November 18, 2006
Not A Good Place To Right The Ship
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- If you think Brett Favre is too old and over the hill, at least the Patriots now have someone who beats him on both counts.
In addition, if this is your opinion of the future Packer Hall of Famer, you might as well take some of the crow you ate last week after the loss to the Jets and hope that it hasn?t spoiled.
Spoiled is a good operative word for Patriot Nation the last few years. The team is still technically in the midst of a championship dynasty, the team is still among the best in the AFC, judging by mere wins and losses. The Patriots still possess some of the finest in the league at various positions. If you are a Patriot fan, how can?t you feel spoiled, and therefore aghast at the two-game losing streak the Patriots are enduring at the moment?
It?s a good bet that you feel generally relaxed regarding the Patriots and their pre-Thanksgiving trek to the cheese capital of the world. The Packers are a shell of their old selves, with the aging Favre at the top of that list. Michael Felger of the Herald pointed out recently that since Super Bowl XXXI, Favre is 2-7 in Packer postseason games and has played recklessly since Mike Holmgren left Green Bay for Seattle after the 1998 season. The Patriots will riddle the lousy Packer secondary (last in the league in pass defense) and coerce Favre to play like we all thought he would play in Super Bowl XXXI, that is, throw three or four picks and give the game away to the Patriots.
And you might be right. But the word ?might? carries with it a great deal of ?might?.
The Patriots don?t come to this cozy corner of Wisconsin very often. The Patriots have come here for regular season action only twice, losing 45-3 in Milwaukee?s County Stadium in 1988, and losing on a Monday night at Lambeau in 1979, 27-14. This then makes it only the second time the Patriots have come to this city in the regular season ever (they have made some appearances in the preseason), and therefore don?t really know how to deal with a phenomenon known as ?cheeseheads?.
Only Troy Brown and Tedy Bruschi remain from the 1996 AFC champions who lost by two touchdowns to Favre and the Pack in the Big Show. Starting with that game, the Packers have won the last three meetings between the two teams; the 35-21 defeat in New Orleans was followed by a pair of 28-10 defeats in Foxborough, once in 1997 on a Monday night, the other in 2002. The only time the Patriots have beaten Favre was in 1995 at Foxborough, a 17-16 nailbiter.
Simply put, the Patriots don?t have a history of doing well against Favre. This may not be the swashbuckling Favre in his three-time NFL MVP heyday, but the Packers right now are on a three wins in four games streak, and the Patriots right now look less like champions and more like the 2002 team Favre easily carved up in Foxborough four years ago. If Ty Warren is unable to play, and with Rodney Harrison already declared out for the game, Favre may once again find the Patriots easy pickings with an even more porous pass defense than his own team?s, as well as a defense which may not be charged up enough (ask Richard Seymour about the coaching as of late) to contain Favre if he breaks off on his patented scrambles.
Without Warren, look for Ahman Green to also have a big day. In the 2002 meeting, Green butchered the Patriots for 136 yards rushing on 31 carries. Last week, Kevan Barlow?s 75 yards rushing and 4.4 average was a huge indictment of the run defense, and Green is one of the top NFC backs. Green is far better than Barlow, and could have a great day once again against the Patriots if Warren misses the game and Bruschi and Junior Seau are outplayed by the Packer offensive line.
Defensively, the Packers have two men who should give the Patriots plenty of fits. The key matchup will be Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila against Matt Light. Light often times has trouble with speed rushers, and KGB is one of the premier speed guys in the league at the defensive end position. Rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk is also a speed rusher who has enjoyed a fine rookie season thus far; Patriot running backs will need to be able to pick up his blitzes and do it well.
Tom Brady would also like some measure of revenge against the Packers. In the 2002 meeting, Brady threw three interceptions and finished with a rating of 44.0. Favre, meanwhile, had a rating of 114.3. Brady will have an easy time with a Packer secondary which boasts only Al Harris who is of any pedigree. But if he doesn?t get time to throw, the lousy stats the Packer pass defense possesses won?t matter a bit.
In 2002, the Patriots had to deal with the baggage of the return of Terry Glenn to Foxborough. This time, they get the home crowd, known as ?cheeseheads?. Playing in Lambeau Field is one of the toughest road venues in the league. Given how poorly they play in Denver and Kansas City, this place may turn out to be worse. This being only their second visit ever to this building, the Patriots literally have no idea as to how to handle things like the ?Lambeau Leap?, people wearing slices of Swiss on their heads, and the specter of Vince Lombardi looming as large, if not larger, than that of a man close to home named Auerbach.
This is a game the Patriots could very well lose, and you couldn?t blame them if they did. The Patriots would have liked to have been on a winning streak instead of a losing streak. It would have helped to uplift them as they make their way into the Boston Garden of the NFL. The Patriots are really up against it in this game even though they may be the better team by a mile on paper.
So what do the Patriots do? Same thing they should have done over the last two weeks. Execute better than the other team. Commit no turnovers. Commit no stupid penalties. Do what they do. These four elements have been absent since the Minnesota game. It is pointless to delve into deep analysis of this game since, if the Patriots simply follow the previously stated four edicts, they should win the game easily. But things being what they are, and the Packers being what they are, and Favre being who he is, the game will either be close or the Packers will win big.
And we mean it when we say Favre is who he is. What this guy has done in his career is the stuff of folk tales. The night his dad died, how he overcame Hurricane Katrina back home in Mississippi, the way he plays the game, his relationship with the Packers and the entire state of Wisconsin, it all adds up to him being a guy who can still kill you at any given time. And until the Patriots show that they can stop him, you really can?t believe otherwise.
It?s up to the Patriots now. Come out with heads high, or else come out smelling like Limburger.
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