Well, I guessed wrong on the Super Bowl. Probably almost everyone reading this article did, too. I just felt so sure that the Packers were the better team, and I figured that the better team usually wins in the Super Bowl. Now that more than a month has gone by since the Super Bowl, I am finally coming to grips with writing this brief post-mortem.
I have seen some fellow Packer fans argue that the Packers ARE the better team, but they just had a bad day on January 25. I'm not prepared to go that far. About as far as I would go is to say that if the Super Bowl were replayed 10 times, the Packers MIGHT win the majority of those games. And I'm not even real confident about that any more.
It's not like the Packers outplayed the Broncos but lost the game due to some bad call, or due to some fluky play. The Packers were just pushed around by the Broncos for much of the game, especially in the second half. With the benefit of hindsight, the decision to put 2 D-linemen on the inactive list, combined with Gabe Wilkins' early game injury, just put too much burden on too few D-linemen in the second half.
I do wonder why more wasn't done to adjust to the way the game was unfolding - maybe stacking the line of scrimmage, daring Elway to beat them with the passing game. Maybe the Packers did adjust, and it just didn't work, but watching the game in the stadium (i.e. without benefit of TV commentators), I did not see the adjustment.
I also question what seemed to be the almost-total abandonment of the running game in the second half. The statistics in the game show that Levens was running for a pretty good average, and run defense was supposed to be a glaring weakness of the Broncos. And the game was always a TD or less away from a tie game in the second half. Oh, what a couple of sustained drives on offense might have done for the tiring Packer defensive line. But for whatever reason, they did abandon the run, and the rest is very painful history for us Packer fans.
As this is being written on March 9, the year of 1998 seems like a nightmare. The Packers lost the Super Bowl, and now have lost Craig Hentrich, Edgar Bennett, Doug Evans, Gabe Wilkins, Eugene Robinson and Aaron Taylor. And yesterday came the sad news of the death of Ray Nitschke, one of my personal heroes.
But I prefer to look at the bright side. The Packers did win the NFC Championship, before my very eyes in the rain at 3Com Park. They did finish as the second best team in the league. They have the best quarterback in the league. They have locked up Robert Brooks, and taken steps to lock up Antonio Freeman and Dorsey Levens, at least for this year. And, according to published reports, the Packers are still the favorites to win Super Bowl XXXIII. They are listed as 5-2 favorites, followed by San Francisco and Denver at 5-1.
Things may look a little dark now. But longtime Packer fans know that things could be a whole lot worse.
Only four months to training camp....