Sunday, December 17, 2000

Too Little, Too Late

What a fabulous victory today by the Packers, in the Dome, against the Vikings. The Packers played with heart and intensity, and except for theone long TD to Moss, the game would not have been close at the end.

Some interesting facts about the game:

1. The Vikings were the last team in the NFL this year to lose a game in their home stadium. They finish with a 7-1 home record.

2. They are 11-2 against the rest of the league, 0-2 against the Packers.

3. Mike Holmgren's record against the Vikings was something like 8-8, 1-7 at the Dome. Mike Sherman's record is 2-0, 1-0 at the Dome.

4. The only win by the Packers in the Dome during the Holmgren years was in 1997, one of Mike Sherman's two years with the Packers as an assistant coach, and, I believe, the year that Holmgren asked Sherman to figure out why the Packers could never seem to win in the Dome. Maybe Mike Sherman is on to something.

5. Darren Sharper continues to lead the league in interceptions, and is the only Packer in the Pro Bowl. The turn-around this guy has had this year is nothing short of amazing. Congratulations to Sharper!

6. After starting out 2-4, the Packers have gone 6-3 the last 9 weeks, and have their first 3-game winning streak in quite a while. I think this puts to rest the question whether Mike Sherman will be back next year.

Unfortunately, all of this good stuff is still probably too little, too late, thanks to the fact that the Lions beat the Jets in the rain in New Jersey. Unless the Lions manage to lose to Chicago next week in the Silverdome (ain't gonna happen), the Packers will end their season next week against Tampa Bay.

Today's column is dedicated to 10-year-old Rocky Sonkowsky, of New Prague, Minnesota, a young man with the courage of his convictions, who is learning a lot about the meaning of free speech in our society. My kids are growing up in 49er/Raider country, and as a result I know a little about how brave Rocky must be. Way to go, Rocky! (If you don't know who Rocky is, take a
look at this article:
[Ed. note - original article in Journal-Sentinel online is no longer available. This article tells the same basic story:]

Sunday, December 10, 2000

Finding a Way to Win

So the Packers even their record again, at 7-7. [Ed. note - vs. the Lions, 26-13.] They even managed to do it on a day when Brett Favre was not particularly effective. That was a good sign. Will they end up the season with an 8-8 record? That would be my prediction. After all of the horror stories over the years at the Metrodome, I just don't think the Packers are up to it next week. And I am not sure that the Vikings' loss today to the Rams helps matters. A victory today would have locked up the Home Field Advantage for the Vikings, and created the hope that they would come out flat for next week's game. Now the game will mean something to the Vikings. I do think the Packers have an excellent shot at beating the Buccaneers in the last game of the season. The weather factor should do the Buccaneers in.

My favorite moment in today's game was the last touchdown run by Ahman Green. I can't even count the number of times over the years that the Packer fans have had their hearts broken in comparable (but reversed) situations. The Packers would be trailing by less than a TD, in the waning minutes of the game, and all they need to get another shot at a score is to hold the other team and force a punt. First down, gain of three. Second down, gain of three. One more play and we get the ball back. On third down, (choose your nemesis: Robert Smith, Mike Alstott, Emmitt Smith, Terrell Davis, Neal Anderson or whoever) busts a run up the middle for a long touchdown, squashing any chance for a comeback. But Ahman Green's touchdown today turned the tables on all of those heartbreaking endings. Just like that, the Lions were dead and the game was over. Beautiful.

As I understand it, the Packers' ever-so-slim playoff hopes remain alive, although losses today by St. Louis, Tampa Bay and New Orleans would have helped the cause. I believe that the Packers moved up 1 slot from the 9th slot to the 8th for one of the 6 playoff berths. Today's results caused the Packers to move past the sinking Redskins, also at 7-7, based on a better conference record. Parenthetically, although I have nothing against the new interim coach, I do take some small pleasure in seeing bad things continue to happen to the Redskins' obnoxious new owner.