Monday night medicine

Heading into the Monday Night spotlight with an 0-3 record is daunting, to say the least. Facing the Panthers, a playing from a position of nearly equal desperation at 1-2, heightens the prime-time pressure.

Although the teams are fairly even statistically, Carolina boasts the best red zone offense and a take-away ratio light-years ahead of the Pack. The Packers will have to keep a watchful eye on a pair of Panthers in skill positions – wide receiver Steve Smith and running back Stephen Davis, who will try to become the first to score a running TD vs. the Pack in 2005. They have teamed for all of the Panthers' 8 TDs (four apiece). And don't forget, this game is on the road.

So, do the Packers have any hope?

Of course they do, and not just the "on any given Sunday (or Monday)" variety.

First, they have some stats on their side. Carolina' pass rush is even more anemic than the Packers', with just three sacks so far. On the flip side, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme has been on the run. He and his offensive line, even with the addition of Mike Wahle, has succumbed to six sacks for 58 yards in losses over three games.

When it comes to Monday night, the Packers have the intangibles on their side as well. Green Bay is 8-2 in its last 10 MNF appearances. They've come through in the Monday Night showcase despite emotional distress far worse than the worries incurred by their 0-3 mark. In 2001 the Packers, played the first Monday Night game after 9-11. The game happened to be in the nation's capital. Who could forget the circumstances of their Dec. 22, 2003 appearance when the team rallied around Brett Favre, helping the QB play a tremendous game in memory of this father who had passed away the previous day. In both times of major distress, the Packers managed to circle the wagons for a big win.

Last year they beat these same Panthers in Charlotte in the MNF opener – it turned out to be the Packers' only win until Oct. 17 and they still went on to win the NFC North. In Mike Sherman's debut season, the Packers had struggled to a 3-4 mark heading into Monday Night match up against rival Minnesota. The Packers triumphed 26-20 in overtime at Lambeau Field. Even Ray Rhodes' squad managed a MNF win, a 20-3 whipping of host San Francisco on Nov. 29, 1999.

Tonight's game fits this scenario perfectly. Off to their worst start since the first Bush administration, this is the perfect time to stop the insidious talk of the decline and fall of the Packer Empire. They can prove in prime time that reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.

The stage is set perfectly for their QB as well. Favre has won more games at Ericsson Stadium (now Bank of America Stadium) than he has at any road venue except Soldier Field. Yes, despite heading out onto the road after two close losses at home, the Packers should feel right at home. Green Bay has faced Carolina 10 times including playoffs since the Panthers joined the league in 1995. They didn't play in the inaugural season, their first meeting was the amazing 1996 NFC Championship game at Lambeau, and the Packers have won five of the teams' seven regular-season meetings.

The time, place and opponent offer Favre and the Pack the perfect opportunity to turn the attention away from retirement and back onto the 2005 season.


Laura Veras Marran

Note: Laura Veras Marran was raised in Green Bay and is a longtime sports writer from Kenosha, Wis. E-mail her at lvmarran@aol.com.


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