On the afternoon of October 22nd, football fans saw something that’s been missing from NFL action for a long time. It was a phantom of sorts, a shadow of years gone by. It was a fully-functioning Green Bay Packers football team.
But can the 34-24 road victory against the Miami Dolphins give the Pack some much-needed momentum? Realistically, nobody expects to see the 2006 Packers in the Super Bowl, but is a winning season still a possibility? With the victory against the Dolphins, Green Bay moves to 2-4. Their next game will be at home, in Lambeau Field, versus the 1-6 Cardinals. It would seem that all the pieces are in place for the Packers’ second victory in a row, but it must be remembered that the Cardinals’ poor record can be largely chalked up to bad luck, and they’re the only team thus far to come close to putting down this year’s superhuman Chicago Bears squad.
Thanks to the win versus Miami, the Packers’ most crucial cornerstone is already in place: Brett Favre is in a good mood; he’s ready to win. For the Packers to succeed, Brett Favre must be pumped-up and in this winning mindset.
During the Pack’s recent Monday Night loss to the Bears, Brett Favre was reported to have said, “It’d be nice to have some help” when told that it was time for him to step up and earn his paycheck. The minute this attitude returns is the minute the Packers start losing.
Furthermore, Brett Favre is still Brett Favre: he’s still fun to watch, he’s still brilliant, but he’s still playing inconsistently, regardless of how upbeat he is. Only now that exciting inconsistence is coupled with a little less accuracy, a little less speed, and an attitude that is a little quicker to succumb to frustration. Many of his big plays against the Dolphins could have just as easily been big plays for the defense-interceptions, 3rd down stops, or sacks. At this point in Favre’s illustrious career, it seems that success has become almost a matter of luck. When the luck runs out, Brett Favre gets frustrated; when Brett Favre gets frustrated, interceptions get thrown; when interceptions get thrown, the Packers lose… and then Brett Favre gets more frustrated.
Anyway, a legendary quarterback does not an offense make. Thankfully, Ahman Green seems to have returned for real. With an impressive 70-yard touchdown run in Miami, the star runningback became the Packers’ all-time leader in rushing yardage. For the Packers’ young offense to succeed they need a consistent and healthy runner; Green’s performance in Miami indicates that he may finally be ready to step back into that role.
On the defensive end, the acquisition of Charles Woodson has finally paid off in a tangible way. The Green Bay defense had been in search of a veteran defensive leader for some time now, and Charles Woodson has stepped up. In the Miami game, Woodson made a game-turning play, returning an interception for a touchdown. It was his first interception return for a TD since 1999.
There is a paradox inherent to football and many other sports. Young, inexperienced players get better with each game while old superstar veterans get slower and more inconsistent with each game. Yet young players need old players around to learn from and feed off of. The Packers have been struggling to find a winning balance within this formula: they need their many rookies to develop as quickly as possible, before their veteran core is too old to play effectively. Could that equilibrium have finally been reached in the victory against Miami?