The last three games went exactly as I expected. Wins against Carolina and Detroit, and (another) unfortunate loss against the Cowboys in Texas. It is easy to make excuses and argue that the Packers will have a better chance, if it comes down to an NFC Championship game at Dallas in January. The Packers were without several starters on defense, Favre was injured in the first half, etc. Now the absence of Charles Woodson and KGB really was a big deal, so that can't be discounted. But the reality is, the score was 27-10 by the time Aaron Rodgers took his first snap, so I don't think Favre's injury was a big factor in this game. In fact, after Favre was hurt, the Packers seemed to abandon their peculiar "all bombs, all the time" strategy on offense, which allowed the impressive Aaron Rodgers to almost bring the Packers back. But the bottom line is, even if the Packers have a better chance next time, it is hard to be convinced that they would actually win the next time around.
With four games left in the season, the Packers now host the Oakland Raiders this week. The Packers and the Raiders have only played each other 10 times in history (not counting pre-season games). But there is a fair amount of history in those games. The first game, of course, was Super Bowl II, on January 14, 1968. The Packers won their second straight Super Bowl, this time by the score of 33-14. I was a teenager at the time, and although I don't really remember the game, I remember the mindset we had in those days. We could not imagine that an AFL team could keep up with an NFL team, and so we assumed that the NFL teams would continue to crush the AFL teams in Super Bowls for years to come, just as the Packers had the first two years. It was only a year later that Joe Willie Namath and the Jets showed that our belief in the invincibility of the NFL teams was an illusion. As if to prove the point, the Raiders went on to win 5 in a row against the Packers after Super Bowl II, and only a 4 game winning streak by the Packers has brought the record back to an even 5-5.
In 1993, the Raiders went to Green Bay on a cold, December day, and were shut out 28-0. One of our Raider fan friends called around halftime to concede the game. But the game is famous for a defensive touchdown, after Leroy Butler forced a fumble, and Reggie White recovered the ball. The big man pitched it to the smaller and faster Butler, who ran it in for a touchdown and (spontaneously, as far as we know) jumped into the stands for the first "Lambeau Leap." That play will undoubtedly be shown on the game broadcast this week.
And then there was that game four years ago in Oakland, also in December, when the Packers were playing in the Monday night game the day after Brett Favre's father died. We have been to a few games at the Oakland Coliseum, and Raider fans are a tough crowd. But not that night. I have never seen Raider fans show as much respect and affection for an opposing quarterback as they did that night. And the Packers' receivers just stepped it up, catching anything that was anywhere near them, as the Packers went on to win, 41-7. It was a magical night, with tears in the eyes of many of the Packer fans in the crowd. You can expect to see highlights from that game, as well.
This week, it was announced that Brett Favre is the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. The issue is not out yet, but the article is available online. Packer fans simply must read this article, as it is filled with great memories of things we all know about, and (at least in my case) details about Brett Favre the man that we never knew. The article can be found at http://tinyurl.com/3cuefb
Finally, I want to wish a warm welcome back to a relative of my wife, First Lieutenant Daniel Belzer, who has recently returned from Iraq. I sent Daniel DVDs of the Packer games over most of the last season and a half, and I gather that he is far from the only Packer fan in the Army. Now that he is back, I understand that he is catching up on the DVDs from the last few weeks, since we were advised not to send any more packages after a certain date, since they would not arrive in time. The recording of the Cowboy game may not be to his liking, but there are lots of other great moments from this season to watch over again.