Sunday, December 30, 2007

Packers vs Lions Preview

The last regular season game of 2007 will commence for the Packers in less than 3 hours. Whereas last year it was just about getting to 8-8 and turning around a season that started off looking eerily familiar to the dismal 4-12 record of the year before, this year it's about getting primed for the playoffs by finishing 13-3. And blowing away the blip of a week ago where players' focus was not on the field but rather on the heaters. (More on this in a moment.)

So, the offense needs to get back on track. The defense needs to stop third down conversions. And special teams need to be, well, special once again.

Now, it's clear that the coaches won't want to play key starters any longer than they need to. That probably means something like a half for Brett, maybe 3 quarters for some of the others. But it's key to get out of the game without injuries. And win, of course. So, hopefully, the Pack can get off to a hot start, jump out to a big lead and then rest those that they can and should. Kind of like the Patriots had hoped to do last night against the Giants before the Giants decided to make a game of it. Now, the Lions will likely want to do that too. They haven't won in Green Bay since...anybody remember when that was? And they don't win much anywhere else either. So, let's keep that low self-esteem of the Lions going, shall we?

The Packers are favored by 5. Weather conditions will seem downright balmy compared to last week in Chicago: about 29 with perhaps some scattered snow showers. There are no excuses in this one. The Pack needs to take care of business and go into their first round bye on an up note. Packers 24 - Lions 13.

The thing about the weather...remember The Ice Bowl?

It was noted above in reference to last week's game that the players' focus was on staying warm not on the game. It clearly impacted this young team. Da Bearz kept their focus, the Packers did not. And that was the game.

This point was brought home in an Ice Bowl 40th Anniversary (40!) TV special last night. Recall that this was likely the most frigid NFL game ever played. Minus-13 degrees air temp at game time. And although the wind chill factor wasn't invented yet, it's believed that wind chills were somewhere in the neighborhood of minus-48 at times. Compared to those conditions, our young players were in the tropics last week.

While all those interviewed during the special spoke to the weather conditions, Jerry Kramer -- he of the infamous block -- really said it well. And the young Packer players should hear what he said loud and clear. He said that when the players went on the field for the game they had a decision to make: they could either decide to be "miserable" or they could get over it and focus on the task at hand. The fact that the Packers focused so well, especially during the last 4 minutes or so when they were behind 17-14 and had to put together a long drive to get into scoring position, was what ultimately decided the game. How Bart Starr was able to throw the Boyd Dowler and Chuck Mercein were able to catch key Donny Anderson was able to Ken Bowman, Kramer and Forrest Gregg were able to get enough footing for that right side line surge for the winning score...that, my friends, was focus. Admittedly, these were veterans. They were playing for their third consecutive World Championship, and their second trip to the Super Bowl. They knew that focus was more important than the weather conditions.

Lombardi taught his players how to excel, to do more than they probably thought they could do. If this young Packer team is to reach this year's Super Bowl, they need to learn what focus is all about. They have done more this season than anyone -- including probably most of them -- thought possible. But they should have also gotten a valuable lesson from last week: either you focus on your task and win, or focus on the weather (or other outside factors) and lose. It ultimately comes down to that.

Go Pack Go!!!