Monday, September 18, 2000

Baby Steps, Giant Leap

It's hard to wax rhapsodic about a victory by a score of 6-3. [Ed. note - over the Eagles.] Was this an epic battle between suffocating defensive powerhouses? Hardly. More like a match of two struggling teams, whose defenses played pretty well, but whose offenses were out of sync. One team tried and succeeded in avoiding the dreaded 0-3 record, and the other fell to a disappointing 1-2 after settling back to earth in the wake of the season opening crushing of their traditional rival, the hated Cowboys.

The Packers' defense is proving to be a bit of a pleasant surprise, playing better than most of us probably expected based on their showing in the pre-season. This week's defensive story was the play of third-stringer Tod McBride, pressed into action by injuries to Antuan Edwards and Mike McKenzie. He did just about everything one could hope for from a third string defensive back. My only little gripe about the defense is their tendency to give up first down yardage on third down plays, seemingly without regard to how many yards the opponent needs.

The offense was not impressive. Dorsey Levens' return was welcome, and he looked good in spots, but had almost no luck going up the middle, and his speed is not great enough to consistently gain big yardage around the corner. Many more near-misses on passing plays Sunday, with passes not quite where they should be, and with other passes bouncing off the hands of the receivers. Turnovers killed several promising drives.

Special teams were OK, but just slightly off. The punting game was good, but Longwell missed a makeable field goal in the first half before coming back with what I believe was his first game-winning kick in any game at any level (that's what they said, but it still seems hard to believe). Rossum had a punt return go for a touchdown before it was called back for an illegal block, but that block had a lot to do with springing him for the TD.

So this is not a big victory, just some baby steps in the right direction. The Packers' next two games are winnable (at Arizona, and a home game against the Bears). While there is no reason to think that the Packers are good enough to be predictable, if they can improve a bit each game, they could be 3-2 two weeks from today. That is a realistic goal.

So if the game victory was the "baby steps" in the title of this article, what is the "giant leap?" That's easy. The Packers' victory at the polls this past Tuesday in getting the Lambeau renovation project tax approved. It is easy for a guy like me, 2000 miles away, to say that the residents of Brown County should increase their taxes to pay for a stadium renovation. "Sure, go ahead and spend as much money as you want, so long as it is not my money." But the Green Bay community has a long history of coming to the rescue of this team when times are tough, and they have done it again. And as a non-resident, I feel like I have done my part, too, by buying shares of Packer stock three years ago for myself, my wife and two kids. Way to go, Brown County residents!

Monday, September 4, 2000

Inauspicious Opener

Well, the best I can say about yesterday's game is that it could have been worse. The defense looked better than I expected, except at the end of the game after Mike McKenzie's injury. I read in one of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's articles the comment of an NFL Scout who said "If No. 34 doesn't get hurt, Green Bay wins the game." He is probably right about that. I hope McKenzie is able to come back next week, as it certainly is obvious that we need his help.

The special teams looked better than I expected. This kid Rossum promises to bring back some excitement to the return game.

And the offense? I guess the offense looked like I expected it, but not nearly as good as I had hoped. The rust on Favre's arm was obvious, but expected. I would not want to catch some of those Favre balls either, after not having him zip them to me for most of the pre-season. But these guys are professionals, and it is their job to catch them. The running game actually showed some signs of life, but not enough to make us forget about Dorsey Levens. The comment of the TV guy after Ahman Green's fumble, that it is fumbling that is the reason that Green is not a Seattle Seahawk right now, was exactly right.

Speaking of the Seahawks, I watched parts of that game, too, and they looked absolutely pathetic. I have Kitna as my backup fantasy football quarterback, and Seattle as my starting defense. I will be looking for replacements this week, and Holmgren's comments in the paper this morning suggest he may be doing the same thing.

The Packer game was one of those games where both teams looked bad, but one of the teams gets to go away saying "it wasn't pretty but at least we won the game." It was looking as if that might be the Packers, until the interception killed the last threat. I give the defensive back credit for going high and actually holding on to the ball, after I watched defenders dropping easy interceptions all day long in a number of the games on the tube.

My sense is that the early part of the season is going to be just like this. Favre will probably not practice much during the weeks, Levens may not be back for another couple of weeks, and as a result every game is going to be an adventure until Favre is fully healthy (if he ever gets fully healthy). I just hope they can pull a few of these games out, so that we still have something to shoot for later in the season.

This week, the dreaded Astroturf curse, Packers at Bills. I did not see much of the Bills' game Sunday night, but from what I saw they did not bowl me over. Plus I gather that their Q.B. was knocked out of the game. I'll go a little bit out on a limb and predict a Packer win, 23-17.