Monday, September 08, 2003

Packers 25, Vikes 30. An absolutely awful game because the first half was so poorly played and the second half was a MASH unit.

First Quarter: The Vikings open the season with an excellent touchdown drive. Daunte Culpepper is spreading the field; Randy Moss catches a pass, Kelly Campbell reverses and catches a pass, a little Moe Williams running, and a touchdown pass to John Avery. The drive takes over five minutes. This is how offenses excel, when they involve their stars (well in this case only Moss) in the touches, but also get it to the guys with single coverage who can exploit it. It is a staple of the West Coast Offense and it was a reason why Minnesota looked so good on their first drive. And I mention it because Culpepper spends the rest of the game with his eyes glued on Moss, however the Packers can never exploit it in part due to the injury by Moss' shadow, Darren Sharper on the drive. It didn't hurt Minnesota today, but other defensive coordinators will exploit it. Brett Favre almost throws an interception (overturned on review). Punt. A short field only provides a field goal because Minnesota starts becoming a three man offense (Culpepper, Moss, Williams). They want the Packers to get back into the game, but...a Brett Favre interception on a lucky richochet and later an Ahman Green fumble. Packers 0, Vikings 10.

Second Quarter: Culpepper first of two fumbles, so I guess his fumblitis of 2002 is still lingering. Denard Walker's first big play as a Viking is a long pass interference call that leads to a field goal. Another Minnesota drive of Culpepper, Moss and Williams is successful due to a D'Wayne Bates sighting in the end zone, due in large part to a mixup in the Packers secondary wherein Mike McKenzie got stuck trying to cover Moss and Bates. Favre interception when tight end David Martin trips over the 15 yard line. David Martin has become the new Tyrone Davis at tight end; showed some early promise but hasn't shown anything since. Minnesota tries to run out the clock, but can't get a first down and the Packers drive down to the 10 yard line when Favre throws one of the worst interceptions I have ever seen him throw. It was the type of pass a confused and pressured rookie QB would throw. I don't know if Donald Driver ran the wrong pattern (he froze in his route right after he passed the goal line which indicates to me that he did) or Favre just saw a phantom Packer. The long return sets up a Minnesota field goal. Many Packers missed playing time, or just sat out games as a precaution, during the preseason, and it seemed like the Packers played with a lot of rust while Minnesota had just spent 5 preseason games tuning up. It was an ugly half for the Packers, especially Favre with 6 completions and 3 interceptions. Packers 3, Vikings 20.

Third Quarter: The Packers start the half with an unimpressive drive and punt. Then Minnesota has its last good drive, and they dare McKenzie to stop Moss. McKenzie is left in single coverage, or Antuan Edwards was far too late in coming over to help, and Moss scores easily. It is now time for the Packers offense to finally wake up and start getting first downs. They do it by getting the ball to Green. Green is an effective running back, but his best play on the drive was one of those short throws to Green five yards out in the middle of the field and letting him run. The Packers are starting to mix up the play calling too. In the first quarter each drive was all Favre passing or all Green running and the results were turnovers. It is a simple philosophy but the Packers are finally starting to do it. It ends with a Green touchdown run and a wide open 2 point conversion to Bubba Franks who still had to jump high to get it on a high throw. Packers 11, Vikings 27.

Fourth Quarter: Minnesota has a nice drive running the football and killing time (time is the Packers enemy at this point) which leads to a field goal. The defense could have turned the game around 180 with a turnover, but you can't scheme turnovers on demand, but they needed to force a quicker change of possession at that point. Then the awful drive; Driver comes crashing down hard and Robert Ferguson twists his right leg around. The Driver injury reminded me of Robert Brooks; I love these guys but being a Packer wide receiver is very hard on your body. Favre leaves them hanging some times or leads receivers across the middle right into a safety. It is part of the job description and it happens. The good part is that Green runs for another touchdown, and Walker looked good. Walker looked much much better in this game then he did in the first preseason game, which he has to since he is the number one guy for a little while, although apparently an encore of the Antonio Freeman era might be in the works. The onside kick works on a beautifully designed and well executed play by the special teams. If this game was last year, it would have arguably had been the best special teams game of the season. Then the gunslinger reappears and Favre rifles a long interception. That one was inexcusable, not the first time Favre has done that in his career, and in hindsight ended the comeback. I would have hoped at the nearing the end of his career he has gotten that mentality out of his system on the field, but he hasn't. Minnesota tries to kill time but Culpepper fumbles again. The timeout before the fumble Mike Tice goes insane, comes onto the field, and screams at the refs. But they were coming out of a time out? Tice is the new Mike Ditka, screaming almost for the sake of screaming. Would Culpepper not have fumbled if he hadn't so much time to stand and watch his coach go insane? I don't know. Then the Packers execute a quick touchdown drive and exploit Minnesota secondary just like I expected them to do all game. The next onside kick doesn't work and the clock runs out. Packers 25, Vikings 30.

I didn't hear Nick Barnett's named called much this game, but I don't why Minnesota wasn't trying to run it more on a suspect Packers run defense either. Minnesota's newish linebackers, Greg Biekert and Chris Claiborne, didn't seem to make much of an impact either. Better luck next week against a first place(?) Detroit team.

No comments: