Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Lions and Chargers and Bears . . .

. . . Oh, my!

The Packers played things just about right against the 49ers on Sunday. On defense, they decided to blitz more than they have all year, to see if the 49ers' young quarterback could be rattled. Turns out he could, and was, so the Packers kept it up, with nice results all day long except for the 4th down touchdown to Terrell Owens. On offense, it was Green, Davenport and Fisher as the main course, with the bomb to Javon Walker as the appetizer. And what a tasty appetizer it was! Just like that, the Packers about doubled their longest pass of the year so far. Especially since the injury to Favre's thumb, they have not even tried many long passes, and those they have tried have been incomplete or intercepted. So it was a welcome development for Favre to complete a long pass for a touchdown. If nothing else, it serves to remind defensive coordinators that they cannot completely ignore the pass while trying to stop the Packers' now-dominant-like-the-1960s running game. As Favre said after the game, the Packers knew they would run the ball a lot, and the 49ers knew the Packers would run the ball a lot, and yet they just could not stop the running game.

But the main point of this short article is to send out a note of caution about over-confidence. Sure, the Packers have won 3 of the last 4 games, dispatching a couple of playoff teams from last year, as well as the division-leading Vikings. Sure, the Packers only face one team with a winning record the rest of the year (the Broncos, now 6-5, at Lambeau Field in the last week of the season). Barring major injuries to the Packers, they will be favored in every game for the rest of the year. But when facing the Lions and Chargers and Bears of the league, the Packers are vulnerable to that old bugaboo of over-confidence. All of these teams are also professionals, some of them will be highly-motivated to pull off an upset (e.g. the Lions in their traditional Thanksgiving Day game), and with Favre's thumb being what it is, it would be a good idea to put these opponents away early, not let up, and not rely on the
possibility of coming from behind at the end.

The Packers' last trip to Detroit on Thanksgiving is a good example. In the 2001 season, the Packers were (as they are now) a much better team than the Lions. The Packers cruised to a 29-13 lead in that game, before turning on the auto-pilot for the rest of the game. The result: the Lions got back into the game with a touchdown and 2-point conversion, to make it 29-21. They then recovered the onside kick, and scored another touchdown with 10 seconds left. Only a missed 2-point conversion prevented the game from being tied. Nobody needs that kind of indigestion on Thanksgiving!

Best wishes to everyone for a Happy Thanksgiving, a Packer victory, and no indigestion.

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