Saturday, October 3, 2009

Packers Lacking Emotional Edge? We'll Find Out.

I can guarantee this will not be one of the most popular articles written this week from the Packer Blogosphere. But, I am going to put it out there anyway.

The Packers have the potential to play with the Vikings Monday night. They even have the potential to have the things fall the right way, get a couple of turnovers, and have a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter.

But there is also the potential that this could be a sound whipping by the Vikings. And a lot of it comes down to the mental and emotional approach the Packers take into Minnesota. And, in my opinion, the Packers are playing from behind already.

Oh, sure...bad blood, rivalries, and defending your team's honor will certainly play a part on how the Packers get up for this game, but those same things are working the the Vikings' favor, too. What concerns me is what has been communicated to the team about the whole Favre fiasco from the very start.

And what has been communicated is, "We do not want to play a Viking team with Brett Favre on it." Loud and clear. No, it has never been stated word-for-word or explicitly, but in this case, actions speak louder than politically correct sound bites in press conferences.

* Last season, the Packers refused to honor Favre's request for a release, because they did not want him going to the Vikings.

* After stating that they did not want to relinquish Favre's rights without proper compensation, the chances were pretty high that the Vikings would have been willing to offer far more than the third-round pick they ended up with from the Jets. In other words, the Packers sold low to avoid the Favre/Viking connection.

* The Packers publicly accused the Vikings of tampering, and while the investigation did not result in any charges against Minnesota, it is very likely the charges tempered the Vikings' efforts and offers for Favre's services.

* The Packers included a "poison pill" into the deal with the Jets that would have forced the Jets to surrender three first-round draft picks if they traded Favre to the Vikings, a ridiculous notion when you consider that the player is far from being in his prime.

I commented on this in August: Despite Thompson's best efforts, Favre got what he wanted, and the Packers did not. You may argue whether or not Thompson "had no choice" in the matter, or that "the public reaction" would have been. You can argue that he didn't want to "help a division rival" in any way.

What you can't deny, though, is that Thompson clearly sent the message that he did not want the Packers to play a team, very specifically the Vikings, with Brett Favre on the roster.

So, how does that reverberate through the locker room? There are a lot of denials about the importance of the game, some short and sweet, and some mixed with humor. But, you would think that as the Packers face an all-too-familiar foe, a storyline that has dominated their own locker room for umpteen years, that there has to be a feeling of foreboding. After all, the situation they are facing is the situation the Packers did not want to have happen.

On the other side of the ball, however, the Vikings get to come into this game having their wishes granted. They wanted Favre, at all costs, and the scary thing is that this is a team that actually won the division last year without him. They aren't looking at #4 behind center simply to pull a Lovie Smith and beat the Packers...they have him because they want to take the next step towards a Super Bowl.

The Vikings aren't looking at this game as a sort of personal grudge match. They are looking at it as a stepping stone to greater things.

So, the Packers, replete with their own self-doubts despite last week's win over the pathetic Rams, come into the game with huge question marks on both side of their lines, facing an opponent built to take advantage of exactly those weaknesses. The Vikings run game may indeed slash our already porous defensive front, which is now further weakened by injury. The Vikings front seven will be pounding against an offensive line that is, once again, shuffling players around and has allowed a league-high twelve sacks.

The potential is there for this to be a great, close game. The potential is also there for this game to be a blowout, sending the Packers into their bye week in chaos and disarray.

It reminds me a little bit of the 1995 San Francisco playoff game, a game in which the ascending Packers took on a team that had repeatedly had their number in the past. But, the Packers didn't view the game as the end-all, be-all. It was their stepping stone on the way to establishing themselves as an NFL elite. The 49ers came in having lost their season finale to the Falcons and were again looking at their former offensive coordinator on the other side of the field.

The Packers had everything going for them, to prove themselves. The 49ers mentally got down early and never got it back.

Now, if I haven't ticked you off enough, this should do it. The Packers may actually be better off getting beat, and beat good by the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. That's right. I said it. Put that up on the bulletin board.

The Packers have played generally uninspired ball, both this season and last season. In their last nine games, the Packers are 3-6, with two of the wins coming against teams that could officially be on the list of the worst teams of all time. The only other win is due to last second heroics by Aaron Rodgers on a broken play that smacks of Favre's "lucky throw" last week.

The sense of urgency is not there. We continue to get the excuses of "pad level" and "not executing the fundamentals", and seeing the same mistakes against mediocre teams.

I would love to see the Packers rise to the challenge and defeat the Vikings soundly on Monday. I just don't think they have the mental or emotional advantage going in, because this is the game they didn't want to play. But a sound defeat may cause the Packers to lose the battle, but win the war in the long run. The Packers need to go into this bye week and change some of those mistakes that have been plaguing them for so long.

Come on. Your offensive line is still having trouble executing the fundamentals? After how many games? It's time to light a fire under this team, this coach, and this general manager to start playing the way we did in 2007.

If the Packers don't have that fire under them coming into the game, they will have every reason to light it coming out. The Packers have been playing "not to lose" with the Favre situation, and now have to face their fears. November 1st may become the most important game on the Packer schedule this year, because there is little out there that will inspire you more than redemption.

No comments: