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It is a Happy New Year for Cheeseheads (01/03/2007)
By Dave DeLano

The Green Bay Packers treated the faithful to a great evening of entertainment New Year's Eve by thoroughly routing the Chicago Bears by a score of 26 - 7. The emotional win was the fourth in a row for the Pack and levels their 2006 record at 8 wins and 8 losses. It was a very nice finish for a rebuilding season and proof positive that this team is headed in the right direction.

Brett Favre, playing in what might be his final professional football game, came out firing bullets. His 9-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver capped a 75-yard drive on the opening series and set the tone for this game. Favre threw for 209 yards in the first half as the Packers built a 23-0 lead. At age 37, Favre is still an incredibly agile athlete. Dodging defenders and firing footballs with Favre's signature high velocity is a special gift. Comparing Favre with the Bears' quarterbacks is like comparing a man to boys.

Favre wasn't the only Packer playing with passion Sunday night as once again the defense rose to the occasion and overwhelmed the Bears. In fact, dating back to the second half of the 49er game the defense has really jelled nicely. Earlier in the season I thought there were coaching problems due to the repetitive "miscommunication" problems which allowed way too many explosion plays. The resurrection of the defense late this year has been remarkable and may have saved some of the coaches' heads from rolling.

The swarming, hard-hitting Packer defense forced the Bears into a total of six turnovers. Safety Nick Collins has had a rough sophomore year, but Sunday Collins was making plays all over the field. Always regarded as a highly gifted player, could it be that Collins' light finally got turned on? The other safety, Marquand Manuel, has had an awful year. He messed-up again on coverage that allowed the single Bear touchdown. I doubt he will be back next year.

Speaking of being back next year, Favre gave a tearful interview after the game that had this observer thinking that maybe this was his final game. He didn't actually say that, but no doubt retirement plans are under serious consideration. My wife thinks that he has too much left on the table and will be back in Titletown next year. She has good instincts so I'll go with her on this one and predict that Favre will return next year.

In summary, no one predicted the young 2006 Packers would win 8 games and almost make the playoffs. They doubled their number of wins from 2005. It was painful and pitiful at times as the growing pains came to surface, but the team did improve in most areas and that is reason for optimism for the future. Furthermore, the 2006 Packers swept the Viqueens... and that alone makes it a pretty good year. 


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