the game. As I see it, the offenses are about even. The Packers have the better QB right now, the 49ers have the better lead receiver, the Packers have the better running game and tight end, and the 49ers might have the better O-Line now in Taylor's absence. I am afraid, though, that the 49ers have a significantly better defense, certainly without a healthy Reggie, and maybe even if he was healthy. So it seems to me that the way that the Packers can win the
game is either (1) if the special teams make up the difference; or (2) if the defenders play over their heads.

The last time the Packers came to San Francisco was in the Majik Man year of 1989. My wife and I went to that game. I remember nothing about the build up for the game (was I as
excited and nervous as I am this year?). Or the aftermath (what was it like in the days after the game? was I jubilant or reserved?) I do remember bits and pieces of the game (I did not tape games in those days - too superstitious). My most clear recollection is of the 49ers' final drive. It looked, very frankly, like a perfect set-up for another Montana-led TD drive to win the game. But when his 4th down pass fell incomplete, the crowd was silent, in a very eerie way that I cannot recall ever experiencing before. Here my team had just pulled off a stunning upset,
and the stadium was silent. There were plenty of Packer fans at the game, but not enough to cut through that silence. I am hoping to hear that same sound again on Saturday.

My kids and I managed to get 3 tickets to the game. Our first playoff game for any of us. Unfortunately my wife can't go - she has a commitment (for her own business) on Saturday morning. She will have plenty of time to get home to watch the game, but if she tried to fight traffic to get to the game, she would probably miss the first quarter. So she will be watching by herself.

I so badly want the Packers to win this game. Yes, I felt the same way the last 2 years before the Dallas games, but this year the feeling is more intense, because I think the Packers are closer to being ready to take that step; because I feel that the 49ers are more vulnerable now than the Cowboys were in the past; and because I have to live here after the game. The 49er fans, for the most part, are quite arrogant about this game and about football in general. The Packers are at least appreciated now as a potentially worthy opponent, but they still are seen basically as a speed bump on the way to the Super Bowl. Or as a radio sports host said Tuesday, "Look. The 49ers and the Cowboys will be in the NFC Championship game, and if you say anything else, you are just making conversation." As a Packer fan, it is hard for me to relate to this attitude. The 49ers lost to Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans this year. Why would the fans assume that this game is a lock? Their answer is, the 49ers are a different team in the playoffs. We shall see.

I just can't wait for game time. If they pull it off, I'll be there. And if not, I hope they put forth a good effort. As I have gotten older, I have realized that in football, more so than in real life, you only get so many of these chances, and you have to take advantage of them. The Packers have not won a lot of big games, when everything was on the line. This is their best chance to date. I wish that Taylor had not been injured, I wish Reggie were healthy. I wish Paup and Sharpe were still with the team. But this is the chance for these guys to step forward and maybe be the next Super Bowl winner, and I hope they take advantage of it.

So far, I have not been the subject of very much abuse about the game. Maybe that means that some of the 49er fans are a little nervous about this game, too. I am sure that things will become more intense from here on out.