Monday, November 17, 2008

The afterglow: Packers wallop Da Bearz 37-3

Finally. Finally the Packers put it all together. Why it has taken 10 games for it to happen - actually 14 counting preseason -- is still a mystery. But the Pack finally played a complete game on both sides of the ball and, perhaps even better, did so against the loathsome division rival from Chicago.

C'mon, Packer fans...say it with me: the Bears still suck!

And, judging from the call-in radio shows going on south of the border (that would be the Wisconsin state line, of course) there's no group of folks who think that way more so than Da Bearz' own fans. If you had a chance to listen in to Chicago station WSCR 670AM after the game you would have heard fans and radio personalities alike ripping Da Bearz a new one, as the saying goes. The only thing better than beating Da Bearz is then listening to their own fans turn on them. (If you want to see an example, just check out this article from Chicago Tribune sports writer, Steve Rosenbloom.)

But, to the game. Those of you who were able to see the game on TV saw a Packers team that dominated on both sides of the ball. The offensive and defensive lines for the Packers controlled the game. Time of possession for the Packers was about 15 minutes more than for Da Bearz. Third down efficiency, which was 1 of 11 recently, improved to 7 of 14 yesterday. Total offensive output for the Pack was 427 yards -- with 200 yards of that rushing, 145 coming from Ryan Grant alone -- versus 234 for Chicago. The Packers were 3 of 4 in the red zone. And let's not forget that 54-yard fumble recovery for a TD by DE Jason Hunter with a little over 7 minutes left in the game -- this was the Pack's seventh defensive score on a turnover, surpassing the record of six previously held by the 1966 World Championship team.

Everything the Packers did worked, and worked well. It was a complete team effort and it showed in how dominating a team they can be when they play up to their skill level. When you beat another NFL team by 34 points, you know you've got it going on all cylinders. According to an article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Only four times in the 175 regular-season games between the two organizations has the margin been wider than it was Sunday. The Packers had won two, 49-0 in 1962 and 40-3 in 1994, just as the Bears had won two, 45-7 in 1948 and 61-7 in 1980."

What's ahead?
Another great result from Sunday, of course, was that the ViQueens lost to Tampa Bay. So, we once again find ourselves in a three-way tie for the division lead, with the Pack, Da Bearz and ViQueens all bunched up at a seemingly mediocre 5-5, with 6 games remaining. Because of the way the rest of the NFC stacks up -- four teams in the NFC East and three in the NFC South have better records -- it's likely the only way a team from the NFC North makes the playoffs is by winning the division. The Packers finally sent a signal yesterday to remind folks that they still are the defending NFC North champs and will be until some other team takes it away from them. The Pack has already left at least two games they should have won on the table. They can't afford to do so any longer.

With six games remaining, they need to probably come away with five wins to take the division. Won't be easy. The Packers travel to New Orleans for a game next Monday night, followed by Carolina and Houston at GB, then on the road against Jacksonville and the rematch against Da Bearz, and a final regular season game at Lambeau against the hapless and hopeless Lions. Da Bearz play their next two games on the road against the Rams and the ViQueens, then have three at home against the Jaguars, Saints and the Pack, and then close out their season on the road against Houston. The ViQueens are at Jacksonville this coming Sunday, then are at the HumpDome against Da Bearz, then play two away at Detroit and Arizona, and close with two at home against Atlanta and the Giants.

Schedule plays a factor, as does available talent this time of season. Given the comparison of the schedules, which team has it easier? Certainly Da Bearz seemingly have an advantage of sorts with three straight home games. But on the talent side of things? Not so much. The ViQueens, despite being at home for their last two games, don't have a cakewalk. So let's just for the sake of conversation say that the schedules -- at this point -- are a push. Then it comes down to talent. Clearly, the Packers have the best talent on both sides of the ball in the division. They underachieved most of the season. But if they can feed off the performance yesterday, the division is theirs for the taking.

Go Pack Go!!!