Benedict Favre returned to Lambeau Sunday and extracted his revenge on Packer management and the Cheesehead nation by leading the Minnesota Vikings to a 38 – 26 win over the Packers. The 98th meeting between the two teams was highly-hyped with the return of Favre to Green Bay in purple and white colors. Unfortunately, the Packers dug themselves into a deep hole early in the game and were unable to recover.
Maybe it was the full moon or the day-after-Halloween hangover, but for whatever reason the Packer offense, as talent-laden as they are, could do almost nothing in the first half as the Vikings cruised to a 17 – 3 lead. The Packers managed to gain only 47 yards while the offensive line surrendered 4 sacks. It was absolutely pathetic. As bad as the offense was in the first half, the bonehead play of the year (thus far) came from defensive tackle Johnny Jolly, who engaged in a stupider-than-stupid head butting incident which resulted in a 15-yard penalty that cost four points. The raucous Lambeau crowd seemed to stifle a bit too after witnessing such an unbelievably dumb act, and it is hard to know whether to blame the player, coach or management.
After giving up a quick score to start the second half and fall back by 24 – 3, the Packers responded quickly as Aaron Rodgers got into a rhythm, hitting reserve tight end Spencer Havner with two touchdown passes, and before you knew it the Pack had clawed back to a 31- 26 deficit. With eight minutes left in the game the Pack had the ball and a chance to take the lead, but the drive fizzled and the Packers did not have enough juice to complete the deal.
As has been the case all season, the offensive line was unable to perform at a professional level and Rodgers got clobbered again, this time with six sacks bringing the season total to a league-leading 31. Tackle Allen Barbre is just plain bad and I have to believe Mike McCarthy will replace him with Mark Tauscher next week. The contrast in the offensive line performance is mind-boggling. In the two games against the Vikings this year, Rodgers got sacked 14 times while Benedict received zero.
The other major difference in this game was the performance of the special teams. The Vikings excel in this area and the Packers are horrible. So much emphasis was put into special team performance this past year; it is absolutely amazing that the coverage teams are so inept at holding their lanes. McCarthy retired last year’s special teams coach because the job wasn’t getting done, but that hasn’t seemed to change things.
Next week the Packers travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers, another bottom-feeder team whom they should defeat handily. Sadly, it appears that the 2009 Packers are settling in as a slightly better than mediocre team; good enough to manhandle the lousy teams but not good enough to compete with the better ones. Cheeseheads are getting restless; they deserve and expect better from the green and gold.