Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Never in Doubt

When the Redskins and Packers get together on Monday Night Football, you can always count on an interesting game. The last time, in 1983, the two teams combined for the highest-scoring Monday Night Football game in history. The Packers prevailed, 48-47, when Mark Moseley, the last of the "conventional" NFL place kickers, missed a 39 yard field goal in the closing seconds. I
was on an airplane from San Francisco to Los Angeles the morning after that game. Presumably not a lot of Packer fans or Redskins fans on the plane. But the Monday Night game was all anybody could talk about that morning.

This time around, only a Packer fan or a Redskin-hater could really appreciate the game. I would imagine that half of the audience switched off the game by early in the third quarter. The Packers were so dominant, and the Redskins so powerless, that there was no doubt that the Packers would win from very early on. I remember having a little bit of nervousness when Favre's pass was intercepted at the end of the first half. The Redskins were only two touchdowns away from the lead, after all. But who was I kidding? The Packers were in complete control, and it would have taken some really bizarre events for the Packers to lose the game.

I had two favorite moments from last night. One was before the game, when the players rushed out on the field, led by Chris Gizzi carrying the flag. It was a stirring moment, made all the more poignant when it was mentioned that he had been chosen for the honor because he is an Air Force Reserve Officer.

And the other was the touchdown pass to Bill Schroeder. Living in the San Francisco area, I have suffered through any number of Montana to Rice or Young to Rice slant passes for touchdowns over the years. It always seemed as if the passes led Rice perfectly, hitting him in stride, and that Rice would accelerate through the gap between the defenders and be off to the end zone. I remember one of these passes to Rice against the Packers, where the defenders were chasing Rice for maybe 40 or 50 yards to the end zone. Anyway, the pass to Schroeder last night was EXACTLY like those passes. The pass could not have been more perfect, Schroeder never had to slow down to get it, and he turned on the jets to run right past those guys to the end zone. This was not the most dramatic Packer touchdown pass I have ever seen. The most dramatic was probably either Favre's very first game-winning touchdown pass, to Kitrick Taylor, after Don Majkowski was knocked out of the game what seems like many years ago, or maybe the game-winning overtime pass to Freeman last year. But it is the prettiest Packer touchdown pass I have seen in some time.

Let's not get carried away with this win. Neither the Lions nor the Redskins are very good teams. But, on the other hand, how many times over recent years have you seen the Packers play down to the level of the competition, either squeaking out a victory over an inferior opponent, or even losing the game? I am encouraged by the way that the Packers dominated these two very weak opponents. Now the Packers need to carry that intensity on the road, as they play two better-quality teams in the next two weeks, the Panthers and the Buccaneers. We will know a lot more about what the Packers' season will look like after those two games.

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