The Green Bay Packers opened the 2003 regular season with an inauspicious loss to their division rival Minnesota Vikings by a score of 30 -25 this past Sunday at Lambeau. It wasn't a pretty game to watch if you are a cheesehead as the Pack fumbled and stumbled their way into a 24 point deficit midway into the third quarter. The Pack took advantage of a couple breaks and mounted a late comeback but fell short and ran out of time.
Surprisingly, the Green Bay offensive horsepower was noticeably absent in this game, especially in the first half. It seemed as though the Pack was playing at about 3/4 speed. Brett Favre seemed out of sync with his receivers. In all, the Pack turned the ball over 5 times, making it all but impossible to win a game in the NFL. It was hard to figure, given all the hoopla that was generated this past week over the renovation of Lambeau and with many former Packer greats in town to bear witness. I sure didn't expect a flat offense.
The defense didn't play very well either. The Vikings set the tone of this game by taking the ball right down the field on their initial drive. Randy Moss caught way too many passes and too many tackles were missed. Darren Sharper, usually Moss's nemesis, was obviously not playing at 100% due to an injury, but others needed to step it up and that didn't happen often. The Packers were also unable to stop the Vikings' running game, even though the Viking running backs are not real special. The Packers' 2003 defense has a LONG way to go to prove their respectability.
Amazingly, the Packers' special teams played quite well. When was the last time you read that statement in recent years? Antonio Chatman had a couple of decent kickoff returns and he didn't make any mistakes. Packer kick return coverage was pretty good and they even managed a real nice onside kick play that tricked the Vikings into a turnover. New special teams' coach John Bonamego appears to have really upgraded the Pack's special teams, proving that good coaching does make a difference.
Next week the improved Detroit Lions visit Lambeau. The Lions scored 42 points last week to upset the Arizona Cardinals. First-year Head Coach Steve Mariucci was an assistant in Green Bay for several years under Mike Holmgren's regime and is a popular figure in Titletown. Mariucci obviously has made some huge improvements with the formerly hapless Lions and they will be a force to be reckoned with next week and in the future.
Mike Sherman has to find a way to get more production from the Packer offense and cut down the turnovers. That might be a tall order. Making the task even more difficult are the mounting injuries, which knocked both starting Green Bay receivers out of the Viking game. Sherman also needs to get more defensive production out of the defensive line. KGB had a decent game, but the rest of the defensive line underperformed. Fortunately, the Lions, despite their performance last weekend, are not that talented. They can and should be had at Lambeau next week.