Monday, September 10, 2001

A Good Start

A well-timed family visit brought me to Wisconsin this past weekend. So (of course) a visit to a rainy Lambeau Field on opening day was on the agenda. The last time I went to an opening day game, the up-and-coming 1995 Green Bay Packers laid an egg. They lost to the St. Louis Rams, providing the Rams with their first-ever victory since moving to St. Louis. The weather was much worse this time around, but the football result was much better. [Ed. note - the Packers beat the Lions, 28-6.]

Opening day is a great time of year for football fans. Everyone has high expectations, or at least high hopes, on opening day. There is frequently ahint of fall in the air, and for those with kids, the new school year has either begun or is about to begin.

Here are a few things that struck me about the game and the stadium.

The parking situation is not as bad as was advertised. I over-reacted to the talk about parking problems and plunked down the money for a reserved spot in one of the Ticket Star lots. But this turned out to be quite unnecessary, as it seemed to be just about as easy to find a parking spot near the stadium as in past years. (In fact, I could have parked in the Ticket Star lot to which I was assigned for $5 less than I paid Ticket Star.)

On the other hand, foot congestion going into the stadium was pretty bad. I don't know if they are really enforcing the requirement that you enter only through the gate marked on your ticket, but there seemed to be a larger-than-usual backup going into the stadium. People should definitely allow some extra time to get in by opening kickoff.

The bunting in the stadium looked nice, but would have looked much better on a bright, sunny day. The smattering of boos for Antonio Freeman as he was introduced was perhaps to be expected, but still disappointing to me. Although he was not much of a factor in the game, I hope he is able to rehabilitate himself with the fans. In that connection, he did a nice job blocking on one of the running plays, which may help.

If there was any doubt last year about whether Ahman Green is the real deal, this game goes a long way toward dispelling that doubt. Green broke tackles on both of his long touchdown runs. If only I had him on my fantasy football team! Brett Favre (who is on my team) was also very sharp, with a high completion percentage despite 3 or 4 dropped passes, two TD passes and
no interceptions. Plus Favre did a great job blocking on a reverse and on another running play. The fact that the Lions were missing 3 of their defensive backs is probably good reason not to over-react to how good Favre looked on opening day, though.

But I don't think it is an over-reaction to say that the defense looked great. Ed Donatell, the defensive coordinator, called a great game and the players responded. KGB (Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila) was an exciting presence on the defensive side of the ball. He had 3 of the Packers' 7 sacks, and how can you not like a player whose name includes the word "beer", and whose initials are KGB, if you include his first name, or GB if you don't. Darren Sharper seems to have picked up exactly where he left off last year, with 2 interceptions including one for a TD, although the TD was called back.

Anyway, a great way to start the season. The Packers have a tough schedule this year, so they can't afford to give away any games that they should win, and by the end of the first quarter yesterday, it was pretty clear that they were not going to give this game away.

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