Sunday, September 23, 2007

Packers - Chargers wrap up

OK. I think I'm calmed down now. It may not always be easy being a Packers fan. But it sure can't be beat. And right now, neither can the Packers. 3-0 has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Especially when some of those high-paid talking heads -- and you know who you are! -- expected the Pack to be 0-3 at this point of the season.

Seventy-six percent of the teams that start 3-0 go to the playoffs, according to a stat cited on-air by WTMJ620 radio sports guru, Bill Michaels. And all teams last year that started 3-0 went to the playoffs. Does this mean the Pack will? Of course not. But is it better than the alternative? A-duh! The ViQueens lost today to make them 1-2. The Lions got blown out by the Eagles, to put them at 2-1. And after Da Bearz lose to the Cowboys tonight in Chicago to fall into a tie with the 'Queens at 1-2, the Packers will stand alone atop the division at 3-0. (OK, they stand at the top of the division regardless, but you know what I mean.) They'll take that record and a 7-game winning streak (going back to last season) into the Humpty Dump to take on a team that rightly deserves to share the basement with Da Bearz.

But enough about records and next week. What happened in the 4th quarter of the game? Here are a few highlights.

With the Bolts leading 21-14, and with about 12 minutes to go in the game and the Chargers at about their own 20, KGB sacked QB Phil Rivers causing a fumble. It looked as if KGB tried to pick up the ball and couldn't. Chargers recovered, setting up a punt.

The Pack started to move the ball and on 3rd and 2, Brett threw a pass to TE Donald Lee that would have resulted in a first down...if he hadn't pushed off. Which, if memory serves, is something he got called on last week as well. Most if not all receivers push off. So obviously Mr. Lee must perfect his technique so as not to be so obvious...not that I'm advocating that sort of thing, of course. Anyway...that made it 3rd and 12 from the Chargers 29. Brett went right back to Lee with an 18-yard strike for a first down at the 11. There was another pass that appeared to be for a TD, only to have the refs call the receiver down at about the 1-yard line. Brett wanted to challenge, but McCarthy apparently decided to not jeopardize his remaining timeouts on a failed challenge. Depending upon the replay view, it was a TD...or it wasn't. The Pack decided that they should be able to score anyway, so with the ball at the 1...RG Junius Coston promptly proceeded to have a false start penalty that moved the ball back to 6. After then overthrowing his outlet receiver, and then being sacked, Brett threw a bullet to WR James Jones at the goal line and...he was called down at about the 1-foot line. So, 4th down with about a foot to go. What do the Packers do? Not run. No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o. Why would we do that? In fact, let's not even bother to put any running backs in to even feign a run...let's just clear the backfield and make it even more obvious we'll be passing. And, surprise, surprise...the pass was tipped at the line and the Pack was turned away with less than 6 minutes remaining.

At this point, it did not look good. And if the Pack hadn't gone on to win, there would have been a lot of second-guessing about that series of plays. Rightly, there can still be some second-guessing. (Just a stat to ponder: with about 2:30 to go in the game the Packers had 6 yards rushing in the entire second half!)

So the ball went over to the Bolts who proceeded to get out of the near-end zone on a 3rd down pass to Antonio Gates. However, the Pack was able to hold and got the ball back via a punt at their own 44. On second down and with a little over 2 minutes to go, Brett hit Greg Jennings on a quick slant that Jennings proceeded to catch in full stride and turn into a 57-yard TD catch and run. Jennings may not be the fastest guy on the planet, but it sure seems as if he can pull away from defenders trying to catch him. It's nice to have him back in the playing line up, that's for sure. This was the TD pass that also tied Brett with Dan Marino for most all-time TD passes at 420. This put the Packers ahead 24-21.

The Packers stiffened on defense and on third down from their own 30 with a little over a minute to go, Rivers' pass was intercepted by Packers LB Nick Barnett, who returned it to the 2. Amazingly, the Packers actually scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown on a hand off to Brandon Jackson. Pack 31 - Chargers 21.

To the Chargers credit, they came down the field and took a field goal on third down with about 20 seconds to go to put them within a TD of tying...assuming they could recover an onside kick...which an on-screen stat showed they hadn't done in 10 years. The kick was high, but too far, right into the waiting and secure hands of Donald Driver. Game over. Pack wins 31-24.

Make no mistake: there is still a lot to work on. Especially that, what do they call it? Oh yeah, running game. But the defense shut down a powerful offense enough to allow the Pack to score the points it needed to make to win. And contrary to the prior 2 games where we were assisted with special teams turnovers, etc., this game was no fluke as some might have thought about the earlier ones.

This young team has confidence. That's what's needed going into the Humpty Dump. The Pack have won the last 3 out of 4 there. Let's make it 4 out of 5.

Enjoy, Packers fans. It's going to be a fun ride this year.

Oh, and one more record before closing this post: Donald Driver has now caught more TD passes at Lambeau Field than any other Packers receiver. Ever. Congrats Donald. Congrats Brett. It sure is fun watching you guys.