Monday, January 21, 2008

Dang




Eleven quick bright sides about Green Bay's heart-breaking loss to New York in the NFC title game.

* You may noticed that I haven't mentioned my beloved Packers in about three months in spite of their having their best season in years. This was purely due to superstition. I figured since the gravy train was rolling so smoothly, I didn't want to wreck it with a braggadocious post. The one time I even mentioned them in passing was a reference to our green-and-yellow Xmas lights, which resulted in a loss to the hated Dallas Cowboys. So at least I can say that it was nothing I did, karma-wise, that ultimately ruined the Packers' season. I stayed true to my superstitions --- always wearing my Favre jersey on game days, busting out the cheesehead if things looked tight at halftime, wearing the same boxer shorts (don't worry, I washed them during the week) and cargo pants. What may have ultimately finished things, however, was my food-related superstition of drinking iced tea by the gallon during Green Bay games. I may have single-handedly led to a rise in Nestea's fourth-quarter earnings. It was all due to this post from my pals and fellow Packer fans Hurk and Larkin at their old SOJP blog. Since iced tea was the Packer drink of choice-slash-comparison, it only seemed fitting as a weekly drink. The problem was, look who was another of the iced tea teams: the Giants! I should've countered somehow by adding melted butter to the iced tea to add some Wisconsin flava. The heart attack would've been worth it.

* Two Christmases ago, my parents got me a cool wall hanging listing all of Green Bay's championship seasons. So, now I won't have my next Xmas present spoiled by knowing that my folks would get me a new banner. Uh, yay?

* Though the Giants are one of my least-favourite NFL teams, at least the Pack didn't lose to Dallas. And at least Green Bay won a playoff game, unlike the laughable, self-inflicted media frenzy that is the Cowboys organization.

* I don't have any friends who are Giants fans, so I don't need to listen to any trash talk over the next two weeks and/or eight months and/or years to come. Really, I've lucked out in terms of bragging rights. My brother like the Ravens, so he can't say anything. My dad likes the Browns, so I can just mention Earnest Byner and send him into a screaming rage. My cousin likes Miami, and she moved to Italy to get away from the shame. Some of my good friends' favourite clubs include the 49ers, Lions, Falcons and Bills, so no worries there. I know a few New England fans, but hell, I didn't have much ammo against them anyway. What am I supposed to say about an 18-0 team? "Ha, Bill Simmons writes too many naval-gazing columns about you guys!" I can at least take solace in the fact I still follow the best NFL team out of my circle of friends.

* Bill Simmons' Ewing Theory is becoming the most accurate prognostication tool of all time. New York lost Tiki Barber before the season AND Jeremy Shockey a few weeks ago, and they're suddenly playing much better without those two overhyped, ringless stars. The Bradshaw/Jacobs running back duo is lighting it up when Jacobs decides not to run straight into tacklers and this new tight end Boss is a 6'7 monster of a man. If the Giants do somehow happen to win the Super Bowl, it will almost be worth it to see Tiki Barber have to eat shit for the rest of his broadcasting career.

* The Packers at least lost cleanly. New York totally outplayed them for most of the game, and GB caught four huge lucky breaks in the second half: Sam Madison's personal foul that led to a Packer touchdown, the two missed field goals by Lawrence Tynes, and winning the OT coin toss. We were due some bad luck going our way in terms of the Favre interception. I had a bad feeling at halftime, despite GB holding a lead, just because New York was killing the Pack in terms of possession time and had the ball to start the second half. Nothing beats down a team more than having its defense out on the field for drive after long drive. Same thing happened to New England in last year's AFC title game. In fact, the only time I've ever seen it work the other way was last week's New York/Dallas game, where it was the 'Boys who held the ball for long stretches in the second half but it was their O-line that tired out before the Giants' D did. New York kept holding the ball while the Packers kept blowing third down after third down. It seemed like the only plays in the playbook this week were those short passes in the middle and kept being caught for, like, three yards or were incomplete, or the three million times Favre tried for a screen for no gain. Ryan Grant disappeared after his big game last week, Favre hurried passes all day long, the offense was really not there at all aside from the (lucky) long touchdown to Driver, and Plaxico Burress made Al Harris his bitch all day long. Man, that's one that really browns me off. They should've been double-covering Burress after the first five minutes.

* If Tynes had missed that third field goal in overtime, he might have killed himself or become Scott Norwood's online chess buddy. And by 'online chess buddy,' I mean lover. Nobody needs to see that.

* At least when the Packers won the toss, nobody on the Green Bay claimed that 'we want the ball and we're going to score,' like poor Matt Hasselbeck did four years ago in that playoff game at Lambeau Field. You know what, though? In spite of that bit of idiocy, I still can't bring myself to hate Hasselbeck or the Seahawks. Matty Hass seems like a nice guy --- he's a former Green Bay backup and his few commercials are self-effacing. Nobody gives the team any credit. Even last week when the Pack hosted them in the second round, I couldn't muster up enough insta-hate that I could against, oh, say, the Giants (dammit). If I wasn't a Packer back for life, I could seriously have considered becoming a Seahawk....uh, Glee Jock? That doesn't sound right.

* It spares losing to New England in the Super Bowl. As beat-up as the Pats have looked in recent weeks, they're still getting it done, and they're still operating at a higher plane than these other good teams in spite of this pressure of trying to go unbeaten. I really think the Patriots will pull it off, and hey, though I would've obviously been whole-heartedly rooting for Green Bay in the Super Bowl, it's not a bad alternative to wish for a team to do something historic like pull off a 19-0 record. And it'd be nice to see an all-timer like Junior Seau win a title. The Packers would've had a better-than-average shot of putting that first loss on New England, but it would've admittedly been an uphill battle.

Well, wait, this one is a pseudo-bright side. I would've much rather GB lost the Super Bowl than lost the NFC title game. At least you can say you got to the Super Bowl and gotten two more weeks of joy out of it. And losing to what might be the potentially best team in NFL history is a lot less bitter than losing to goddamn Eli Manning's team. Hmmm.....well, let's just split the difference and root for New England to win 75-0.

* The Amazing Race finale was pretty awesome. Yay Sunday night TV! Even though the team with the old grizzled guy from Wisconsin didn't win...hey, wait a second....

* It was a great ride. I had no expectation of Green Bay doing anything this season. I even predicted them to finish last in the NFC North in my preseason preview (though, I tried to hedge my bets by titling it 'Mark's Wrong NFL Preview' and throwing in a Wikipedia link to 'reverse psychology' when talking about how crappy the Pack would be). As it turned out, it was a wonderful season. Favre broke virtually every record in the book and had one (last?) great season in his Hall of Fame career. Greg Jennings, Donald Lee and James Jones established themselves as big-play threats. Ryan Grant might be the running back the Packers have been missing since Ahman Green forgot how to play football. The defense en masse established itself as one of the best in football. Even Atari Bigby, who sucked balls for 9/10ths of the season, stepped up big last week against Seattle. And even Bigby was lovable in a 'one player on your title team you love to hate,' sort of like Kelly Gruber on the 1992 Jays. Mike McCarthy showed himself to be a good NFL coach. Frankly, as a sports fan who has been just about worn down to a nub by Toronto's sports franchises and the horrific Fulham Cottagers, it was enjoyable to follow a team that performed above expectations. Going into a year expecting little more than a 5-11 record and ending up with the NFL's bronze medal is pretty sweet.

So wait until next year, when I branch out and pick Green Bay to finish with a 6-10 record. Reach for those stars!

2 comments:

Kyle Wasko said...

After Tynes made the kick in OT, my first thought was: "finally!" My second thought was: "Shuk is going to be pissed." What a strange and compelling game.

I have to say that I really thought that the Pack were a charmed team this year and that somehow they'd prevail against the Giants. In support of this, see: Tynes' missed kicks; the Packers leading the league--by a wide margin--in receivers being completely (much to my bafflement) WIDE OPEN FOR SOME STRANGE REASON (GOD!); Bradshaw's TD being called back on a questionable holding call; the Madison personal foul which extended an earlier Packers drive; the McQuarters pick...which was quickly followed by his fumble; his punt return fumble, which the Giants were incredibly lucky to recover; Giants losing the coin toss in OT, etc. Everything seemed to point towards Favre engineering a game winning drive in overtime. And yet...Favre seemed oddly lifeless last night, which I don't think I've ever seen before (from him). There never appeared to be a sense of urgency.

A few other comments:

1. I think the Packers abandoned the run a bit too quickly. Grant--who has been a stud for the past ten weeks--didn't do much on the ground, but, then again, he only had 13 carries, which really isn't a lot in game where the Packers never trailed by more than 6 points.

2. re: double-teaming Burress--> I don't really think they could have done that without getting totally burned by Toomer (who is no slouch) and/or Smith (who was huge down the stretch). The only thing I can think of would be the Jacksonville strategy, whereby they used a soft cover 2 against the Patriots, bumped Moss off the line with a corner, then had a safety dedicated to containing him after that. Not a bad strategy, but even a half-decent QB (and, yes, at this stage, Eli fits that bill) would pick the D apart underneath.

3. In closing, while I do feel bad for you, I must say that I'm somewhat relieved that we're not going to be subjected to two weeks of "Brett Favre is the greatest living human being. His mere touch has healing power" and so forth. I think even you might concede that that might drive even the biggest fan to distraction.

Mark P said...

1. You are completely right

2. You're probably right. It's possible that had I been subjected to seeing Eli burn Atari Bigby over and over, I might have driven to Green Bay last night with a torch and pitchfork. How would I drive while carrying a torch and not setting my car on fire? Oh the suspense! Also, I'm pretty sure New York Steve Smith and Carolina Steve Smith switched places about two months ago.

3. Wait, Brett Favre ISN'T the greatest living human being? Alert Peter King!