Friday, July 19, 2002

Cause for Concern

One win, one loss, both against teams that look as if they are better than anyone assumed. Things could be a lot worse, right?

Of course they could, but let's take a closer look at what has happened. Michael Vick became the new starter for the Falcons, and proceeded to force the Packer defense to chase him all over the field on an unseasonably hot Green Bay day. By the time the first quarter was over, the defenses on both sides must have had very little left in the tank. But the burden was worse for the Packers' defense, who had to continue to chase Vick. When you look at it this way, the fact that the Packers won the game in overtime, rather than being an embarrassment for the Packers, is actually quite an accomplishment. I was convinced, and my attitude was, "let's see what the defense looks like against the Saints before getting too concerned."

Well, the defense looked pretty terrible, and this time not even Brett Favre could bail out the team. True, the Saints also look better than expected, having beaten the Buccaneers in Week one, and having replaced the departed Ricky Williams with Deuce McAllister without missing a beat. But that doesn't change the fact that the Packers didn't just lose the game. Instead, the Packers lost the game AND the defense looked old, slow, and tired.

So I am concerned. And I was concerned before I found out that Ahman Green would probably miss this week's game. Before I learned that Mark Tauscher would miss the rest of the season. Before the Lions announced that they would start Joey Harrington. Before it dawned on me that this will be the first regular season game in Ford Field. The Packers just have too much history making new starters look like Hall-of-Famers. Especially on artificial turf. Especially in domes. So now I am really concerned.

I have seen the view expressed that the Packers now face two eminently winnable games against Detroit and Carolina. And if they win both of those games to get to 3-1, things will almost automatically look more positive than they do right now. But it just doesn't look that automatic to me. Heck, the Packers almost lost to the equally bad Lions last year on Thanksgiving Day. And the eminently beatable Panthers are sitting at 2-0, so maybe they are not such a bad team, either.

The third game of the season can't really be a "must-win" game. The Patriots last year started out 0-2, and lost their Pro Bowl quarterback for most of the year. But if the Packers don't win this game, it looks like it will be a long season.

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