Game 1, 2008: Packers 24, Vikings 19
This was the big moment for Aaron Rodgers. Finally, after 3 years of sitting on the bench, it was his turn to start for the Packers. But the stakes for a first game of the season couldn't be higher. Not only was it a Monday-nighter, it was a home game against the rival Vikings. This game could go a long way toward determining the winner of the NFC North. Moreover, Rodgers had everyone wondering why exactly the Packers management was willing to part with Brett Favre.
Now we all know.
In a highly efficient performance, Rodgers went 18-for-22 for 178 yards, with one TD and no interceptions. He completed a bomb to Greg Jennings in the second quarter to set up the Packers' first touchdown, what I considered to be his best pass of the day, a 1-yarder to fullback Corey Hall under immense pressure.
Up to that point, the Packers had been committing penalty after penalty, especially on the offensive line, which was an embarrassment in that regard. However, Rodgers kept his cool and led the Packers to another first-half field goal to make it 10-3. It could have been a bigger margin, but the Packers played it "safe" by running down the clock and trying a field goal, only to see it blocked by the Vikings.
Up 10-6 in the third quarter, Rodgers seemingly threw a long touchdown pass to Donald Driver that would have put the Packers in front by at least 10, but an offensive lineman (Tony Moll) was caught downfield too early. Commentator Ron Jaworski tried to explain why "it wasn't his fault," but even if there was an excuse to a penalty being committed, Moll should have been prepared for the potential pass.
Not to worry, as punt returner Will Blackmon brought back a punt 76 yards for a touchdown, the highlight play of the night. It was an awesome return, as he tightroped the sideline while avoiding defenders, then crossed the field, going a bit backward to squeeze in between two Vikings, then just coasting to the end zone. That made it 17-6 Packers.
Unfortunately, from that point on, the Packers' defense played pretty poorly, allowing third-down conversion after third-down conversion to the Vikings, who actually started passing the ball reasonably well. The Vikings completed a fourth-down pass for a TD, and it was 17-12, with the important two-point conversion missed.
Then came Ryan Grant's time to shine, as he broke a huge run to get the Packers to the 2-yard line. Grant's run came after he had done pretty much nothing all night, and I was beginning to be glad that I had benched him on my fantasy team, even with my fantasy RBs' terrible performance (Maurice Jones-Drew & Ricky Williams). That run alone would have made him a better alternative, but what was more important was that he set up Rodgers' QB sneak for a touchdown. Rodgers spiked the ball as if it was every single doubter of his in the world. He then took his first Lambeau Leap. 24-12 Pack.
Unfortunately then the insufferable Tony Kornheiser said "it's over" and that the Brad Childress would fall to 0-5 vs. the Packers. Jaws tried correcting him, but the Vikings did a better job of that, getting into the end zone to make it 24-19.
A failed onside kick that went out of bounds led to a miserable possession by the Packers (with a penalty) and a punt. But with me thinking "I have a bad feeling about this," the Packers' defense stepped up in the clutch, as Atari Bigby intercepted a pass to seal the win... or not! He starts running around the field, with Mike Tirico and every Packers fan screaming at him to get down. This was reminiscent of a similar last-second interception by former Packer Darren Sharper against the Vikings a few years ago, when he ran around for about 20 seconds with the game in hand. Fortunately, Atari did not fumble the ball away, and Rodgers was able to take a couple knees for his first career victory.
I know, I know, I said that the Packers would start out 2-0 and that it wouldn't mean much. But I've decided not to think about that 8-8 prediction of mine or the upcoming weeks of this season, just one week at a time instead. And I have to say that this was a huge victory. Losing this one would hurt down the stretch, but now it goes into the books as a win, no matter how sloppy it was, and maybe the "experts" can shut up "giving" the division to the Vikings.
-I have always been overly harsh on A.J. Hawk, and tonight was no different, as I yelled at him several times during the game (blown coverage on a fullback was the biggest one). Yet he did have 10 tackles and helped the team more than I probably was able to tell. So while his performance was nothing special, it wasn't horrible.
-What's a 15-yard penalty for "leverage"? Oh, that's the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that is explained in Madden NFL 06's newspapers. It's called unsportsmanlike conduct, not "leverage," though, Mr. Triplett.
-There were way too many penalties for the Packers in this one, and they nearly ended up costing the team the game.
-While the second-half performance was pretty frustrating for the most part, the Packers made a couple of big plays and didn't allow Adrian Peterson to beat them. The defense didn't do all that great, but Tavaris Jackson was held under 50% completion percentage, and the Vikes only put up 19 points.
-I fully support Aaron Rodgers, even if I'll be wearing Favre jerseys the whole season (because I have no other Packers jerseys right now). Good job, Aaron... thanks for shutting up Kornheiser.
Green Bay Packers: 1-0
Game 1, 2008: Packers 24, Vikings 19