Friday, August 22, 2008

Show Us Something

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — I have gone to (by my count) eight Packer games at Candlestick Park, although there could have been one or two more pre-season games that are not recorded on Six of the eight featured Brett Favre as starter, one had Don Majkowski as the starter, and last Saturday's game was started by Aaron Rodgers. This was only the second Packer loss I have witnessed at Candlestick Park, the other of course being the Terrell Owens game. The Packers were obviously in that game until the end, since they only lost it in the closing seconds on that disastrous pass. So it should be obvious that this was by far the worst Packer performance I have ever seen in San Francisco.

So what? It's only a pre-season game. I know, it was only a pre-season game. But when team management goes out on a limb by trading away a franchise player like Brett Favre (whatever the merits of the disputes between the sides), a lot of attention is naturally going to be focused on how the successor fares on the field. That is why the first pre-season game was a success, even though the Packers lost. Rodgers got on and off the field quickly, had some success, and even built a 10-point Packer lead. That is also why the systematic destruction of the Packers by the 49ers last week is a bigger deal than it would be in any other season. The natives are starting to get restless, and according to a Mike Vandermause column in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, even the crowds at pre-season practices are dwindling to numbers not seen in 15 years.

After getting home from the game Saturday night (traffic was light, since the stands were half full to start with, and since 49er fans were leaving to high fives throughout the third and fourth quarter), I watched Brett Favre's brief and successful debut with the Jets, and then I watched about the first quarter of the Packer game. The very best thing I can say about it is that the Packers did not look as bad in the first quarter as they did for the rest of the game. If a couple of dropped passes had not been dropped, maybe things would have looked a lot better. But they were dropped, and so the Packers never really got anything started.

And all this happened against the 49ers, to make things worse. Not only did the Packers own the 49ers throughout the Favre era, with the single exception of the Terrell Owens game, but the 49ers were not expected to be any good this year, coming off their 5-11 season last year. In fairness to the 49ers, they also looked pretty good last night against the Bears, so maybe they have turned the corner with their new QB, and will have a better year than I (and many others) had expected.

(As a side note, I learned by listening to the 49er radio broadcast in the stands that Charles Woodson became something of an oenophile during his time with the Raiders, and has his own wine being released this fall, under the name "24." No, he is not a Jack Bauer fan, but instead he named the wine after his player number with the Raiders. That is all well and good, but really, shouldn't a football player from Ohio, who played at Michigan, Oakland and Green Bay, have his own line of beer, or brats, or cheese or ribs, or something other than wine?)

Getting back to football, this leads us to tonight's game at Denver. The last time these teams met, on Monday night in mid-season last year, there were lots of fireworks, with Favre hitting Jones on a bomb in the first quarter, and Jennings on another bomb in overtime. Greg Jennings apparently will play tonight, and as a result Packer fans will be looking to see how Rodgers and Jennings look. It would be nice if other injured players (especially Ryan Grant) would also play tonight, but at least Jennings has been cleared to play. If Rodgers does not connect on some long balls to Jennings or someone else tonight, the suffocating pressure he is under is only going to get worse.

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