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Sunday, January 09, 2005

Vikings @ Packers Wildcard Playoff Game Review

by Mark Lawrence
PackerChatters Staff

The 8-8 Vikings came into a January, 27 degree, Lambeau Field playoff game. Last millennium, the very idea that the Packers could lose this game was laughable: the Packers have never lost at home in January dating back to 1919. No 8-8 team had ever won a playoff game, dating back to 1920. Favre was undefeated in games where the start was under 35 degrees. Never had three teams lost at home in a single weekend in the playoffs.

Welcome to the new century. In this century, the NFC is a finesse conference and the AFC tackles and plays hardnose physical football. The Packers have more trouble in cold weather games than any other team that readily comes to mind. And, the Packers have lost their last two consecutive home starts in under 32 degree weather and their last two consecutive January home playoff games.

I have to admit that I'm not a great person for prescribing fixes, either fast or slow, but perhaps I have some talent at analysis. It's now painfully clear that the Packers team has become thin and soft. Thin: Javon Walker goes down with an ankle injury, Najeh Davenport has rib problems, these two injuries are enough to cut the Packers offensive production in half. Mike Flannigan is out for the year, Grady Jackson misses a few games with injury, and the Packer's OL and DL production is cut in half. Soft: I haven't seen a knock-the-spit out of him hit by a Packers defender in a couple years. I see at least four missed tackles for every good tackle that I see. With regard to our safeties, I haven't seen so many bad angles since I tried to teach trigonometry to my cats.

The Vikings came into this game a seriously wounded beast, with problems in team unity and confidence. It was critical to them that they score early and often, and critical to the Packers chances that the Packers defense stop this. Today, the Vikings sense of critical far outweighed the Packers. The Vikings took the opening kickoff and scored in three plays. An inauspicious, if not entirely unexpected start. Since neither of these teams has a recent history of playing much you could call a defense, it was not, however, time to panic. A couple plays later Ahman Green took a handoff and put it on the ground. My knees grew weak and started to tremble. I turned to my girlfriend and said, "This is *very* bad, if Favre decides the game is entirely on his shoulders this will *not* be pretty." A couple plays later Favre threw his first of four interceptions. I said, "Oh, it's going to be one of *those* days." I realized it was now officially time to panic.

A few interceptions and Vikings quick-strikes later, plus a couple of (understandably) missed field goals, and it was half time, Vikings 24, Packers 10. This was approximately the end of the game, and the final score.

In the second half, the Packers came out and had found their defensive stride, holding the Vikings to just one touchdown in the second half and forcing several three-and-outs. Unfortunately, the Packers offense had found absolutely nothing, no running game, no passing game, no ability to hold onto the ball or to control the line of scrimmage. Ahman Green finished with 80 yards on 20 carries - a wholly unacceptable ground attack for a January playoff game in Lambeau field. At this instant, it would appear that global warming will fix the Packer's low-temperature problems before the coaching staff does. After his last touchdown, in an illuminating display of his trailer trash background and instincts, Randy Moss feigned mooning the Packer's fans. I would have found his actions far more appropriate had he aimed his commentary (and intellectual center of mass) at the Packer's bench.

The game ball today clearly goes to the Vikings defensive line, a group of four guys that can stop the run and apply pressure on passing downs. I think that the Packers actually have more talent on their defensive line than the Vikings, but this is an evaluation that is, I must admit, sadly lacking in substantive or objective evidence.

This Packers team does not play Packers football. They can't handle the cold. They play flat and emotionlessly in at least a third of their games. They have little or no ability to come back from a deficit and win a game. And the only black and blue in this division would be the result of players banging their pretty little fists on their lockers.

Ok, I'm pissed.

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