(Green Bay Press-Gazette photo of Charles Woodson and Al Harris embracing after the game)
"Boring." That is the description that a family member, and the Packergeeks, both used to describe the Packers' 24-3 win over the Rams last week, bringing the Packers' record to 6-0, and leaving them as the last undefeated team in the league. I didn't really agree with that, until I tried to watch the game again, and found myself day-dreaming about other things. But hey, boring isn't a bad thing when your team is 6-0.
One of the more "interesting" plays in the game was turned in by Sam Shields. He made a great play on the ball to intercept Sam Bradford's pass in the end zone. But he ended up getting a concussion after running around in the end zone trying to decide whether to try to return the ball. I have to say that was one stupid play on his part. Watching it on TV, it is always difficult to know what the player sees, or thinks he sees, from his angle. Here he makes a great play to intercept the ball in the end zone, but instead of either running the ball out, or kneeling to end the play, he ran all the way from one edge of the end zone toward the other, evidently trying to find a seam to run the ball out. Instead he was hammered on the play and did not return. That is one painful way to get a touchback.
The Packers continue to look pretty much unstoppable on offense, although I suppose it sounds strange to say that when the team did not score in the second half. But when you are ahead 24-3 at halftime, and when the opponent does not score in the second half either, it might be a little obsessive to worry much about that. On defense, the Packers continue to give up way too many yards, and have not seemed, all year, to be as dominant as they were at times last year. But, for whatever reason, they seem to be able to make plays and stiffen in the red zone. The challenge for the defense would be to learn to play that way on the rest of the field, so you don't have to come up with the big play in the red zone.
"We're 7 days from being 7-0, and that's our message." When I first saw this quote from Mike McCarthy, I almost cringed. Bulletin Board Material! And I suppose it is bulletin board material. But on second thought, this is just the new Mike McCarthy, the one we have seen since late last season. The one who said "we are nobody's underdog" in connection with the game against the Patriots. The one who had the team measured for Super Bowl rings the night before the Super Bowl. The one who has an empty frame in the team meeting room, waiting for the portrait of the next Packer Super Bowl Champions. He seems to have a strategy here, that expressing high expectations for the team, and challenging them to meet those expectations, serves as motivation. Motivation is a funny thing, but this technique seems to be working. You would think that at this level, players can motivate themselves, and that nobody needs emotional halftime speeches to get ready to play the second half. You would think that a player like Aaron Rodgers doesn't need to use long-ago perceived slights as motivation to play better, but he does, and it also seems to be working. As long as the Packers continue to win most (or all!) of the games against good teams, and avoid letdowns against the bad teams, they are going to continue to win a lot of games.
Since joining the NFL in 1921, the Packers have been 6-0 only 5 other times, and in all 5 of those seasons, they won the league’s championship:1929, ’30, ’31, ’62 and ’65. And here is another obscure stat for you: 5 of the last 6 teams to start 6-0 have made it to the Super Bowl.
The Vikings have announced that they are benching Donovan McNabb, and that Christian Ponder will be the starting QB for the rest of the year. It will be interesting to see how he plays. It is a daunting task to make your first start against the undefeated defending World Champions. On the other hand, you' have nothing to lose in that circumstance. You are expected to lose the game, and everyone will understand if you do. It is all upside, just like when Cam Newton lost to the Packers and all anyone could talk about was how good he looked. I expect the Packers to be 7-0 going into the bye week, so the stats junkies should get ready to pour through the record books looking for 7-0 teams and how they do.
Occasional ramblings by Tom Freeman, a life-long Green Bay Packers fan, season ticket holder, and shareholder, now living on the idyllic Central Coast of California. My articles were previously published on the South End Zone web site.