Monday, October 25, 2010

Packers beat Favre and Vikings...finally!

As the football world knows today, the Green Bay Packers -- depleted by injuries coming into the game and wounded even more throughout it -- prevailed last evening over their border rival Minnesota Vikings, 28-24.

This was a much-needed win, a character win, as they say. What else can you call a game where you overcome two turnovers by your own QB in or near the red zone by getting three interceptions of your own and holding the opponent scoreless in the final 15 minutes of play? Where you have only one of your starting defensive lineman still playing at the end of the game? Where backups on offense and defense -- in some cases, players way down on the depth charts -- had to perform at a level and on a national stage they never had before?

Yes, character. That's what this game was about. Granted, it was also about getting a win against a divisional opponent that the Pack will be battling for the NFC North title (yes, we are writing off Da Bearz and Lions as contenders...I mean, c'mon...). But a game like this can go a long way to bringing a team together perhaps in a way which nothing else can. Injuries have made the journey to the playoffs and Super Bowl not what anyone expected prior to the start of the season. The games to date have not been pretty. And a couple were giftwrapped for the opponent. Last evening had it's ugly moments as well. How many times, for example, were Aaron Rodgers and his receivers running apparently different plays? Looked occasionally as if Rodgers was using the Jay Cutler Pocket Guide to Being a Mediocre Quarterback. But he threw for nearly 300 yards. And many of his passes that were on target were, dare I say, Favre-esque in their zippiness (is that a word?). In his post-game comments, Rodgers admitted the game meant not only a lot to the team but to him personally. I bet. Exorcising the ghost of quarterbacks past is no small thing. Especially in Green Bay.

Rodgers and company did enough on offense, despite missing opportunities to score which has been an unsettling and ongoing trend to date. Head coach Mike McCarthy mixed up his play calling enough to keep the ViQueens defense from blitzing on every play. The running backs made just enough contributions. Veteran TE Donald Lee came up large on two screen passes. And WR James Jones was the receiver du jour, also making big plays. Huge kudos to LT Chad Clifton who made 'Queens DE Jared Allen a non-factor. Yes, Allen got that one interception handed to him...almost literally; but that was on Rodgers, not Clifton. Rookie RT Bryan Bulaga, filling in admirably for the still injured Mark Tauscher, also held up his end of the line. All together, the Packers offensive line held up well, and that was a big difference over last season's two meetings with the funky purple folks. The only disappointment, as Rodgers himself noted, was that Donald Driver was unable to get a catch, snapping his 133 consecutive game streak. Hampered as he was with a quad injury, it was to Driver's credit that he was even on the field. Warrior. That's Donald Driver. And that was this entire Packers team last evening.

Ol' #4 for the 'Queens was also looking very old limping out of Lambeau. He got knocked around quite a bit last night, something that didn't happen at all in the meetings of last year. Sure, there was only one sack recorded (by Jarius Wynn, who just recently rejoined the team). But C. J. Wilson got a great lick on Favre, and Clay Matthews was breathing down his neck most of the night. All that pressure led, not surprisingly, to Favre mistakes. Interceptions by A. J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop (returned for a TD!) and an acrobatic Nick Collins (who promised his young son he'd get a pick in the game) helped turn the game in favor of the Pack.

Favre was feeling and looking every bit the grandfather he is as he left to a mix of applause and boos (bad show on that note, by the way, fans). Favre said in his post-game comments that he was "devastated" by the loss. With all the off-the-field mess going on around him, this was -- to quote Packers' radio voice, Wayne Larrivee -- no doubt a "dagger" that he was looking to avoid.

Think about it. Favre's last time on the field as a Packer was a loss. And now, in all likelihood, his last time on this hallowed field as a player is also a loss. Ouch. Hopefully, when all the dust settles and time soothes the wounds on both sides of things, Brett will be welcomed back to Lambeau Field with cheers, the same kind he brought to life for so many years wearing the Green 'n' Gold. It will happen again someday. But on this night, before the third-largest crowd to ever see a game at this historic venue called Lambeau Field, the cheers rightly went to the home team for an outstanding and gutsy win.

Now, the Packers have a day off and then begin to get ready for their next opponent: the Jets. On the road. The Jets are, at this stage of the season, arguably one of the better teams in the league. The Packers are still beat up. Going on the road and winning after this emotional victory will be a challenge. But we can at least now be confident that this team knows how to face such challenges and come out on top.

Let's just enjoy this victory a while longer. We'll get back to worrying about the Jets later this week.

Say it with me: It's great to be a Packer fan!

By the way, if you want to read a great article on last night's game, check out this one from Gregg Rosenthal at But whatever you do, be sure to read the comments which follow. Priceless.