This one hurt. Big time. But life goes on.
First, my apologies for being so scarce in the Lounge lately. I’ve been away from home and away from the Internet for most of the past two weeks. In fact, I was not able to watch the Packer-Viking game until Wednesday night, as I spent the first half of the week on a deserted island in Lake Superior--a mini-vacation that had been arranged over a year ago.
I had mixed feelings about not being able to see the game live. On the one hand, I wished I could’ve shared in that collective experience of watching a major sporting event at the same time as millions of other people. But on the other hand, I absolutely hated this game. I never wanted it to be played. And I’m going to hate the game in November even more.
Now I’ll admit that if the Packers had won on Monday night, I would’ve been very, very happy. But I didn’t expect them to win. When the Vikings are good, the Packers almost never beat them in Minnesota. But the stakes were higher than ever for this one, so I knew a loss would be especially painful.
Watching Brett Favre saunter out onto the field in a purple uniform to play against his old team was every bit as surreal as I expected it to be. And I felt one overriding emotion: absolute loathing for the man. It was a little scary, because I’m not a guy who hates people. But I’d been getting sick of Favre for years, even when he was still playing for the Packers, and when he pulled the prima donna act last year, sitting out the off-season activities and then demanding to be reinstated, he lost me for good. I rooted against the Jets all last season and was delighted when they missed the playoffs and Brett got dissed by a couple of his teammates. But then he maneuvered his way onto the Vikings, which is where he’d wanted to play all along, keeping them on a string as he sat out most of training camp before making his grand entrance.
As I watched the game on videotape Wednesday night, my hatred for Favre did subside a bit, but it was replaced by sheer horror, as he played one of the better games of his career. So many times we’ve been on the good side of those games where Favre just gets into a groove and cannot be stopped. To have it happen to us, as Packer fans, was galling beyond belief—just as Brett intended it to be. But if nothing else, the guy deserves some props for his performance. Sure, he benefits from playing alongside the best running back in football. And Dom Capers’ game plan, which was heavy on the three-man rushes, provided the perfect scenario for Favre’s rejuvenation. But Favre made all the throws, including some very difficult ones. On that level, at least, we have to give the man his due.
There are other images that stand out from Monday night’s game. On the plus side, there were great plays by Jermichael Finley, Clay Matthews, and Jordy Nelson. On the minus side, there was the offensive line, which is in a shambles. There were some poor decisions by Aaron Rodgers. There was B.J. Raji, our 340-pound would-be stud, getting drilled into the ground by Steve Hutchinson on one play. Jason Spitz totally whiffing on a block, leading to a sack and an injury to his teammate Darryn Colledge. Our DB’s barking at each other because of blown assignments. And so on.
But I’m not writing the Packers off just yet. The best-case scenario is that they are like the ’95 Packers, who had a lot of talent but were not yet solid at the line of scrimmage. The more likely scenario is that the offensive line is a mess, plain and simple--but messes like this can sometimes get cleaned up during the course of a season.
Until or unless that happens, Aaron Rodgers needs to be our Ben Roethlisberger. Remember, the Steelers managed to win a Super Bowl last year with a dodgy offensive line, because their QB was a great improviser who was willing to take a lot of hits. It’s a low percentage approach to winning a championship, and it will require our defense to play a lot better than it has so far, but for now, it’s all we have.
And here’s the irony: Brett Favre has always been known as a great improviser, while Aaron Rodgers has been criticized for being an overly conservative “system” QB. But now their roles are reversed. Favre has the luxury of being able to play completely within himself—and at least so far, he appears very willing to do just that—while Aaron Rodgers is on the sandlot, dodging the pass rush as best he can and heaving the ball downfield. If our offensive line ever settles down, this will be valuable experience for Aaron, provided he lives to tell about it.
I’m so glad it’s our bye week. Even better, we get to play the Lions at Green Bay the following week. And Mark Tauscher is coming back. We need a fresh start in a big way, and this is just what the doctor ordered. As for Favre, we’ll have to wait and see if he can keep this up into December and January. I still think the odds are against him, but I’m not feeling as good about it as I did a week ago. Hurry, cold weather!