By Jake McCormick
Typically, sports rivalries between states are cyclical, and right now, Minnesota is making me glad I’m still not going to college an hour and a half from their border. But this past weekend gave me a little needed confidence in Wisconsin sports.
Brewers GM Doug Melvin is stockpiling money like Bazooka Joe comics to cash in on some pitching, Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings (to which I was a witness) became the youngest player in NBA history to tally 50+ points in a game, and Wisconsin football is a step closer to double digits wins and a January bowl. Of course, this state lives and dies by the green and gold, and the Packers’ win would’ve been all it took to get Wisconsin’s blood pressure back to stable levels.
It was a win in arguably the most important game of the 2009 season for the entire organization, against a Cowboy team that had rattled off four straight wins and was beginning to put a season of relevancy back together. But as significant as this win might be for the rest of the season, it is almost as confusing as the loss to the Buccaneers.
Until the 17-7 win against the Cowboys on Sunday, the Packer defense had been doing its best Carrie Prejean impression of increasing ineptness against the Vikings and Buccaneers. Just when you thought she couldn’t make herself look even dumber, she opens her mouth on national television and makes Sarah Palin look like a MENSA member. Interesting the maverick of hockey moms is her idol, too. Back to football.
Was the Buccaneer game really the big slap in the face to get the Packer defense to trust their skills and the scheme? The (mostly Chuck Woodson) defensive-led win was the first of its kind since last year against the Colts. All things considered, the players should have some increased confidence now that they know what can happen when they play within their roles. The most interesting tid-bit to come out of this win was the fact that the Packers registered five sacks. Without Aaron Kampman.
Of course, you could make the assumption that rookie Brad Jones was a better option anyways because he is naturally an outside linebacker, and more than a few Packer fans have done so since Sunday. Plus, Kampman is a free agent after this season, and quietly was not happy about switching positions in a contract year. With that said, I find it hard to believe that Kampman’s absence was the catalyst for the defense to pull together and carry the offense.
Clay Matthews is becoming comfortable as the monster playmaker AJ Hawk was supposed to be, but Hawk made his fair share of big play hits against Dallas. My guess is they must’ve shared the same Muscle Milk regimen and hair stylist leading up to the game. Nick Barnett also looked more comfortable than he has all year. With three natural linebackers flying around and making plays like they were expected to, wouldn’t that free up Kampman to do the same? He very well may walk this year, but Kampman is still a more complete player than anyone the Packers could inject into his spot.
After following up an unexpected loss with an unexpected win, the Packers are only a game out of the Wild Card and very much alive in the playoff race. That makes every game from here on out a must win, much like Sunday’s against Dallas. This is the time of the year where Wild Card teams fizzle or get hot, and Green Bay can still go either way. However, the win against the Cowboys was a step in the right direction and Packer fans can only hope the team understands that they have seven more Dallas games to play if they want to reach the postseason. I think I’ll just close my eyes and hope for the best against Mr. Bugeye Singletary this Sunday.Follow paulmbanks