Cheeseheads develop a semi-sixth sense when a Packer payback is due and coming. I sensed it on the opening drive Sunday night and danged if it didn't turn out that way. It was a sweet scene for cheeseheads, as the Pack soundly upset the Vikes in the Hump by a final score of 30 - 27.
Offensive shoot-outs are always fun to watch, especially if your team is doing most of the shooting, and clearly the Packers were doing that Sunday. Green Bay's offensive line dominated the trenches and that allowed Ahman Green and the other Packer runners to amass 261 yards rushing. It was 1985 when the Pack last matched that number. Many of those yards came after Green was able to scoot through the holes to the outside where his speed was no match for the Vikes' leaded-footed linebacking corps. Once there he was often met by a group of arm-tackling Viking defensive backs, which made for more fun to watch. Green and Co. averaged 7.7 yards per rush.
Perhaps even more amazing than the Packers' awesome running game Sunday was Brett Favre's 3 TD performance. Playing in spite of a splint on his broken throwing thumb, Favre threw tight spirals on a rope all night, torching the Vikes secondary. Something in Favre's character allows him to dig down deep when facing extreme personal adversity. Cheeseheads will remember his gutsy performance last year following a serious knee injury. Gamblers would be wise not to bet against the Pack after adversity strikes Favre. He played a whale of a football game and gave yet another demonstration of his greatness as a football player and a leader.
The Packer defense did pretty well too, confining Randy Moss to only a single big play. Moss frustrates easily when he doesn't get involved in the game and his performance sometimes spirals downward as the frustration intensifies. The Pack deployed lots of double coverage on Moss rather than blitzes on the QB, which proved to be a good strategy. One of the few blitzes called by Packer defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was a double cornerback blitz, something I can't remember seeing before. The Packer defense has a long way to go to become championship caliber, but they showed areas of improvement this week and that is something to build upon.
With the big W Sunday night, the Pack regained its confidence and simultaneously clawed its way back into contention for the 2003 play offs. The Packers are now 4 - 4 on the season, two full games behind the Vikings in the North division. A glance at the league standings reveals that the NFC doesn't really have any powerhouse teams this year. Any one of them can be had. Of the 8 games remaining this season, the Pack will reasonably have to win at least 5 to have a shot at the play offs. The schedule indicates that this is quite possible.
The 5 - 3 Philadelphia Eagles come to Lambeau Field for another nationally televised game next Monday night. Philly's QB, Donovan McNabb, has been hot and cold this year, as have the Eagles. McNabb was hot last week against the Falcons, but so is everybody. The Eagles' receiving corps is not particularly good. Look for the Pack cornerbacks to get an interception or two by jumping poorly run routes. The Eagles have a decent running game, a stout defense, and are well coached by former Packer assistant coach Andy Reid. The Packers can not afford a letdown next week. Having already lost 2 games that they should have won, there is little room for error if the play-offs are to be reached.