Sunday, November 4, 2001

The Favreian Dilemma

Today's game, in which the Packers beat the Buccaneers by a final score of 21-20, highlights a problem the Packers have had, on and off, for the entire Brett Favre era. The problem is that Favre is not only the Packers' best player, he is also sometimes the Packers' biggest problem. Not in the way that Terrell Owens, Randy Moss or Brian Cox can be problems for their teams.
The mature Brett Favre seems to be a good citizen, on and off the field. But Favre's somewhat reckless style, in addition to leading to some of his most astonishing, creative, and sensational plays, also leads to his tendency to turn the ball over and create points for the other side.

Today's game is a perfect example. The Buccaneers scored 20 points, and almost won the game. Some could even say they should have won the game, although I would disagree. What is clear is that 17 of those 20 points were scored after Favre's two interceptions and Ahman Green's fumble. If Favre's third "interception" had not been overruled on replay when it was determined that the ball hit the ground before the interceptor gained control of the ball, chances are good that the Buccaneers would have picked up the game winning points on the drive that would have resulted from that turnover. In other words, mistakes by the Packers' two best players on offense led to 85% of the Buccaneers' points today. Take away those mistakes, and the game isn't even close. (To illustrate this, consider the fact that when Ahman Green scored on his long touchdown run, the total offense of each team was Green Bay, 323 yards, Tampa Bay, 121 yards.)

So couldn't we just get all the good plays out of Brett Favre, but tell him to be a little more careful about where he throws it? Or couldn't we get all the good plays from Ahman Green but tell him to hold on tight when he is struggling for extra yards? Well, I guess it does not really work that way. They should certainly be told to be more careful with the ball, and in fact I would argue that Favre is a lot more careful with the ball than he was earlier in his career. But just like you have to take all of the calories along with the ice cream sundae, we have to accept that Favre's basic style of play is going to lead to some mistakes on most days, along with all of the great plays. If the Packers were as dominant as they were in 1996, the mistakes would hardly matter at all. But they are not, and as a result they will certainly lose some games that they should have won. This team would not be 5-2 without Brett Favre and Ahman Green, make no mistake about it.

* * * *

On a lighter note, I am going to award today's game ball not to Brett Favre, or to Ahman Green, or even to Allan Rossum, but instead to Judy Freeman (my wife). When the score was 17-7 in favor of the Buccaneers, she told me I should move the Packer flag on our house back to its original location. My mind raced back to the fact that I had moved the flag bracket from the left side of the garage to the right side, JUST BEFORE THE DISASTROUS GAME AGAINST THE VIKINGS! And here it was, 17-7 in favor of the Buccaneers. Now I am not as superstitious as I used to be, but faced with these facts, why take the chance? I ran outside, screwdriver in hand, and moved the bracket back to the left side, after which the Packers ended up winning the game. Coincidence? You be the judge. Are all football fans this superstitious, or is it just us Packer fans?

And then, to put the icing on the cake, when the score was 20-14, Buccaneers, and the Bucs were lining up to punt, Judy said "it would be nice if you run the ball in right now." Ten seconds later (did you see Rossum's acceleration through the hole?), the Packers were ahead.

Having witnessed these events, you would think I would be smarter than to go out to do some yard work during the late game, with the Bears losing, 21-7 and a couple of minutes left. I thought the game was under control. But for the second week in a row, the Bears came back from a 14 or 15 point deficit in the closing minutes to win the game in overtime. Now that is a scary prospect if the Bears have developed into a team that can come from way behind and win games. Since the 49ers and the Browns don't seem to know how to beat the Bears, the Packers will have to take care of the Bears by themselves.

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