Tuesday, November 3, 1998

49er Game/Mid-Year Review

The Packers ended the first half of the season on Sunday with a big bang, beating the 49ers by the score of 36-22. Ironically, I was not home in the SF area for the game. I had to travel to the Eastern Time Zone for a Monday meeting. Normally I would have flown Sunday afternoon, but that would have required me to miss the entire game. So I flew on an early Sunday morning flight, which was scheduled to arrive 22 minutes before kickoff. To make a long story short, I ended up missing most of the first quarter, but got to watch the rest of the game.

As we all know, things got pretty hairy in the third quarter, as the 49ers erased an initial 16-0 deficit and ultimately went ahead, 22-19. Meantime, Favre started throwing interceptions and incompletions all over the place. I was really concerned that this game was going the wrong way. Unlike most of the Packer-49er games, this time the 49ers had recovered from the hole the Packers had put them in.

And then, if you will excuse the Maddenism, BOOM! The game was over in what seemed like 5 minutes. Another beautiful bomb of a TD pass to my very distant cousin Antonio ;-), and best of all, the defense swarming over Steve Young like a pack of starving dogs. And just like that, the game was over.

Because I was out of town, I of course missed all of the immediate post-game flavor from the local news and sports talk shows. But now that I am back, I am devouring the Monday and Tuesday newspapers, and catching as much sports radio as I can. There seems to be an air of acceptance now, that the 49ers just can NOT seem to beat the Packers. Yes, there is some spin doctoring going on. Steve [I-hope-he-is-not-our-coach-next-year] Mariucci now says that both Marquez Pope and Merton Hanks were hurting, and that he hopes they will be healthy if the 49ers meet the Packers again. And there are a lot of fingers being pointed at J.J. Stokes for dropping what could have been a touchdown pass, and then for pushing around a couple of reporters in the locker room after the game. But basically, this time I think they finally get it.

As a final note on the 49ers, they are clearly every bit as obsessed with the Packers now as the Packers used to be with the Cowboys. Mariucci has reportedly instructed that no one on the team is to speak about, or even think about, the Packer game after midnight last night (Monday).

So where do the Packers stand at mid-year? Their record is 6-2, which is not too bad considering that I thought they would be 5-3, on their way to an 11-5 record, before the season started. The Packers have played better than I had feared they might, after how they performed during the pre-season. But they have some major holes and question marks:

  • The absence of a running game is a big problem, although there have been some signs of life in the last two games.
  • The defensive backs have gotten burned badly in a couple of games, but have played effectively in other games.
  • This Favre 2-3 interceptions per game stuff has got to stop. The Packers cannot continue to dodge that bullet from game to game.

    The 49er victory, coupled with the Vikings' loss, certainly improves the prospects for a favorable playoff spot. Has the Vikings' traditional second half collapse started a little early this year? It will be interesting to see. The problem, I am afraid to say, is probably STILL the 49ers. Even if the Packers do catch the Vikings for the division, I don't know that they will be able to stay even with the 49ers. The Packers will lose a couple more games, but the 49ers, in their division, may not. This could lead to another NFC Championship game in San Francisco.

    The Packers are about to start a 3 game road trip, with each of the 3 games on the dreaded artificial turf. The Packers only play two more games against teams with a current winning record, and they play them both in the next 3 weeks (Pittsburgh and Minnesota). Two out of three on the road trip would be a great result, three out of three almost too much to dream about. Travis Jervey's skills (speed) are ideally suited to astroturf, and he even prefers the stuff. This would be an excellent time for Jervey to have a few good games.

    The Packers are now 6-2. They should be able to win their last 4 games (although the game at Tampa is far from a "gimme"). I'd say they are on their way to a 12-4 or maybe even a 13-3 season.
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