Tuesday, August 4, 1998

It's Never Too Soon to Start Worrying

You probably think that I am writing these words as a nervous Packer fan. After all, the Packers barely escaped Tokyo with a 27-24 victory over the Chiefs in the American Bowl Saturday night, after fumbles on the first two offensive possessions led directly to two touchdowns for the Chiefs.

Actually, "It's Never Too Soon to Start Worrying" was the headline of Tim Keown's article in the Monday San Francisco Chronicle, and he was talking about the 49ers. They, too, managed a close victory, also over a quality opponent (the Patriots), by the score of 14-13. Basically, the 49ers offense performed poorly on Sunday, accounting for 7 points in the entire game. If the Patriots' quarterback didn't fumble in the end zone in the second quarter, the 49ers probably would have lost the game.

Of course, who cares about the 49ers game, or for that matter the Packer game at this stage of the "season?" They were just first exhibition games, a week earlier than most teams start their games, and the starters played one quarter or less. Still, the much ballyhooed (at least here in Northern California) new 49er "aggressive offense" was not a smashing success in its debut, and the reserves (at least on offense) did nothing. The 49ers rolled up 13 first downs and only 53 rushing yards, while the Packers had 23 first downs and 225 rushing yards, by contrast.

So, if you want to take anything away from the first week of exhibition games, I think the lesson is that the Packers have very good backups, at least on offense. I have been concerned about the depth of the squad, what with the free agency losses. But the backups impressed me on offense, to the point that I now think the Packers could get by for awhile despite injuries or holdouts of offensive starters.

It is natural for long time Packer fans to feel that "It's Never too Soon to Start Worrying," but I think our West Coast competition has more to worry about right now than we do.

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