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Cheeseheads receive a huge Christmas present (12/31/2003)
By Dave DeLano

In an incredible turn of events Sunday, the Packers advanced into the 2003 playoffs by thrashing the Denver Broncos by a score of 31 - 3. Simultaneously, the Minnesota Vikings' catastrophic last-minute collapse and defeat by the lowly Arizona Cardinals allowed the Packers to become North division champions again. It was the Vikings who controlled their destiny with a win, but they choked big-time, giving up two touchdowns in the last two minutes and lost on the last play of the game. As the Vikings' demise became known at Lambeau, a huge roar from the crowd alerted the Packers of their sweet Christmas present and the celebration was on. Thus the Packers finish the regular season 10 - 6, a game ahead of the Vikings, and host the Seattle Seahawks next week in the wild card game at Lambeau. Meanwhile, Chris Hovan and Randy Moss will be watching the playoffs on television. Merry Christmas cheeseheads!

The Packers came out on fire again Sunday marching right down the field to score a TD on the opening drive and the game was basically over at that point. Denver was resting some of their offensive players and their subs were not up to beating the Packers at Lambeau, who were fighting for their playoff lives.

The Packer defense rattled the inexperienced Bronco QBs with blitzes of all sorts. What a tremendous mid-season pickup defensive tackle Grady Jackson has been. He has been a huge disruptive force in the middle and did it again on Sunday, getting his first start as a Packer. Since he joined the Packers in mid-season, the defense has improved steadily. The Packers announced right after the game that Jackson had signed a two-year contract extension and that is great news for cheeseheads. Marques Anderson may have also cemented his future as the Packers' strong safety with a solid showing against the Broncos.

Brett Favre could hardly improve on his sensational performance against the Raiders the previous week, so it was Ahman Green's turn to pace the Packer offense on Sunday. Green ran wild for 218 yards and 2 touchdowns including a record 98-yard burst. Green set a club single-season record of 1883 rushing yards and 20 TDs this year. That number of 1883 is also the 7th best in the history of the NFL. He is a special player and is enjoying an incredible season. The team-record 98-yard run was set up by the pancake block of Kevin Barry, who comes in as a TE eligible tackle in the Packers' "jumbo" formation. Barry has done this all year long and is a major reason for Green's rushing success.

The Packers finished the regular season hot, winning all 4 games in December and 6 of their last 7 games. Their chemistry is jelling at the perfect time. How ironic it is that it will be former Packer coach Mike Holmgren who brings his Seahawks to Lambeau next Sunday. The Packers match up well against Holmgren's young Seahawks. Cheeseheads will recall the 35 - 13 shellacking the Pack gave them early in October in Lambeau. But Holmgren is obviously one of the best coaches in the game and he knows the Packers well. The surging Pack should be prohibitive favorites to advance in the playoffs but they better be ready for a tough game. Seahawk QB Matt Hasselbeck is a former Packer and understudy of Brett Favre. Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson are very good receivers and Shaun Alexander is a top-notch running back. Look for a high-scoring affair and another Packer win next week. The 2003 Packer express is just too much fun to stop now.

D H D 


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