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Packers avenge the Sapp incident in defeating Bucs (11/19/2003)
By Dave DeLano

Dave Delano
I spent last Sunday pheasant hunting with a buddy and my daughter's wire-haired pointer, Willie, so I missed the live telecast of the 20 - 13 beating the Pack gave the defending world champions. Upon returning from a successful hunt, I heard the news and got to see the game on tape. I think knowing the outcome of the game somewhat spoils the enjoyment or entertainment value of watching pro football, but I may just have to do it again next Sunday which is the second day of the deer hunt. Ahh" such choices.

Anyway, the Packers looked pretty good Sunday, even on videotape. Showcasing a running game that is second to none in the NFL, the Pack pretty much ran the ball down the throat of Warren Sapp and the Bucs. Although denied by the Packers, I am sure the offensive line took particular glee in their success after Sapp's incident with Chad Clifton last year. The Packers have a truly gifted offensive line, and this year they are healthy and playing great football. This was the first time in the last 60-something outings that the Bucs failed to record a sack of the quarterback. Ahman Green and the other two Packer running backs ran wild and free thanks to the gaping holes punched in the Tampa Bay defense.

Brett Favre is still suffering with his broken thumb and his play showed it, but the emotion and the Packer running attack overwhelmed the Bucs Sunday. Robert Ferguson had one of his best days as a pro as he made a couple timely catches, and he is a terror playing the "gunner" (an apropos word as I obviously can't get the pheasant hunt off my mind) position on punt coverage. If Favre's thumb can heal over the next month or so and the Pack can continue to dominate with their running game as they have the past couple weeks, the Pack should provide a potent and dangerous offense down the stretch.

But it is the defense that will determine how far the Pack will go this year, and Sunday was one of their better efforts. With the exception of a couple big running plays, the Bucs were pretty much kept at bay by a defense that seemingly is improving as the season progresses. I suspect that some of the improvement has to do with some key personnel pick-ups that Mike Sherman has quietly engineered during the season, which is quite remarkable and rare. Grady Jackson, Larry Smith and Michael Hawthorne all have contributed to the improved play of the defense. Last week Coach Sherman picked up linebacker T.J. Slaughter, which is a great name for a linebacker, and I bet he will contribute as well.

With the Vikings in total free-fall, there is reason for optimism that the 2003 Packers might still pull off a north division championship. The road to that goal leads to San Francisco next week where the Pack will take on a Frisco team that has a good defense. They should be a good challenge for the potent Pack offense. On offense, the 49ers have had a problem controlling the temper tantrums of Terrell Owens, their talented but bone-headed receiver, and have an injury problem at QB. Darren Sharper usually matches up well with large, dim-witted receivers so watch for him to be a key to this game. The Pack needs to keep their emotion level up as their confidence builds approaching the play-offs. I may even take time off from deer hunting to watch this one live 


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