Viking kicker Paul Edinger broke the hearts of the Cheeseheads when he kicked a 56-yard last-second field goal to propel the Minnesota Vikings to a 23 - 20 victory this past Sunday. The defeat leaves the Packers with a 1 - 5 record. The disappointing loss also brought a new rash of injuries to some key players. Titletown is not a happy place this week.
This game was the story of two halves. In the first half, the Packers' dominating defense and Brett Favre's two touchdown passes led the way to a 17- 0 halftime lead as the Vikings continued their recent bungling ways. Favre and Donald Driver put on a passing clinic against the Vikes, but once again the Packer running game never got it going, as has been true all season long. I thought Ahman Green looked like he was running as hard and fast as he ever had on Sunday (before he got hurt), but this year the blocks and the execution just aren't there as they have been in the past.
The second half of the game was exactly the opposite of the first. The Packers' defense broke down and allowed the troubled Vikings to build confidence and momentum. By late in the fourth quarter the Vikes had roared back with 20 unanswered points. Injuries, lack of defensive discipline and lousy special teams' play contributed to the Packers' woes.
The Pack might have won this game but for a questionable coaching decision late in the game. Trailing by three points with less than two minutes to go, Brett Favre led a final drive which stalled on the Viking 30-yard line. By this time in the game, Green had been hurt and replaced by Tony Fisher. Mike Sherman decided to call Fischer's number on a gut draw play on third-and-four, rather than let Favre take a shot at passing the ball. Fischer was stuffed due to poor blocking. Ryan Longwell then tied the game with a field goal, but with still enough time remaining for the Vikes to get in a position for Edinger's winning field goal.
Sherman's call was eerily similar to a call in the championship game against the Eagles a couple years ago when the Pack declined to go for it on a fourth-and-one, which allowed the Eagles the opportunity to win that game. I remain convinced that Mike Sherman is a fine football coach, but the Fischer draw call has me scratching my head. I would have preferred to see Favre get the call. He is by far the Packers' best player and a couple completed passes might well have resulted in another outcome.
The schedule for the next three weeks looks brutal, beginning with the rejuvenated Cincinnati Bengals, the always-tough Pittsburgh Steelers, and then the high-scoring Atlanta Falcons. Those teams have a combined record of 13 - 6 thus far this year. The injury situation for the Pack also looks bleak. Green, Robert Ferguson, Nick Collins and Cullen Jenkins all suffered knee injuries in the Humpty Dump. There must be something good to write about, but your humble scribe is at a loss to find it right now. These are tough times for Cheeseheads.