Sunday, September 30, 2007

Packers win 23-16!

This game, like so many games in the Humpty Dump over the years, almost took a nasty turn. But the turn turned, and all came out well. The Packers beat the ViQueens 23-16.

At the start of the quarter, the 'Queens held the Pack and we had to settle for a field goal to go up 16-9. After a bit of back and forth, Brett threw his 422nd TD pass on a beautiful fake pump and then sideline throw to James Jones, who carried it in for the first TD of his young career. This made the score 23-9 with just under 6 minutes to go. On the next series, the Packers had the 'Queens in a 3rd and 13 situation following a sack by KGB. A. J. Hawk proceeded to tackle Adrian Peterson short of the first down, but was flagged for a face-mask penalty that gave the 'Queens a first down and kept the drive alive. The defensive line continued to pressure the 'Queens QB, including another sack. But again, Minnesota converted, this time on 4th and 4 to put the ball at the Packers 28-yard line. A pass to the 15 took the game down to the 2-minute warning. The next play was a TD pass to Sidney Rice in the endzone over Jarrett Bush, making the score 23-16.

The 'Queens attempted an onside kick but, as last week, Donald Driver recovered with 1:54 to go. Minnesota had only 1 timeout left at this point. Following a handoff, the 'Queens called their last timeout. On the next play, attempting to just run out the clock, RB Ryan Grant fumbled the ball and the 'Queens recovered at their own 41-yard line. It appeared as if Grant never got the exhcange cleanly on the handoff. The 'Queens then moved the ball down to the Packers 35-yard line. Their next pass was tipped and intercepted by Atari Bigby before hitting the ground.

These games in the Humpty Dump are never easy. As noted in my pre-game posting, goofy things have tended to happen there over the years. But for the fourth time in the last five trips there, the Pack emerges with a victory.

The Pack still has absolutely no running game to speak of, placing dead last in the league in rushing. But...this was Brett Favre's day. He finished the day 32 of 45 for 344 yards (his 50th career 300+ yards game) and 2 touchdowns.

NFC North Division standings after today have the Pack at 4-0, the Lions at 3-1, and Da Bearz and ViQueens fighting it out for worst place at 1-3 each.

Da Bearz come to Lambeau Field next Sunday night. They have no quarterback, no running game, and the vaunted defense is hurt. They do have Devin Hester, who had another kickoff return today. This is an early prediction. But after next weekend, the Pack will be 5-0. First though, isn't it great to be 4-0? It's the first time since 1998. Oh yeah!!!

3rd quarter: Pack 13 - Vikes 9

At the end of the third quarter, the Pack remained ahead of the 'Queens by the score of 13-9.

Items of note: a fake punt, in which punter Jon Ryan shook off nearly 8 players to pick up a first down at about midfield; another huge run up the middle by the Vikes, this time by Chester Taylor; a great punt downed at the 5 by the Pack, and then a 3-and-out by the defense, giving the Pack great field position at the 'Queens 35 to begin the 4th quarter.

2nd quarter: Pack 10 - Vikes 6

Brett Favre broke another record in the second quarter of today's game, surpassing Dan Marino's pass attempts record of 8,000+++++++++++.

But the important thing is that the Pack still leads at half, 10-6, on a 28-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with 5 seconds left in the half.

It looked as if the Pack would go up 14-0 early in the second quarter as they were driving effectively down the field. Then on a pass play to Donald Lee down to the 'Queens 7-yard line, Lee had the ball ripped from his hands as he was being tackled. 'Queens recovered, and then had their own drive of sorts. Well, when your rookie running back rips off a 55-yarder right up the middle, that certainly aids the "drive." This occurred right after Packers' defensive lineman Corey Williams left with an injury (he returned later). On this same play, safety Nick Collins made the touchdown-saving tackle, only to also be injured. He walked to the sidelines, but was seen being taken by cart to the locker room. Looks as if the left knee was injured, although the extent of the injury is unknown at this time. The Pack then held, and ex-Packer Ryan Longwell hit a 44-yarder to make the score7-3.

After receiving the ball, the Pack went 3 and out. The 'Queens then had a long pass play over Charles Woodson down inside the Packers 20-yard line. The Packers' "D" then held again, leading to another Longwell field goal, making it 7-6 Packers.

The Pack then had a great 2-minute offense, driving down to the 'Queens 5-yard, before Brett was sacked with 5 seconds remaining, requiring them to settle for a field goal.

Assuming the Packers defense continues its bend-don't-break approach, and doesn't lot Peterson run uncontrolled (he already has rushed for more than 100 yards), and assuming the Packers don't have turnovers and hurt themselves, it is clear the Packers offense -- at least, surprise, the passing game -- should win the day.

The 'Queens defense isn't bad; in fact its run defense is pretty darn good. But when your defense scores as many touchdowns as does your offense (3 for each so far this season), you have to realize that it's an uphill battle.

Brett breaks the record in 1st quarter - Pack 7, Vikes 0

With about 5 minutes to go in the first quarter, Brett Favre threw a 15-yard slant pass to Greg Jennings for his 421st career TD pass. The king is dead. Long live the king! Brett surpassed Dan Marino's record of 420 TD pass with a check-down call at the line of scrimmage, hitting Jennings in full stride on a slant pass to about the 5-yard line with Jennings taking it in untouched. Play was stopped with an acknowledgment by the 'Queens public address announcer and a video congrats by Dan Marino.

Other highlights from the quarter include a fumble recovery by Johnny Jolly on a pass play that helped set up this record-breaking TD pass, as did a nice upfield reception by Donald Lee.

Aaron Kampman is also getting a great pass rush on the 'Queens QB, including one sack. A couple disconcerting notes relate to the Packers D-backs: Charles Woodson has been called twice for illegal contact, one of which was declined because a first down was reached anyway and the second negated an interception by Woodson himself which he had returned for a 58-yard TD; the second area of concern is that the 'Queens seem to be trying to exploit second-year cornerback Jarrett Bush.

Oh, and there is still no running game for the Pack.

Pack vs. 'Queens: a should-be win

It's nice that after a 3-0 start, even the talking heads on ESPN NFL Countdown are talking about the Packers as possible Super Bowl contenders. Some say yes, some say no, especially without a running game. The talk is premature about a Super Bowl. Although, given the pre-season projections about this team, it's still nice to think about.

But taking a cue from the unbeaten University of Wisconsin football team (Go Badgers!) might be helpful here. Their working slogan is "1-0". That's it. Just go 1-0 each week and the rest will take care of itself.

In this case, the Packers need to forget their 3-0 start and just go 1-0 against the ViQueens today at the Hump Dome.

Let's look at this game briefly. The Packers -- for the first time this season -- are actually favored in a game, by 2 points today. The Pack has consecutively beaten three playoff teams for their 3-0 start, only -- if memory serves -- the fourth time in league history that this has been done. The 'Queens, on the other hand, opened by beating the downtrodden and Vick-less Atlanta Falcons and then lost to the Lions and KC. The Pack has one of the greatest, if not the greatest, quarterbacks of all time looking like he's 10 years younger, firing on all cylinders, and ready to set the all-time record for TD passes. The 'Queens...don't have a QB. They do, however, have a legitimate running back threat in rookie Adrian Peterson. The Packers have running back by committee, a committee with one less member as it appears rookie Brandon Jackson might be out this week -- it's always someone, right? Vernand Morency might see his first action of the season today, but likely it will be a combination of DeShawn Wynn and Ryan Grant that will carry the running load. Wait. Can we actually describe probably fewer than 20 carries in the game as a "load"? Probably not. But you know what I mean. As for defenses, the edge has to go to the Pack. So, with all aspects of the game in the Packers favor with the exception of the running game, it should be a Packers win.

While feeling very good about the odds of the Packers winning this game, there are probably more than a few Packers fans, though, who still think of the Hump Dome as a house of horrors. And it certainly has been historically. Although, the Pack has won 3 out of the last 4 games there, this is a place and rivalry where things do not always go as they should. Looking at recent history, perhaps Brett has exorcised his demons in this place.

Look for Brett to break the TD record today. And, as a sentimental favorite, I know I'm not the only one hoping that record-breaking pass goes to Donald Driver. And, by the way, if you want to read a really great article about the top four TD pass receivers for Brett over his career, check out this article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel which has interviews with (in chronological order) Sterling Sharpe, Robert Brooks, Antonio Freeman, and Donald Driver. Brett has thrown TD passes to 42 different receivers in his career, but these four stand atop the list for many reasons, not only for their number of catches. Some very good insights by these receivers into their own play as well as the play and development of ol' #4 himself.

Some pundits are saying this game sets itself up as a classic trap game for the Pack, not only because of the location, but because of the Pack looking ahead to Da Bearz game next week. I don't think this will happen. This young team is really believing in itself. The defense and special teams are performing well. The receiving corps is healthy and at full speed -- which should scare the bejeezus out of any secondary -- and gives Brett so many options that it should be a big day for him. Some are saying that he might actually break Marino's TD pass record (needing 1) and George Blanda's interception records (needing 2) in the same game. Maybe. So what? The Pack still wins. Even all 5 pundits on ESPN's NFL Countdown just predicted the same. Not that I'd always take that to the bank, but today, yes.

It will be a great day for Brett personally. And a great day for the Pack as a team. 4-0. Let's enjoy it, Packer fans! It's a great start to the first quarter of the season. 4-0. Sweet.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Favre's Accomplishments Defy Descriptions (but it's fun to try!)

I suppose I could post a thousand links these days about what people are saying about Favre. Everyone wants to weigh in. I still have to say I am a little disappointed in the coverage not just on the touchdown pass record, but the records already accomplished and those about to fall. I think some people think Favre has played a lot longer than the other quarterbacks and that is why he will get these records. Actually, after 16 seasons plus, it is amazing how similar are Favre's stats and Marino's, for instance. Favre had the exact same number of starts as Marino when he matched the record last weekend - the exact same number of starts! That is amazing! Though he will likely get the interception record, he is only averaging about 1.2 more interceptions per season than Marino (this is supposed to be a major "separating" statistic between Favre and Marino - check out this interception analysis from the GBPress Gazette: link). Another key stat people point to when they compare Favre and Marino is total yardage. Favre is 3000 yards behind Marino with the exact same number of starts. This works out to an average of about 12.5 yards per game difference.

Anyway, here is comparison of Favre and Marino. Be sure to read the comments added by the readers link. Here is another link with some great "remember when Favre" moments by coaches and players. And finally, here is a link about where Favre fits in the list of greats of all time. Personally, I think a great deal of this analysis is flawed because Favre is not done yet.

Finally, did you know that if Favre starts all the rest of the games this season, and all of the games next season, he will still be one short of Jim Marshall's all time consecutive start record?

Let's enjoy every Favre moment!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Momentary cross-over follow up

It wouldn't be right, in one of the few -- if not only -- instances where this blog has departed from football discussions, to not then at least mention the results of the online vote regarding what to do with the infamous home run ball by...that guy.

So, without further ado: the majority of online voters said the ball should be branded with an asterisk and given to the Baseball Hall of Fame. My preferred option -- blasting it into space -- came in third. Apparently, not as many people are as big a supporter of our space program as I am.

The people have spoken. Even if they're wrong. You can see the results for yourself here.

Now..back to football!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Let the Chargers tell you how good the Packers are

As Packer fans, we can always extol the greatness of our team, even when it might not be so great. So it's always interesting to hear what an opposing team has to say, especially one of the top teams in the league which just got beat by our very own Packers. Case in point: the San Diego Chargers.

In today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, there's an article which features comments by Chargers' coaches and players about their impressions of this current Packers team. As might be expected, a lot of the praise centers around Brett Favre, and rightly so. But there are also kudos for the O-line, receivers, and defense. The only mention of the running game, of course, is that there isn't one.

Still, no sour grapes by the Chargers. Only praise. Nice to read such words. And kudos to the Chargers for being so classy in defeat. That in itself is a refreshing change of pace in the sports world these days.

You can read the article here.

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.

Pack wins! Brett ties Marino!

What a game!!! The Packers win over the Chargers 31-24. Brett tied Dan Marino's all-time touchdown pass record of 420, by throwing 3 TD passes, the final one coming on a 57-yarder, of the catch and run variety, on a quick slant to Greg Jennings to put the Pack ahead for good. He was 28 of 45 for 369 yards.

There will be more posted later about this final quarter and game. For now, revel in the fact that the Pack is 3-0. How sweet it is!

Right now, I need to get my blood pressure back to normal and take a breather. Wow!

3rd quarter: Packers 17 - Chargers 21

QB Phil Rivers continued his rhythm, opening the half with an 80-yard drive, culminating with a 21-yard TD pass and run by LaDainian Tomlinson.

The Pack then went 3 and out. On every single third and short of the game so far, the Pack has passed. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. But when it's third-and-one, just once you'd like to see a run for a first down.

After holding the Chargers, the Pack took over on their own 11 and marched down to inside the 50, before a sack made it 3rd and 13 back on the Packers' side of the field. Why there would be a play call of a shovel pass with 13 yards to go...? That was the last play of the quarter, forcing the Packers to punt to open the 4th quarter.

It's obviously a passing game and both QBs are hot. Which defense can hold -- and perhaps hold last or generate a turnover -- will likely decide the game.

2nd quarter: Packers 17 - Chargers 14

A tale of two quarterbacks. We know the one -- that would be Brett -- will dissect a defense when there is no pressure. Turns out the other guy -- Rivers -- also is pretty good when there is no pressure. And there wasn't. Rivers at one point was 15 for 15. His first and only incompletion of the half came on the one occasion where he was forced from the pocket and just threw the ball out of the end zone.

At the start of the quarter, the Pack continued where they left off, taking the ball down to the 5-yard line, from which Brett threw a beautiful pass to Donald Driver who stretched out in the end zone for the catch. That made the score 10-7.

The Pack got their lone sack of the half via KGB, to make 3rd and 23 situation for the Chargers. They managed to pick up 14 yards, but still had to punt.

On the next series, the Packers had 3rd and 10. Brett threw a short 10-yard pass to Driver, who proceeded to turn it into a 46-yard gain, breaking tackles and refusing to get knocked out of bounds. This play was followed by another quick pass to Greg Jennings bringing up a 2nd and inches. With just under 3 minutes to go in the half, the Pack again found themselves at the Chargers 5-yard line with a first and goal. Brett was in shotgun formation and, whether it was a called draw (they had already run one earlier) or Brett improvising, he began to run. As usual, he faked a throw. Only problem was, the ball came out and San Diego recovered. Immediately, former QB and current CBS announcer Phil Simms, said that it was clearly a "tuck rule" situation. Replays did show that Brett's arm was clearly coming forward when he lost the, of course, Brett was going to just fake it and pull it back in...but this is what the tuck rule is about. The Packers challenged the call by the refs and -- with those words Packer fans love to hear, "Upon further review..." -- the ruling on the field was overturned and the play was ruled an incomplete pass. The very next play saw Brett passing to Bubba over the middle for a TD. Packers go up 17-7. And Brett closed to within one pass of tying Dan Marino's all-time TD pass record.

Unfortunately, it took the Chargers less than 2 minutes to march 80 yards for a score of their own before half, on a TD pass to Buster Davis.

As noted earlier, the concerning trends for the Packers defense are that they are getting no pressure on Rivers, despite a supposed weak right tackle situation. Also, Antonio Gates is running free, accounting for about 9 catches and roughly 100 yards receiving in the first half. The defense has been able to contain LaDainian Tomlinson fairly well. But with Rivers getting no pressure and getting into rhythm, the game could be shoot out...much like the first half has turned into.

1st Quarter: Packers 3 - Chargers 7

The first quarter of the game was noteworthy for a penalty that wasn't called and one that was.

The Packers took the kickoff and drove down to the Chargers 42. On fourth-and-two, Brett threw a pass to Donald Driver where he was clearly interfered with. No call. The Chargers then took the ball and marched down the field, scoring their first first-half touchdown of the season on a well-covered pass to the end zone over Al Harris.

The Pack then generated a drive of their own, helped in part by a roughing penalty on a vicious helmet to helmet hit on Donald Driver. The Packers drove down to inside the red zone, which included a nice catch-and-run by James Jones, but were unable to convert on 3rd and 6; a pass went just off the fingertips of Bubba Franks in the end zone. Mason Crosby kicked the field goal, although it appeared as if a defender nearly came free up the middle to block it.

Helped by a holding penalty on the return, and a delay of game penalty on third down, the Packers defense stopped the Chargers at their own 7 yard line for three and out. Following the punt, the Pack then started their last drive of the quarter from the Chargers 49.

First quarter observations: aside from the last series, LaDainian Tomlinson seems to be finding running room -- not good; Phil Rivers is getting time to throw -- also not good in combination with the LT trend; the Pack is moving the ball both through the air and even a bit on the ground, and Brett is getting great pass protection -- all very good.

Packers vs. Chargers Preview

What to make of this game? The Packers are 5-point home! Of course, the odds makers are looking at the Bolts through their preseason Super Bowl-tinged glasses, and the Packers as maybe -- maybe -- an 8-8 team. Still, the Packers are 2-0, the Bolts 1-1. The Packers are coming off two energizing victories; they were not expected to win either game. The Chargers are coming off a cross-country loss to the Patriots. Now they have to travel again. And then they have three consecutive games against AFC West opponents. So this game might not have the urgency for the Chargers that some upcoming games do.

While the Packers running game or lack thereof has been the subject of much angst among fans dating back to the loss of Ahman Green this Spring, it might surprise folks to learn that both the Packers and the Chargers have exactly the same number of rushing yards coming into today's game. Each team has rushed for exactly 64.5 yards per game. Now, refresh my memory: which team is it that has LaDainian Tomlinson, the NFL MVP, at running back? And which team has...running back by committee? The nightmare scenario for Packers fans, of course, is that this is the weekend that Tomlinson and the Chargers decide to uncork their running game.

But...if the Packers can keep LT in check, at least not allow him to break any big runs, that means the game goes into the hands of QB Phil Rivers. If that happens, look for the Packers to load up against what is considered to be a weak right tackle situation; the Chargers regular RT, Shane Olivea, got hurt in last week's game and is expected to be replaced by second-year tackle Jerome Clary whose first-ever action was last week...where he was taken to school by the Pat's Ty Warren. Despite probably having to face a double-team most of the day to assist Clary, Aaron Kampman and KGB could have big days if the defense is able to bottle up LT and force Rivers to drop back. And Johnny Jolly has shown an ability to get just enough of his 6-3, 312-pound (is that all? c'mon!) body off the ground to bat down or tip passes at the line. And assuming our LBs and DBs don't fall down or miss tackles, the Pack should be able to keep receivers in check.

On the Packers side of things, the offense gets back WR Greg Jennings. Throw him into the mix with Donald Driver, James Jones and a resurgent tight end group, and Brett has even more air weapons to exploit than he did against the Giants. Now, can the Pack get any semblance of a running game going today? The Chargers defense is giving up 112 rushing yards per game. Compare that with the Packers allowing 98.5 yards rushing per game. The Bolts play a 3-4 defense, and the "3" are stout. Until the Packers can demonstrate the ability to move the ball on the ground, the jury is out. Last week, we saw two brief glimmers of what rookie DeShawn Wynn might be able to do. While there will still be shuffling going on the backfield until someone emerges to take on the load, we might well expect that Wynn may see more action today than will Brandon Jackson.

A 5-point spread. If you're a betting man (or woman), take the Pack to beat the spread. And win the game.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A brief cross-over

This blog is all about football. Green Bay Packers football, to be precise. I know, it's redundant. Because Green Bay Packers football is the only kind of football.

But, on occasion, something arises in another part of the sports universe that demands our attention. At least for a moment. In this case, that's until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time Tuesday. We speak of the Internet vote now underway to decide the fate of the home run ball by that Barry guy who broke Hank Aaron's record.

Just go here, or check out the banner down in the right hand column (where there are also some charitable causes worthy of your consideration, by the way...a-hem). You can vote to (a) have it go to the Baseball Hall of Fame, (b) have it branded with an asterisk and then given to the BHoF, or (c) have it launched into orbit never to return.

Now, having actually seen Mr. Aaron play in person both as a Milwaukee Brave and Milwaukee Brewer, and being a lifetime fan of our space program...well, I don't want to exert any undue influence on your vote...

So far, nearly 10 million votes have been cast. You may wish to do as they do in Chicago: vote early and vote often.

We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Packers Are Cautious About Injuries

I am not sure if Packrphan is already getting skittish about the Packers' chances, but the injury picture is not yet a concern in my opinion.
Of the 15 players on the list I am pretty sure that about 10 of them will play their usual role on Sunday. Palmer is goint to be out for sure. Beyond that we can't say much. Today is a key day for determining if Morency and Jennings can go since they both practiced significantly yesterday. If they are sore, they won't go on Sunday.
As to the injured reserve list, some of those guys might not have made the team anyway. Hodge may be looking at the end of his career. He is lucky they didn't cut him. The others are not all that significant.
Finally, I am wondering if McCarthy and company are much more cautious in general about injuries. The Packers seem to have proven that they have some depth this year and so they won't rush guys back from injuries. In the long run I think this is very positive. Additionally, if we have any unmotivated players who prefer to be on the injured list than play, then I would rather they kept them off the field (I am not saying that any on the list are such types, but...)
So, I would like to caution Packrphan not to get the Packer Fan Nation (most of whom visit this site weekly) all in a tither by emphasizing the number of players on a list. Let's see what happens coming into the game on Sunday.

Injuries so soon

One of the things that concerns Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy -- and should concern Packers fans, too -- is the number of injuries so early in the season. Obviously, it's a part of football. But to have so many starters sitting out or being limited in practice, and so many other players on injured reserve...not so good.

Among the 15 players on Wednesday's injury report are: tight end Bubba Franks (knee), receiver Greg Jennings (hamstring), cornerbacks Al Harris (back) and Charles Woodson (hip), defensive tackle Corey Williams (ankle), tackle Chad Clifton (ankle), defensive end Cullen Jenkins (wrist), defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (heel), defensive end Aaron Kampman (rib), tackle Tony Moll (neck), running back Vernand Morency (knee), safety Aaron Rouse (hamstring) and guard Jason Spitz (calf). At this point, all are still possible for Sunday's game but that could change, of course.

There are also eight players on injured reserve and it could become nine, as reserve guard Tony Palmer had what they are calling a "minor" fracture in his neck while playing special teams on Sunday. He's out at least 6-8 weeks...which means the Pack may just place him on IR to free up a roster space for someone who can contribute now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy returns

So, if you're like many Packers fans -- including this one -- you perhaps began to wonder as you watched or listened to the game against the Giants just who that return guy is. You know, what's his name? Williams? Yeah, that's the guy. Did the announcer say "Travis Williams"? No...that was...long time ago. Tramon Williams. That's it.

Where did this guy come from? Wasn't Will Blackmon supposed to be our kick off returner? Oh wait, he broke his thumb, didn't he? Took him out of the picture for a while. So, Tramon Williams. Had returns of 42 and 46 yards on Sunday, although the latter was reduced by 20 yards thanks to a very dumb penalty.

If you want to know more, there's a nice story about him in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He's doing pretty well for an undrafted player who had difficulty making any team's practice squad in 2006. But he landed with the Pack late last season, and may have found a home, particularly if he keeps returning kicks like he has. He's certainly one of those nice surprises that seems to be turning around the special teams unit from its abysmal state of prior years.

There may be a lot of no-name guys on this roster, as Bubba Franks pointed out in some comments after the game, but before the season is over a few may very well make some names for themselves and help the Packers back to the playoffs in the process.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pack vs Giants recap

The Pack is now 2-0 for the first time since 2001. Brett was lighting it up. In fact, he started the second half 14 for 14. Finished the day 29 for 28 with 3 TDs and 1 INT. Not bad for an ol' gunslinger who is just supposed to "manage the game." R-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ght.

Due to some technical difficulties on this end, I wasn't able to provide the 3rd and 4th quarter wrap ups that I try to do when possible. So, let me just provide a few observations about the second half, where the Packers broke the game wide open. You can obviously find more game detail and stats elsewhere. This is just one fan's take on a few of the key moments, along with some comments.

3rd quarter...a 2-yard TD pass to Bubba Franks put the Pack ahead 14-10 The Giants eventually kicked another field goal to make the score 14-13. At this point, it still looked like it might be a close game.

Brett opened the 4th quarter going 9 for 9 for nearly 80 yards and a TD pass to Donald Lee in the corner of the end zone to put the Pack up 21-10. The ensuing kickoff return was fumbled by the Giants and recovered by special teams demon Tracey White at the Giants 22. The Packers were soon up 28-10 on a TD pass to Donald Driver at the back of the end zone. With about 6-1/2 minutes to go in the game, Eli Manning was pressured out of the pocket, panicked, and instead of throwing the ball out of bounds threw it back into the field directly into the arms of lineman Corey White at the Packers 47-yard line. A few plays later, rookie RB DeShawn Wynn bounced a run to the outside and turned what probably should have been a 4-yard gain into a 38-yard touchdown run. Packers 35-Giants 13. Manning was replaced by the Giants' back up QB with a little more than 4 minutes left in the game. He was injured not long thereafter, but stayed in as long as he could before giving way to the Giants emergency QB with a little more than 2 minutes to go. The Giants did mount a little drive, and threw to the end zone on 4th down. DB Jared Bush broke up what would have been a sure TD, preserving the margin of victory. Game over.

A few reflections

Brett looked great, and it looked like he was having a lot of fun both on the field and on the sideline. He might be gaining confidence in some of the kids around him. And that's a very good thing. In addition to becoming the winningest (is that a word?) QB of all time, he is now only 4 TD passes away from setting the all time TD pass record. And, oh yeah, his teammates gave him the game ball.

The offensive line...still needs dramatic improvement. Better than last week, but still not anywhere close to creating a sufficient running game. Pass protection was better, but on the other hand, the Giants defensive line was patchwork...which also makes the line's inability to generate a rushing game disappointing. Although they did go from 47 yards rushing last week to 83 today...yeah, you're right, it still sucks. And even that figure is misleading because Wynn's TD run accounted for 38 of the, yeah, sucky.

Speaking of Wynn, his two TD runs -- one for 6 and and the other for 38 -- both demonstrated why the Packers picked him. They may have gotten a diamond in the rough. His "issues" caused him to drop to the 7th round where the Packers decided to take a shot on him. After missing a lot of training camp with injury, he's only now actually getting back into playing form. If he continues to work hard, he could wind up being a key factor in the Pack's backfield this year. He has speed, he can cut with the best of them, and he has power. The jury is still out, but you have to like these little flashes you see.

Special teams continues to make a difference. And Tracey White is really excelling in this area. So is returner Tramon Williams, who had a couple nice returns today, including a 42-yarder.

Charles Woodson missed more than a handful of tackles today. It reminds one of what we saw out of him early in the season last year. He has to do a better job. Pride and experience indicate he will.

The Giants helped the Packers a great deal today. Not only with the turnovers, but with several key penalties that stopped their own drives or kept Packers drives going. That's part of the game too. We'll take it.

The Pack returns to Lambeau next week to take on the Chargers, who smacked Da Bearz around in week #1 and are, as I write this, trailing the New England Pilferers, er, Patriots, 17-0 in the first half. The Packers have shown that they are a team with a good defense, a good special teams unit, and an offense that maybe is coming together. There are no easy games. And given that the Bolts are expected by some to go to and perhaps win the Super Bowl this season, this will be a tough game. But one which maybe will show whether the Packers are for real this season.

But hey, we're 2-0. And Da Bearz aren't. That still feels mighty fine! So does winning 6 in a row going back to last year. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Final: Packers 35 - Giants 13

Packers win! Packers win!! Packers win!!!

Packers are now 2-0, Brett is now the QB with the most all-time wins with 149, and he's also just 3 shy of tying Marino's TD pass record, with 3 TD passes today for 417 total.

More details about the great second half later on...I want to savor this one a bit.

2nd quarter: Giants 10 - Pack 7

The second quarter was a quarter of big plays. The Pack took the lead thanks to a 46-yard pass and catch from Brett to James Jones, followed by a screen play to ex-Giant RB Ryan Grant for 21 yards, followed by a fake pass and delayed hand off to DeShawn Wynn for a 6-yard TD run...with one very nice cut to make it into the end zone. This lead was short lived, however, as the Packers and their four-man rush gave Eli Manning WAY too much time to find receivers. They proceeded to march down the field, and score on a TD pass from Manning to Plaxico Burress.

With under 2 minutes to go, the Giants marched down the field once again. They picked up a first down on a pass to Jeremy Shockey, only to have it wiped out on offsetting penalties: for Shockey spiking the ball after the reception and offsides on Aaron Kampman. Shockey shortly thereafter dropped a third down pass at the 2-yard line, which made the Giants attempt a 48-yard field goal, which they made.

A nice Packers kickoff return was nullified by a holding penalty on Collin Cole. The Pack couldn't get anything else going after that, and punted to end the half.

With about 90 seconds to go, Giants receiver Plaxico Burress was seen walking with a bit of a hitch to the locker room.

Halftime overview: the Packers offensive line still looks out of sync, not offering up enough pass protection nor providing much room for the running game...the defense must do more blitzing in the second half or Manning will pick them apart.

It will be a close one...perhaps decided by a turnover...or a blown coverage or assignment of some kind.

1st quarter: Pack 0 - Giants 0

Not much stellar play on either side of the ball, for either team. The Giants missed a field goal, and our hero of the day last week, Mason Crosby, missed a 42-yarder. 0-0.

Pack vs. Giants: Quick Preview

ESPN's Sal Paolantonio just reported that Eli Manning told him during warm ups that he will start again the Packers. Manning indicated he'd be wearing a small pad to protect his injured shoulder. In footage of Manning warming up this morning it didn't appear as if he was in any pain. So...good thing the Pack prepared as if Manning was going to play. What this means for the Packers is that the defense will need to play with the same intensity as they did last week. Ditto for special teams.

As for the Packers offense, the line actually has to show up this week and do two things they didn't do last week: pass protect and run block. They helped generate all of 47 yards rushing on 17 attempts, as well as allow the franchise -- i.e., Brett Favre -- to be sacked four times and knocked down 11 times...not to mention a whole lot of pressure all the way around. One new aspect to the line will be the first start at right guard for third-year lineman Junius Coston, who the team has been nurturing along in the hopes he could be an impact lineman someday. Perhaps today is the day. Coston replaces an injured Jason Spitz, but reports are that even if Spitz hadn't had a calf injury in last week's game, the Pack may have made this switch at some point anyway just to see what Coston brings. In interviews this week, it is clear that Coston recognizes this opportunity and wants to make the most of it. Now, despite how well Coston may do today he alone won't solve the entire line problem. That requires a group effort. Coaches and players both said that, after reviewing tape of last week's game, there were no fundamental assignment errors. It just came down to individual execution...which was not good. Sustaining blocks. Cut blocking too early or too late. Etc. So, let's see what pride can do today.

Also, according to all the reports available, the Giants' defensive line is injury-ridden, and if there was ever a chance for the line to create a running game, this is it. Let's hope so. Although, once again, the backfield will be without Vernand Morency. The receiving corps will also be without Greg Jennings once again.

So, after a thrilling and hard fought victory over the Eagles last week, can the Pack do it again in the Meadowlands? The Giants need this game badly. But so does the Pack. The Giants are favored by 2-1/2 points. I'm taking the Pack by 4.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A fix of Favre

Hmmm...that could mean many things, I guess. But every once in a while we need to pause and reflect upon the fact that we, as Packer fans -- as football fans -- have been able to watch one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- quarterbacks of all time, for a very long time now. In fact, statistically, Brett will wind up #1 in more than a few categories by season's end. With last Sunday's win over the Eagles, he has already tied Elway for most wins by a QB. A handful of touchdown passes and he will pass Marino for most TD passes thrown. Etc.

But back to our "fix" for today. A friend sent on a link to a gallery of pix of Brett on the Sports Illustrated site. Some photos that, as my friend says, "will bring back lots of memories." Here's the link.

For the stats geeks out there -- and you know who you are! -- you might also find this Favre database of interest. Not only a static version, but a searchable one, as well. Everything you always wanted to know about his TD passes...and some stuff you'll be amazed to realize you wanted to know if only you knew, ya know?

Enjoy the pix. Enjoy the stats. Enjoy Brett. For no one like him shall pass this way again...pun intended, of course.

Monday, September 10, 2007

That morning-after glow

No...not that kind of glow. Rather, the kind that comes from reflecting upon a hard-fought, bounce-of-the-ball, last-second victory from the day before. Packers 16 - Eagles 13. Oh that feels soooooooo good, doesn't it? The only things that would have made it a very sweet day would have been for the ViQueens and Lions to lose. But at least Da Bearz lost to the Bolts.

So, a couple points come to mind in the aftermath of yesterday's victory...

The Packers special teams have already achieved more in this one game than they did all of last season. Let's hope that aggressive approach was not a mere fluke. I don't think so. Granted, you can't expect muffed punts by inexperienced returners in every game. But it does look as if we can count on a very strong-legged and composed rookie kicker by the name of Mason Crosby. By the way, if you want to read a very interesting firsthand account of what goes on "in the pile" when those fumbled punts occurred, check out this article; it makes me very glad the only thing I have to wrestle with is opening a bag of chips.

Speaking of kicker Mason Crosby, he's a keeper.

The offensive line needs to get its act together quickly or Brett will not last the season. The inability to control the line of scrimmage, open running lanes, and pass protect solidly has to be a real concern for a unit that performed at a higher level last year. The season has started, guys! Let's get it together, eh?

Unless Vernand Morency lights up the running game when he returns to play this week, fans still can rightly question the decision by GM Ted Thompson not to draft one of the top running backs with his #16 pick, but rather to take defensive lineman Justin Harrell. Nothing against Harrell, but what is the point of using a 16th overall first-round pick on a player at a position which already has so much depth that the newly drafted player is not even activated for the game? That's right: Harrell was not even activated. Somebody...explain that to us, please. In an area of drastic need for the Packers, Thompson spends the team's first-round pick on a player who at best may be a spot player this year. Still hard to figure that out. And the team could pay the price not only this year but for years to come. I sincerely hope Harrell eventually does turn into a quality player and starter. But we need a running back NOW!

It's interesting in talking with friends who are Da Bearz fans about their take on the Packers game (yes, I believe in befriending even those who are misguided and confused). They of course toss off the word "lucky." OK, I'll take that. Luck has a part in football. In fact...refresh my memory...was how the Packers won yesterday any different than how Da Bearz made it to the Super Bowl last year? With special teams and a strong defense? With turnovers and "lucky" bounces of the ball? How soon they forget. Hey, "lucky" worked for you guys last year. It can work for us, too.

The next team up is the NY Giants. Let's talk about them later on this week. In the meantime, let's savor this sweet victory...being atop the NFC North Division...and knowing that we have a defense and special teams unit that can keep us in games. The offense will get things worked out.

And let's not forget this either: the Pack has now won 5 in a row going back to last season. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Packers win! Packers 16 - Eagles 13

The 4th quarter started off on a great note as McNabb was sacked deep in the Eagles' own territory on third down. Unfortunately, Charles Woodson was flagged for a 5-yard penalty and an automatic first down for the Eagles. That led Philly to ignite another drive down to midfield. The Packers were able to stop that drive and force a punt thanks to a sack -- without a penalty this time.

Right guard Jason Spitz left the game with what was reported as "calf fatigue."

DT Johnny Jolly batted down or tipped at least 3 passes from Donovan McNabb at the line over the course of the game.

Thanks to a penalty against Philly on a punt with a little over 5 minutes left in the game, the Packers got the ball at midfield. Unfortunately, on third down, a defender got around Chad Clifden, got to Brett, who was hit on the blind side, resulting in a fumble and an Eagles' recovery at about the Packers' 38-yard line. Penetration by Johnny Jolly -- who played a great game -- pushed the ball back to the 42. On 3rd and 12, the Packers not only sacked McNabb, but took the penalty yardage from an offensive holding penalty, to make it 3rd and 22. McNabb had pressure, but was able to get it off. Fortunately, the receiver caught it out of bounds down field.

With 2:32 in the game, the Packers got the ball back on a punt at their own 22. They were able to move it down to the 40 before having to punt with about a minute to go. On the punt, the Eagles player once again muffed it and the Packers recovered at the Philly 31-yard line with 59 seconds to go.

With 6 seconds left, holder (and punter) Jon Ryan handled a high snap, got the ball down, and Mason Crosby kicked his third field goal of the game, a 42-yarder to win the game!

What a way to start the season! Wow!!! It wasn't pretty. But winning ugly is still winning. Just as things began turn around for the Packers in the 90s when they finally got to play the Cowboys in Green Bay, making finally getting to play and beat the Eagles at Lambeau will be the start of yet another turnaround. This was the first time the Packers beat the Eagles since 2000.

P.S. This was the Packers first home opener win after four prior season opening losses.

P.P.S. This win tied Brett with John Elway for most wins by a QB. This is the first of many records Brett will own after this season is done.

3rd Quarter: Packers 13 - Eagles 13

The Eagles took the lead for the first time in the game with a little over 8 minutes to go in the quarter on a 46-yard field goal. The Eagles had a promising drive going, but were stopped on 3rd-and-5 when Al Harris broke up a potential TD pass in the end zone.

The most exciting play of the quarter was a 3rd-and-10 as Brett was about to be sacked. With defenders hanging off him, Brett made an improvised shovel pass to rookie RB DeShawn Wynn, who broke a few tackles, got some blocks, and scampered for 18 yards to the Eagles 25 and a first down.

Brett is definitely going to be in need of the hot tub after this game -- he's taking a pounding while trying to keep the drives going, improvising and scrambling as best he can.

Following a sack -- after getting the ball down to the Eagles 12 yard line -- the Pack had to settle for a 37-yard field goal to tie the game just before the end of the quarter.

2nd Quarter: Packers 10 - Eagles 10


The quarter started with the Eagles with first and goal from about the 7-yard line. The Packers' defense held, and Philly had to settle for a field goal.

The Packers offense continues to sputter, with lots of pressure on Brett, who was sacked twice during the half.

With about 6 minutes remaining in the half, the Packers had about 40 yards of total offense (15 rushing and 25 passing), while the Eagles had approximately 160 passing yards alone. Brett got away with a pass he shouldn't have thrown that was almost intercepted at about our own 30.

The Packers were 2-7 on third downs in the half, with both first downs coming during their 2-minute drill.

All Harris returned to the field with about 10 minutes to go in the quarter, with a bit more tape and a sleeve over his right elbow and arm.

McNabb was able to scramble enough times under pressure to allow receivers time to get open -- bad news. They regained momentum and tied the score on a 9-yard pass play.

Cullen Jenkins was shaken up with about 7 minutes left in the quarter.  He walked off the field on his own after not initially getting up off the ground. Apparently he was cramping up, as he was back on the field before the end of the half.

The Packers, as radio announcer Wayne Larrivee, said, "still do not have an answer for Brian Westbrook."

KGB got a sack on McNabb which helped stop the Eagles last drive just before the 2-minute warning.

The Packers got down to about the Eagles 35-yard line and were attempting to get lined up to down the ball to set up a field goal...but...the clock expired. The radio announcers were a bit confused by that because they said that there was still one timeout showing for the Pack on the scoreboard.

For as much momentum as the Packers had in the first quarter -- basically all set up through special teams -- it swung to the Eagles in the 2nd quarter. If the Packers offense doesn't do something, especially on the ground, they will have a hard time winning this game.

End of 1st Quarter: Packers 10 - Eagles 0

Thanks to two turnovers by Philly, the Pack took an early 10-0 lead in today's game. A muffed punt by the Eagles wound up in their own end zone and -- with who knows what mayhem going on in the pile -- Tracy White somehow managed to cover the ball. The second score was set up by an interception by Nick Barnett. The Packers stalled, however, and elected to test out the strong leg of their rookie kicker, Mason Crosby. He responded, kicking a 53-yard field goal to put the Pack ahead by 10 points.

The defense has been putting pressure on McNabb so far, resulting in several holding calls on the Eagles line, as well as an intentional grounding penalty by McNabb.

Three negatives to the quarter: Brett threw an interception on third-and-one, which eventually led to a long pass play to inside the Packers' 10-yard line (where the quarter ended). That's two negatives. The third negative -- and as yet unknown as to how critical -- was the loss of Al Harris to some sort of apparent elbow injury. While covering a punt, he was run into by fellow Packer Atari Bigby whose helmet hit right on Harris' elbow. Harris was in obvious pain on the sideline, and was taken by cart to the locker room. It is also Harris' side of the field which, with replacements, gave up the big pass play at the end of the quarter. Let's hope this was just a matter of Harris' funny bone being hit. Otherwise, it may not be so funny: losing Harris would not be a good start to the season.

Kickoff is only hours away and questions abound

OK, Packer fans...this is it...kickoff is about two hours away. We finally get the Eagles at Lambeau. That may or may not assure victory as it almost seemed to do "in the old days," but it is sure a heckuva lot better than having to go to Philly and come back with what usually has been a loss in recent years. The Eagles have become in this decade what the Cowboys were to the Pack in the early/mid-1990s: a pain you-know-where. But at least this gets us to the point where we are only 3 point underdogs going into today's game.

As every Packer fan probably suspects, this will be an interesting game on several fronts. It will provide an early insight into how good the Packers defense might in fact be. Also, whether or not the special teams -- which were so dreadful the last few years -- have actually improved. How well the Packers offense handles what will likely be a lot of blitzes from a lot of places throughout the game will also be key. And Brett doesn't exactly have a good record against fact, his stats against the Eagles are among the worst he has against any other team; that's gotta change.

Perhaps the largest unknown, as has been addressed here at and countless others sites as well, is the running game. Will it be acceptable? Or will it be there at all? No one knows. And that applies to not only running the ball but being able to pass protect as well. If those young and untried backs aren't able to pick up the blitzes that will be coming all day long, and especially if there is no running game to speak of, Brett may have another long day against Philly.

But there are questions for the Eagles, too. Is QB Donovan McNabb all the way back from last season's injury? What about some of their key players who were basically out most of training camp with their own injuries? If you have to play the Eagles, this is probably the best time to do it.

Questions, questions. By about 3:15 p.m. Central time today, we will know which team came up with better answers.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

"Punting is good," saith the coach

In an interview with Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Packers beat writer, Bob McGinn, Head Coach Mike McCarthy stated -- and I am not making this up -- "Punting is good." Now, it's important to understand the context of this remark. Otherwise you might mistake it for the same kind of gibberish a certain high school golf coach (and vice principal!) told his team once upon a time -- and, again, I am not making this up -- "Bogey golf is winning golf." OK, there is no context for that statement. But does it really need one? It stands on its own as one of those legendary tokens of high school sporting lore.

But there is a context for McCarthy's statement. He was talking about the reminder the coaching staff gives to Brett each week relative to a completion on third down. The rest of the statement helps explain: "For as simple as it sounds (punting is good), it's true. It's even more so with the ability that our defense has, particularly in the play-making category. We're asking him (Brett) to make more decisions at the line than he has in the past. He needs to keep himself in a good play. Not try to make the great play all the time. One thing we do well with the perimeter group is yards after the catch. The completion percentage has to go way up. We can't operate at 56%. That's not cutting it. That's how he's being coached."

OK, now we can see the line of thought. If one thinks points might be hard to come by in some games, don't force field position...let the defense control the tempo...pick your shots for scores. Makes sense. Still, whether this axiom -- "punting is good" -- will ever come to rival the motto of Faber College remains to be seen. Remember that one? "Knowledge is good." Can't argue with that one either.

There were more subjects covered in the interview, of course. Some interesting comments from the coach. If you want to read the interview in its entirety, you can find it here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Add Jennings to the injury list

On and on it goes. The list of injuries to Packers players, especially on the offensive unit, seems to grow and grow. Of course, the situation with the MASH unit backfield is well known. Now it seems as if injuries are starting to bite the receiving corps. First was Donald Driver, although he may see some playing time on Sunday. But now, second-year receiver Greg Jennings is bit once again. Last year, after a great start to the season, Jennings sustained an ankle injury which affected him in the remaining games. Yesterday, Jennings left practice early with a hamstring injury. It is not known how serious the injury is.

Can we have a collective, "Ohhhh maaaaaaaaannnnnn!"

Thank you.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bits & pieces heading into the season opener

Remember Larry King's old newspaper column? Neither do I. Does he still write it? Who knows? Why so many questions? Why do you think? OK, this is becoming tiresome...isn't it? Stop it, will you?

Sorry about that. The point is that ol' Lar would just kind of string a whole bunch of unrelated thoughts and observations together and call it...well, I don't know what he called it. I know what The Onion called it in their spoof. (Caution: if you are offended by naughty words or twisted humor, please don't click on that link! Oh the humanity!)

In that same style of random writing, I offer you the following...

Donald Driver returned to practice yesterday in a limited capacity. When asked by reporters if he'd be ready for the season opener he basically said not to worry, he'd be ready to go. The Packers aren't saying. If he can start, he will. But expect DD to be used only as needed...the Packers aren't going to want to risk losing him for an extended period of time by rushing him back too quickly. But they could sure use him for whatever he could bring on Sunday.

Nearly 50 percent of Packers fans in an online poll in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel say the Packers will finish second in their division. It's early in the poll, so be sure to vote. But, this seems to be in keeping with what most pundits are saying. Of course, most are also saying Da Bearz will take the division. Some are even calling for Da Bearz to return to the Super Bowl. Puh-leze. All based on the quality of the defense which, admittedly, is a good one. But in the same breath, everyone questions their offense, particularly with Rex Grossman at the helm. While unproven in its current configuration, I think the Packers have a right to be high on their own defense this year. If it comes close to expectations the Pack will be in every game. And given a choice between the Packers offense and that of Da Bearz, who you gonna pick? Even with our questions at running back. I think the division will be tighter than what some think.

Speaking of running backs, it's still unclear who the Pack will have in the backfield on Sunday. Vernad Morency returned to limited practice, as did Brandon Jackson. DeShawn Wynn says he's ready to go. Newly acquired Ryan Grant -- what else? -- pulled a hamstring on his second day of practice with the team, although it was doubtful as to whether he would have been able to play on such short notice anyway. Still, good to know he is fitting right in with the Packers MASH unit, er, backfield.

More to come...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Proximate Preparations for Packer Party

As the kickoff of the first game of the year is fast approaching, I hope everyone is doing the necessary prep work. If your going to the game, tailgate preparation should be well-planned and coordinated, i.e as long as there is enough to eat and plenty of refreshments.

I will be watching the game at a friends house. We have menus planned for all the games in September. First game includes "eating the Eagles for lunch" with Philly cheese-steaks and soft pretzels. We are hoping the D-line will eat McNabb for lunch.

Let the games begin!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Back to the backs

It's not rocket science. A playoff and championship caliber team needs a top-notch defense, an offensive line that can protect the QB and open running lanes, wide receivers and tight ends that can catch and advance the ball, a consistent if not great quarterback, and at least one running back that is a legitimate threat to the opposing defense whenever he touches the ball.

In the case of the 2007 Packers, it would appear going into the season that all of those criteria are in place except the last. Here is who the Packers will have available to them at running back for the opener: Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn, both rookies, and Ryan Grant, newly acquired from the Giants in a cut-down day trade. Vernand Morency, who was scheduled to be the starter before an injury sidelined him for most of camp, may be available in a limited capacity if he gets cleared to play. Jackson himself is coming off a concussion. Noah Herron, who became a reliable third-down back for the Pack last season and may have started this game given the alternatives, was injured in Thursday's game against the Titans and has been placed on injured reserve for the season. As for fullbacks, the Packers have rookie Korey Hall (converted from his linebacker position at Boise State) and John Kuhn who was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend.

As some might argue, many backs who made names for themselves in the NFL were unknowns at one time. If this is the case, then the Pack will have more than its share of opportunities for a back to make a name for himself this season. Fans can only hope so.

For if the 2007 Packers fail to make the playoffs, as many pundits are predicting, one of the primary faults will lie with GM Ted Thompson's failure to adequately address the running back situation. Granted, a lot of things can happen within a season to disrail even the best teams. But you want to enter the season with the best ammo you can get. Here's what Thompson is quoted as saying on the subject: "It is what it is. You just have to keep going, and you try to pick the best guys for your team, where you are at that particular time. So that's kind of where we are. But at the end of the day, we feel pretty good about this group."

Oooookkkkkaaaaayyyyy. If you say so, Ted.

But football ain't rocket science. It's pretty basic when you get right down to it. And if any one of those basic elements is missing, there will be problems. It is sad that, in the remaining playing years of the greatest quarterback of all time, Thompson hasn't seen fit to provide him with the complete arsenal of offensive weapons to get back to the Super Bowl. Now, maybe one of these unknowns in the backfield will have a breakout year. We have to hope that's the case. But it sure isn't a given, or probably even remotely likely. And while the Packers' #1 pick, Justin Harrell, may well develop into a dominant player, given the depth on the defensive line even before the draft, one still has to question why the Pack didn't pick up one of the top running backs available at #16. That may be a decision that haunts the Packers long beyond this season.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Herron placed on IR; Pack picks up a fullback

It was inevitable. RB Noah Herron, who suffered a knee injury in last Thursday's game against the Titan and had arthroscopic surgery as a result, was placed on injured reserve. With that new available roster spot, the Packers then claimed FB John Kuhn on waivers from Pittsburgh. Kuhn is a second-year player out of Shippensburg (PA). He's 6-0, 255 pounds and holds 27 school records and six Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference records. According to his Wikipedia entry (yeah...I know), "He finished his career with 4,685 yards rushing, 910 carries, 53 touchdowns, 5,300 all-purpose yards and 26 games with at least 100 yards rushing, all school records. Kuhn led the team in rushing for the third-straight season as a senior and is the only player in team history to total over 1,000 yards rushing in three-straight seasons." After spending 2005 on the Steelers' practice squad, Kuhn played in nine games with the Steelers in 2006. Again, not to minimize Kuhn's college career, but basically he's another body in a very weak backfield. (Sigh) But perhaps even stranger than the fact that there is a Wikipedia entry about him, Kuhn will actually join another Shippensburg University graduate on the Packers roster: long-snapper Rob Davis. Who knew?

In addition to these two moves, the Packers announced that they signed seven players to their practice squad: wide receiver David Clowney, wide receiver Chris Francies, tight end Clark Harris, linebacker Spencer Havner, tackle Orrin Thompson, quarterback Paul Thompson and running back Corey White. All these players were with the Packers in training camp and survived until the final cuts on Saturday. All, also, are good players worthy of developing further within the Packers fold.

Packers vs. Titans Replay on NFL Network Sunday 9/2 6 p.m. Central

As the headline here says...if you get the NFL Network and want to see all or part of the last preseason game against the Titans, it's on...NOW! (6 p.m. Central Sunday Sept. 2)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Packers make cuts and a trade

Before getting to the list of cuts that got the Packers to the NFL maximum roster of 53, let's get to the semi-exciting news that the Packers traded an undisclosed future draft pick for New York Giants running back Ryan Grant. The Newark Star-Ledger said on its website that the Packers had offered one of their kickers, Mason Crosby or Dave Rayner (more about Rayner in a moment), to the Giants instead of the draft pick, but the Giants opted for the latter.

Grant is 6-foot-1 and 218-pounds. He's a graduate of Notre Dame. If the name doesn't ring a bell, it's because he spent the 2005 season on the Giants' practice squad and last season on injured reserve. So this isn't the cure to what ails the Packers' running game. It's just another back that is some insurance in case the already thin backfield in terms of both numbers and talent takes another hit.

Now, as to the cuts, some surprises...or perhaps what would have been surprises not all that long ago. According to the Packers' official website, here they are: tight end Zac Alcorn, defensive end Larry Birdine, wide receiver Shaun Bodiford, wide receiver David Clowney, cornerback Patrick Dendy, wide receiver Chris Francies, linebacker Tim Goodwell, tight end Clark Harris, linebacker Spencer Havner, linebacker Rory Johnson, guard Travis Leffew, safety Marquand Manuel, fullback Brandon Miree, safety Alvin Nnabufie, kicker Dave Rayner, wide receiver Calvin Russell, guard Adam Stenavich, tackle Orrin Thompson, quarterback Paul Thompson and running back Corey White. Safety Tyrone Culver, linebacker Abdul Hodge and guard Tyson Walter were placed on injured reserve.

In addition to trying to trade incumbent kicker Dave Rayner to the Giants for Grant, they were apparently trying to make deals with other teams, as well. No takers. According to a blog entry in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Rayner is quoted as saying: "They (the Packers) said it was the hardest decision they had to make at any position. It was one of those things where I don’t think I could have done any more. I was fighting an uphill battle the whole way after the draft. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back here someday. You never know if he’s the guy long-term or a quick fix."

So, aside from Rayner, the quick take on this set of cuts and keeps...GM Ted Thompson bit the bullet and dumped safety Marquand Manuel, who never lived up to his billing or his contract....QB Paul Thompson can hopefully make it to the practice squad...the Pack apparently felt the injury that Abdul Hodge had affected his play this year more than anything else and want to keep him around for next year if they can...the Packers really saw safety Atari Bigby come on during preseason which made it very comfortable for them to dump Manuel...RB DeShawn Wynn has enough potential for the Pack to keep him on the active roster...the Pack kept five wide receivers on the squad, including Carlyle Holiday, who could serve as an emergency QB if necessary -- combined with the fact that he's a fairly good receiver, this 2-for-1 capability was too good to let go...the Pack kept 11 rookies on the 53-man roster...other than those items...not really too many surprises.

The biggest problem facing the Pack is the same one they've had ever since Ahman Green headed to Houston: running back. The fact the Ted Thompson still has done little to address that matter just puts too much pressure on the passing game. Thankfully, with Brett tossing passes to Driver, Jennings, and Jones, that area of the offense looks very solid, barring injury. One would hope that Thompson continues to scour the cut lists and waiver wires for a proven back...although the likelihood of that happening is the same as Da Bearz (fill in the blank...)