Just last week, I was making my familiar complaint about not putting pressure on the quarterback. In big games last year, the Packers seemed to mostly sit in coverage, allowing elite quarterbacks to carve them up. They lost all the games in which they did this. In the Redskins game, they did it again, and lost to Donovan McNabb and the Redskins. In fairness, the Packers were without this year's defensive MVP, Clay Matthews III, so Dom Capers had more limited options.
When it began to look like Matthews would be back against the Vikings, I wondered if the Packers would learn from last year's debacles against the Vikings, and put more pressure on Favre. Yes, they certainly did. I was at the game (more on that below), so I wanted to get a chance to watch the game again before commenting on this. But the reality is that there is a strong correlation between pressure on Favre and good things happening for the Packers. Take a look at the game highlights (on NFL.com, here). Favre had one touchdown and three interceptions. On the touchdown, the pass is a quick one, but there is no extra pressure visible in the highlight. On the three interceptions, extra Packer rushers were either in Favre's personal space or on the way. This is not a mere coincidence.
There are no magic bullets in football. If you blitz on every play, good quarterbacks and offensive coordinators can find ways to beat you. My only argument is that without a judicious use of extra pressure on the quarterback, a team like the Packers is not good enough to beat an elite quarterback. With judicious blitzing, they have a fighting chance.
I had not originally planned to go to this game. We were going to be visiting our son on the East Coast, and getting to Green Bay on the way back to California would be complicated, since we were occupied in Providence on Saturday night. (While on the East Coast, we took a side trip to New York to see Lombardi on Broadway, a couple of nights before its official opening. I will report on that when I get a chance.) Our daughter (who lives in Chicago) encouraged me to stop back through Chicago and go to the game with her. In order to make that happen, I ended up getting four hours of sleep on Saturday night, and four hours of sleep again on Sunday night after driving back to Chicago. But what a great experience to be in Green Bay for this game. We got there in time to have dinner with old friends Laura and Mike at Curly's Pub in the atrium. Mike has always been a Packer fan, despite his Chicago upbringing, and Laura, a U.P. native, really should be a Packer fan, but for some reason roots for the Vikings. At least she had the discretion not to wear any of that purple stuff in the stadium.
In re-watching the game this week, I found that the TV broadcast did not come close to conveying the atmosphere in the stadium. Sure, you could hear the cheering and the booing, you could see the signs, you could see that people in the stands were excited, but that would be true of any game at Lambeau Field. But in the stands, the atmosphere was positively electric. The intensity was something that I can only associate with a playoff game.
This was obviously a huge win for the Packers. Whether they can keep the momentum going against the Jets, now one of the best teams in the league, remains to be seen. But at least they are in a position now to continue to contend for one of the top spots in the NFC.