Monday, October 22, 2001

What a Difference A Week Makes

Sunday's game against Minnesota was the polar opposite of last week's game against Baltimore. For every pass that was snared by a Packer for a great catch last week, one fell incomplete this week. Last week the Packers just dominated a team that, some of us thought, was a better team, at least on defense. This week, a team with all kinds of weaknesses on offense and defense totally dominated the Packers, a team we all assumed was the superior team.

The Packers were beaten solidly in just about every phase of the game, including a ridiculous disparity in time of possession (37 minutes to 23). This loss was a true team effort, and there is plenty of blame to be shared by offense, defense, and by the coaching staff. The 35-13 loss, according to reports, is the worst loss the Packers have suffered in 7 years, going back to the 35-9 pasting of the Packers by the Cowboys in January, 1995.

Some of us had deluded ourselves into thinking that Minnesota is no longer the House of Horrors for the Packers, by convincing ourselves that the Packers have sufficient speed now to turn the turf to their advantage. Ahman Green would have a big day, as would our speedy receivers like Corey Bradford. KGB would be in Daunte Culpepper's face all day. With the retirement of Robert Smith, and with Michael Bennett being injured, the Vikings would have no running game at all, allowing the Packers' defense to concentrate on stopping Moss and Carter.

Of course, none of that happened. Ahman Green was not much of a factor. KGB rarely had his name or initials called. In fact, his name literally does not appear in the game statistics: no tackles, no sacks, no assists. The receivers dropped a lot of balls. One of Favre's passes was intercepted and run back for a touchdown. And the Packers, as they seem to have done many times before, gave up large chunks of yardage to a backup running back,this one named Chapman. Shades of Brad Hoover from last year's Carolina game! Leroy Butler was injured and did not return to the game. Favre injured his elbow on a meaningless 2 point conversion attempt at the end of the game. Heck, even one of the Packers' coaches was injured in a bizarre mishap on the sidelines.

The upshot is that the Chicago Bears are now in sole possession of first place in the NFC Central. The Packers (4-2) have fallen two games behind the St. Louis Rams (6-0) for the best record in the NFL. And Minnesota (3-3) and Tampa Bay (2-3), instead of being banished to "wait-until-next-year-land," are creeping closer to the Packers in the standings. At least we can still count on Detroit (0-5) for some comic relief, as they wasted two fourth quarter ties to lose to the Titans in the final seconds.

But, hey: look at the bright side. At least we won't have to read more accolades about the Packers this week, and how "super" they are looking. This will allow our expectations to settle back a little toward normal. And the Packers won't be reading any accolades during their bye week, either. Instead, they will have to get ready for a now-crucial home game against Tampa on November 4. The Weather Channel says that the average high temperature in Green Bay on November 4 is 47 degrees Fahrenheit. Not cold enough!

Seriously, it is almost impossible to go through a whole season without a disappointing game somewhere along the way. And this blowout game counts the same in the standings as a close loss on a field goal as time expires. There is nothing we can do but hope that this game is an aberration, and not the start of a new trend.

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