Staying hungry, and not just for tortellini

The wife of's Steve Lawrence did her part. Now, it's up to the Packers to avoid overconfidence with Carolina coming to town.

Mike McCarthy handed out a bunch of game balls after Sunday's throttling of hapless Minnesota on Sunday.

I'll tell you one person who deserved to get one but did not: My wife.

On Wednesday night, we went to Angelina, a superb Italian restaurant in downtown Green Bay. My wife, as she usually does, ordered the tortellini all panna, a tortellini dish with a cream sauce and grilled chicken. The waitress informed her it was all gone, which seemed unusual since it was so early in the evening.

Not long thereafter, a parade of very large men began to trickle into the building to an out-of-sight dining room. Scott Wells. Chad Clifton. Daryn Colledge. Etc. Just her luck, the Green Bay Packers' entire offensive line was eating at Angelina. And they ordered the tortellini in advance. Big men require a lot of tortellini, you know.

We got a chuckle out of it, and I noted that the Packers' offensive line had better kick some purple-and-gold butt.

Well, they did. Facing a defense that boasted the best run defense in NFL history last season and came into Sunday's game ranked second against the run, the Packers put together their best rushing attack of the season, at least for the first half.

Maybe the linemen needed a canoli at halftime instead of an energy drink.

Keeping things in perspective

Naturally, given the 34-0 final score that was driven in part by an honest to goodness running game that was powered by our well-fed linemen, the national media is going gaga over the Packers. Green Bay received more than its share of good fortune in piling up seven wins in eight games to start the season. The Packers were fortunate on Sunday, too, not that they needed it to win their eighth game. They turned in the type of dominating performance that tends to turn doubters into believers.

Still — and I know Minnesota knocked off San Diego the week before — the Vikings make that Super Bowl-champion Ravens offense look like the best thing since Joe Montana and Jerry Rice began playing catch.

Any team counting on Brooks Bollinger and Robert Ferguson to carry the load — and Brad Childress to show something resembling creativity — should be demoted to NFL Europe. (Yes, I know NFL Europe is as extinct as a pterodactyl.) As a Badgers fan, I'll be forever grateful for what Bollinger did at Wisconsin, but he has as much business quarterbacking an NFL team as I have using a scalpel in an operating room.

I don't care if Adrian Peterson really is the greatest running back in NFL history. Any defense worth a stall in an NFL locker room should be able to turn a wrecking ball of a running back into a fuzz ball if he's the only talent on the offensive side of the field.

Staying hungry

The point here is, I hope the guys in the locker room ignore the hype and remain hungry. It's easier to stay focused when you have to scrape and claw for every point every week than it is to see your warts when you pummel a pathetic opponent into submission by the tune of 34-doughnut.

Asked about keeping the players' heads at a size small enough to fit into their helmets, McCarthy on Monday said: "I think it's human nature when people are throwing you flowers and saying a lot of nice things, you can kind of take a step back and have an attitude of trying to smell the roses. The roses in my opinion don't come until after Glendale, Ariz. And that's been our outlook since Day One."

So now, the latest challenge for McCarthy is to keep his team focused on this week's game against Carolina, a struggling club led by a quarterback (Vinny Testaverde) who's six years older than Brett Favre but maybe one-sixth as effective. The Packers are heavy favorites, and with the Thanksgiving showdown at Detroit looming a few days later, it's easy to see how the Panthers could pose an unexpected challenge.

Unless, of course, the Packers stay hungry. And for motivation, not only can they eat all the tortellini, but I'll let them have my tiramisu, too.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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