Talk About Rising to the Occasion

Green Bay 31 Baltimore 23 and the game wasn't that close. If you listened to us media dorks all week, the Packers would have been lucky to gain a yard against the Ravens invincible defense. Well, Green Bay wound up with 391 yards, and touchdown drives of 59, 74, 80 and 82 yards against an outfit that hadn't allowed a TD drive of more than 33 yards all season.

As much as anything, that performance and the victory were a testament to the "right stuff" when it comes to attitude. The Packers weren't intimidated by the Ravens well-earned reputation, they were challenged by it. And they certainly rose to that challenge.

Leading the way, that fella named Brett Favre. He's the best pro football player I've ever seen and his effort against Baltimore was another addition to the rather long list of the reasons why. Against the top-ranked pass defense in the league, No. 4 completed 27 of 34 passes for 337 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. He had a truly remarkable game against the best the NFL had to offer. When you talk about rising to the occasion, you can't rise any higher.

As great as Brett was, not even he could do it alone and he didn't. When it comes to pass protecting against good people, the Packer offensive line has never been better. Mark Tauscher, Marco Rivera, Mike Flanagan, Mike Wahle, and Chad Clifton were outstanding. And for Green Bay to execute its game plan, to the fullest, it had to be. The Packers went with an "empty" backfield on a number of occasions, unleashing five receivers at the Baltimore Ravens. That only works if your front five can be counted on to take care of the pass rush, period. No help from a back or a tight end when it comes to chipping on rushers or picking up for missed blocks. The Packers could afford to put maximum pressure on the Ravens coverage because their O-line didn't allow any pressure up front.

With 9 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown, Antonio Freeman had a huge day and that said a lot about him, his teammates, and the coaching staff. "Free" had made some comments about being open and not getting the ball in the post-Tampa Bay locker room. Now that could have developed into a real "issue" and with many clubs would have, but it didn't. Mike Sherman was his usual honest self in addressing it, saying that while he would prefer that players don't go public with their gripes, there had been occasions where Freeman was open and had not gotten the ball. Freeman himself commented the very next day on something that had gotten lost in the wash, and that was that he also said winning was the most important thing after the Buccaneer game. He also made it a point to speak with Sherman about it. Later this past week, Favre remarked that the Packers did, indeed, need to get the ball to Freeman more.

Add up everybody's up-front, understanding-the-other-guy attitude, and what could have been a potential "issue" became an outstanding performance. Freeman's post-game comments may have given us something to write about, but he also put pressure on himself. Kind of a "put up or shut up" type deal and come the Ravens game, he certainly "put up" in a big way. 53 guys, a coaching staff, and a long season, problems are going to come up. Teams with good leadership at the top and in the locker room, solve them.

I didn't feel we'd have to hide the women and children when the Ravens defense got off the bus, but nor did I think the Packers would ring up 31 points and almost 400 yards. I thought the Packer defense would have to make big plays for Green Bay to win and because it did, the Green Bay offense got a jump-start on its way to exceeding all expectations.

Cletidus Hunt recovers a fumble and 9 plays later Brett Favre hits Bubba Franks for a touchdown.

Mike McKenzie intercepts an Elvis Grbac pass and 6 plays later Brett Favre hits Antonio Freeman for a touchdown.

Darren Sharper added another interception, John Thierry another fumble recovery, and I'll take four take-aways any game, particularly one against the defending Super Bowl champs.

The Packers are 4-1 and the latest skin on the wall is huge. The doubting Thomas's are heading for cover or changing their names. This Packer team is for real.


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