Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Is the main difference between Favre and Rodgers that one threw the fastball, the other the curveball?

After the Packers 38-28 victory over Kansas City on Monday night—a game which should have been a reminder of what a healthy and mobile Aaron Rodgers can overcome when the defense allows three straight touchdown drives late in a game—the predictable deification of Rodgers occurred amongst local and national media. Not that it is any more annoying than that for Russell Wilson; certainly less so, since Rodgers personifies what one hopes from the quarterback position more than Wilson, and he hasn’t been the beneficiary of an elite defense like Wilson. But the fact is that outside the Super Bowl run in 2010, he is 2-5 in the playoffs, and except for a 400-yard performance against a terrible Arizona defense in his first playoff game, he didn’t look anything at all like the quarterback with all those superlatives applied to him in those games.

Now, let me be clear about one thing: I am happy that Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback on the team that I have rooted for 45 years through thick and a lot of thin. Rodgers is the principle reason why the Packers are on the national sports radar screen, a function that Brett Favre served before him. The numbers tell us that he one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL, perhaps even in its long history, ever. The “eye test” tells us that when he is at least mostly healthy, his wizardry is amazing to behold. Sure, his off-field “wit” can be off-putting and smart-alecky, but that is something that can be borne with patience. 

I admit that I have always been a Favre fan first and always will be. If Rodgers personifies what one might call “deadly” efficiency, then Favre represents the joy of the game—and to quote the “Wide World of Sports” maxim, “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.” More often it was the former, but what Packer fan (or Viking fan in 2009) hasn’t felt the latter happen way too often? For better or for worse, Favre brought “excitement” to the game; with Rodgers, a certain comforting predictability is what Packer fans have come to expect from him. 

But is reality as simple as that? The so-called “sabermetrics” standard gave Rodgers a negative rating after a 24-35, 333 yards, 5 TD and zero interception performance against the Chiefs. This “subpar” performance was “explained” by Rodgers being “penalized” for a fumble, a near interception that “could have been” returned for a touchdown, and three touchdown passes in which the receiver received more of the “credit” for having to “fight” through to the end zone, even though it was noted by some that Randall Cobb was not or barely touched on those touchdown plays. Ridiculous; one suspects that the gunslinger Favre’s “metrics” would have been off the charts—deep into negative territory—but what does that say about these mathematical “geniuses” and their charts and computer-generated measurements, that don’t take into account the end results in a game as unpredictable as football?

But perhaps a very small bit of truth can be gleaned from these metrics. Kevin Harlan, who does play-by-play for the Monday Night Football radio broadcasts, said that Tom Brady reported that he had tried to pick Rodgers’ brain for trade secrets, and was shocked to learn that Rodgers confessed to playing the quarterback position by what can only be called “instinct.” Brady, on the other hand, operates within a “system” with every detail worked out down to the nanometer. Many “athletic” quarterbacks seem to play by “instinct” as well, but Rodgers seemingly has an uncanny ability to “process” visual information without “thinking,” knowing “instinctively” where to put the ball. Of course, I may be giving him too much credit, but I can’t think of a better explanation for it at the moment.

Still, the “metrics” may also intimate why despite his reputation, Rodgers has put on a real stinker or two in his career given unforeseen variables, especially against Detroit for some reason, and as noted before in the playoffs. It also suggests that in some ways he and Favre are not so different as people think. I’m sure that some people would say that Favre was an “instinctual” player with his “gunslinger” mentality. Perhaps the most fundamental difference between them is that Favre threw fastballs down the middle and dared defenders to take a swing at them, while Rodgers throws curveballs that defenders usually can’t reach even with their best swing—but the right in the catcher’s breadbasket for a strike. 

But on any given Sunday, not all works out as anticipated or expected—which may explain why Rodgers has led the Packers to just one Super Bowl so far, one less than Favre.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Week 3 NFL notes

Colts 35 Titans 33. This game started out with Indianapolis’ running game finally getting on track with Frank Gore, and Andrew Luck had fewer opportunities to fail to get his bearings as the Colts took an early 14-3 lead. But then Marcus Mariota shook off the rookie blues and lit up the Colt defense for 27 unanswered points as Luck stumbled and bumbled as he has done the first two games of the season, and by all appearances it seemed that the team that had won 11 games three straight seasons with Luck now seemed to run out of it. 

But we should have known that Luck could pull a rabbit out of his helmet eventually, as he did in overcoming a 28-point deficit in the playoffs against Kansas City. With the help of a Titan turnover deep inside their own territory, Luck led the Colts to three touchdown drives in a five-minute span late in the fourth quarter, and survived a final minute comeback by Mariota that fell a two-point conversion short. One has to be impressed with Mariota’s performance this season. He wasn’t supposed to be able to function in a “pro-style” offense, and thus far in three games he has thrown for 833 yards and 8 touchdowns for a 109.2 QB rating.

Eagles 24 Jets 17. How did the Eagles win this game after another lousy performance by Sam Bradford, 14-28 for just 118 yards? How could they win with a offensive output of 231 total yards? When your opponent has four turnovers and nullifies a critical turnover by a defensive penalty, allows an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown, and Brandon Marshall fumbles in Jets’ territory which led to an Eagles touchdown. Ryan Fitzpatrick did throw three interceptions which did not help the cause, but the Eagles only managed a three-and-out with only nine yards gained total and punted after each one. I expected the Jets to wrap-up Bradford like a cocoon, but the Jets’ defense sacked him but once and had no interceptions. This will go down as a “victory” for the Eagles, but for a team that punted 9 times and had 10 drives of five plays or less (5 three-and-outs, and one ending in a fumble), this was more of a game “lost” by the Jets. 

Falcons 39 Cowboys 28. You have to feel for Cowboys fans. After engineering touchdown drives of 80,77,56 and 80 again in the first half and slinging that ball with precision everywhere, Brandon Weeden really did seem for a moment there like the second coming of Kurt Warner. In the second half, however, he was more like Ryan Lindley, or Elmer Fudd. The problem was that Atlanta didn’t just quit, or the Dallas defense did. This was a game that Dallas was literally being given as a gift out of pity, but then the Falcons said we can’t keep up this charade any longer, let’s just bury these bozos in the second half. And they did.

Bengals 28 Ravens 24. Donald Trump says Joe Flacco is an “elite” quarterback, in his humble opinion. Why? Because he was the quarterback on a Super Bowl team known for its defense? Flacco wasn’t on the field when Colin Kaepernick threw all those incomplete passes at the goal line. Looking over his career stats, he appears to be a serviceable quarterback who was just good enough not to waste the efforts of a top-ten defense every year (including top-3 four straight years). This year the defense ranks near the bottom, and so goes the team which is now 0-3 for the first time since it blew the coop to Baltimore, because Flacco isn’t “elite.” Opinions are like a-holes like Trump--everyone has one.

Patriots 51 Jaguars 17. According to a Sports Illustrated story the other day, Tom Brady needs to “explain” his virtual endorsement of Trump for president. Last month two men assaulted a 58-year-old Hispanic homeless man in Boston, both claiming that they were “inspired” by Trump; funny how that didn’t make CNN and become an incident to discuss hate crimes and the atmosphere of hate generally against Hispanics in this country. One of the men claimed that Trump is “right” because all of the “illegals” need to be deported, even though the man they assaulted wasn’t an illegal—as are 40 million Hispanics in this country, or the 34 million who are U.S. citizens. Trump excused the behavior as simply people who were “very passionate.” How about very hateful and racist? SI suggested that Brady’s support for such a race-baiting (and misogynistic) moron carried “weight” in this star-obsessed country. In the meantime, we have to hope that somebody comes along to bring the Patriots back down to Earth. Soon, so we don’t have to stomach the arrogance of this team forever.

Panthers 27 Saints 22. I’ve never been a Cam Newton “fan,” whose principle attribute is that he is “big” and can stand some punishment and run over people. As a quarterback, he is just “big.” His one playoff win was over a wounded-duck Cardinals team last year, barely. Thus far this year, the Panthers have beaten three teams with a combined record of 1-8 by a combined total 23 points. If you wish to be impressed, so be it. I’m not.

Cardinals 47 49ers 7. After Colin Kaepernick complained of not being allowed to pass early (as he perceived) last week in a blow-out loss to Pittsburgh, he was allowed to pass early—and too often—against the Cardinals.  At one point Kaepernick was 5 of 10 for just 19 yards and 4 interceptions in the first half—two returned for touchdowns. Free safety Tyrann Mathieu claimed to be amazed by the “simplified” passing game of the 49ers, and how “easy” it was to anticipate routes. Suddenly gun shy, Kaepernick threw just one pass until the 49ers’ last possession, and finished the game with a measly16.7 passer rating. The moral to this story: Be careful for what you wish for, especially for an “athletic” quarterback opposing teams have learned how to defense and maximize his deficiencies. 

Vikings 31 Chargers 14. Adrian Peterson ran the ball just 10 times for 31 yards in Week One, and the Vikings lost. In weeks’ two and three, he ran 49 times for 260 yards, and the Vikings won. Teddy Bridgewater might have a cool name, but that doesn’t win you games; an ambulatory and present Peterson will.

Bills 41 Dolphin 14. Now let me get this straight: According to the “eye test,” Tyrod Taylor looks like a five-year back-up for a reason, and Ryan Tannehill is being paid millions because he is on the cusp of being a top—well, let’s not get carried away—15 quarterback. Taylor finished with a 136.7 passer rating in this game, and Tannehill a 59.7 rating. I’m of the opinion that Taylor is a quarterback waiting for opposing defenses to take him seriously, while Tannehill is a quarterback who is taken too seriously—by the “experts,” not by opponents who know he is really just an average quarterback whose numbers are inflated because he is given so many opportunities to do so.

Texans 19 Buccaneers 9. I’m not going to blame this all on the kicker who missed an extra point and three field goals. If we went by that measure, Houston still would have won this game 22-19. The Buccaneers are just a bad team, and Jameis Winston has not yet taken to the pro game as well as Mariota has, despite the fact that Winston was supposed to be more “pro” ready. That is not to say that he won’t be, but if he had “finished” on two of those four drives that ended in field goal attempts, we wouldn’t be talking about the kicker.

Seahawks 26 Bears 0. What did this game prove? The Bears offense that had five three-and-outs and 22 total yards in the second half, so it was plain that they just laid down and died. What was the point of prolonging the pain, either psychologically or physically? For awhile in the first half I thought that the Bears might make it interesting, as the Seahawks’ offense was less than pedestrian, but a 105-yard kick-off return for a touchdown by Tyler Lockett to begin the second half to make it a two-score ballgame was simply too much to overcome for a team that had nothing in the tank but prayer.  This was a nice game for the Seahawks to regain their “swagger,” but it was the kind of win that fool’s gold is made of. We’ll see.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Labor Day excursion in the urban jungle

I have to admit that unlike for some people, long distance walking has become my preferred mode of transportation, rather than a paralyzing prospect. Although I have a driver’s license, for one reason or another I’ve decided that the cost/benefit equation of just owning a car is not practical. I’ve found that it is much cheaper to depend upon my own two legs than to drive or even take a bus if it all possible to go to where I need. Some people find the option of walking even one block too onerous an exertion, but for me a one or even two-hour walk passes without comment as long as the point of it is accomplished. I’ve acclimated my mind to accept the physical (even in the event of cold or rain), and to a certain extent I’ve remained more or less outwardly healthy because of these marathon exertions. 

However, there are times when I walk long distances for “pleasure.” Take for instance on a particular Labor Day that I didn’t have anything to do, and I decided to take a long stroll somewhere where I could “relax” and  think about the world and my place in. There must be some suitably accessible trail around here; there is the Interurban Trail, with its scenic drainage ditches, picturesque industrial parks traverse by Lance Armstrong phonies adorned in those ridiculous skin-tight bicycle outfits, with only the occasional rabbit to share my bemusement. There was, however, an alternative that I had for years promised myself that I would avail myself to, but failed to do alternatively out of sloth or poor timing. Now I had the time, and the weather had just returned to its summer state after a weekend of rain.  

At 6:30 AM I entered at a point in Kent. According to a posting on the trail, “The Green River Trail follows the Green River through industrial lands at the Duwamish Waterways in Tukwila to the broad Green River Valley. The trail provides excellent views and access to the Green River and the surrounding river valley. To the north, the GRT passes industrial areas and manicured office parks, which gives way to open fields and hedgerows.” To be frank, the Green River is called “green” for a reason, and hardly a pleasing shade to look at. If my sarcasm was not evident in my previous note of the fact, “industrial” views in the area are not ancient curiosities of the past, but dull warehouses that feature all the architectural imagination of a cardboard box.

Thus the initial portion of the trail failed to entertain me, which didn’t matter since it had nothing to do with the motivation for the trip, although I sensed by an inspection of the map of the course that this wouldn’t be a short one. To pass the time more quickly, I listened to a sports station on a Walkman radio. Two hosts of a national sports network were going off topic after one mentioned that he was an addict of the soap opera “General Hospital.” It’s odd, but back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, that soap actually did have a following that went beyond the housewife set; there were murder mysteries and a James Bond-type  story line leading to a desert island where two characters tried to stop some mad scientist from destroying the world, or something. One of the studio crew dug-up and began playing the old “Hospital” theme music; the host who claimed to have been a “fan” of the show expressed annoyance at the music, admitting to having no idea what it was or where it came from. His partner chided him for not knowing the theme music for a show he claimed to know better than the actors themselves, advising that he should stick to his day job.

One thing about the Sony Walkman’s is that you never know if the battery is going dead on it; the radio sounded strong and then just died. Apparently, once its internal power settings sense that there is not enough battery life for maximum efficiency, it automatically cuts off, rather allowing a slow drain where the device continues to function at diminishing efficiency, like most electronic devices. Thus my contact with the outside world was at an end. It was also at this point that huge sandbags, that were supposed to block the advance of flooding that had been predicted for the past two years but did not materializing despite heavier than normal rainfall the previous years, instead merely partially or completely blocked the trail. These were indeed large sand bags underneath the tarp, about 5 feet tall; the amount of sand needed to fill them, stretching over several miles and more, was surely enormous by any standard. This part of the trail left no room for annoying bike riders, and some sections could only be traversed by pedestrians through thick brush.

At a certain point things started to become interesting.  For about a hundred yards lining the route there were huge tree trunks, some of them at least 12 feet in circumference; I would later attempt to ascertain the species of trees they might have been. These trees must have lined this route for hundreds or thousands of years before they were cut down; it would interest me to learn why they were cut, or to find some old photographs to see how majestic they must have appeared at one time.  A search on the internet revealed no answers, and to solve this conundrum I later made an inquiry on the King County parks website. Someone named Robert was kind enough to supply this information:

King County doesn’t maintain the Green River Trail in Kent, so you could try checking with the City for a more definitive answer. We are willing to make some educated guesses, though.

I had some of our staff take a best-guess on the species,  and we came up with cottonwood or poplar as the two most likely suspects since these types of trees are present along the river north of Tukwila where we take care of the trail. 12’ circumference is pretty big, but a multi-trunk cottonwood tree would be plausible. Maple trees can have big trunks at ground level but we don’t see that many by the river. If the trees look like they were planted in a row, then some variety of poplar sounds more likely.

Poplar and cottonwood roots give us headaches along our trail corridors because their roots buckle the asphalt trail. Poplars are hard to remove, the roots send out suckers if the trunk is cut so we try to remove the roots and stump or chemically treat them so that doesn’t happen. Cottonwoods don’t age that well, they decay from the inside out and start dropping branches without warning. They are probably the most common tree we have along the riverbanks.

But in the meantime I decided to tackle this mystery for another day, and continued forth. I encountered a Native American in an isolated picnic area. He was trying to keep himself elevated off the ground with a long pole; he took no notice of me, and I wasn’t in the mood to inquire about his condition anyways. From that point the trail remained accessible without any off-road diversions. I encountered a small water treatment plant, inspected it, saw nothing particularly fascinating about it, and continued on. 

Up ahead were people using weed cutters to clear out some brush on the other side of the sandbag barrier; they had to use a ladder to climb themselves and their equipment over it. There was no apparent reason why this spot required care over any other. I suspected that what they were doing wasn’t precisely legal; perhaps they were just clearing a spot so they could camp out and do some fishing. Further down was an ancient bridge over which was a stretch of railroad track. I suspected that when this bridge was functional, the type of rail cars in operation were considerable less substantial than the current variety; as I carefully tread the rickety wooden planks that allowed a clear view of the river directly below, it seemed unlikely that this bridge could even have sustained a subcompact car in its prime. I kept an eye on two slim cables on one side of the bridge, reaching no higher than my belt buckle to keep me from plunging into the river below with a false step. It was no better on the other side, where there was no obstacle from falling whatever. After traversing the bridge to its halfway point, my curiosity was sufficiently sated, and I turned about and returned to dry land. 

From there, I had to go off-trail for a brief spell, where I noticed a sign warning of a petroleum pipe line, adjacent to the river. I supposed I can’t be blamed for observing that this was not perhaps the most propitious location to put an oil pipeline, next to a river; but that must have been during a more “innocent” time. After that, the trees grew thick and I lost all sense of where I was at; I briefly speculated that Gary Ridgeway must have deposited some of his victims here, but these speculations trailed off when I observed an old white man gazing intently at something up ahead. That something was a group of Asian folks fishing on the other side of the river. One of them noticed the old man; perhaps to ascertain his intentions, he asked him if he saw any fish. The old man seemed to awaken from a trance, and says oh yeah there over there. I look and saw nothing in the polluted river; nevertheless, the fisherpeople took his word and moved a few yards up-river.  Further along was an overpass, where another man was fishing. Supposedly the Green River contains Steelhead Trout, but even under the bridge out of the sunlight where the water was low to see to the bottom, there nothing to behold. 

At I-5 and Christensen Road the barrier of sand bags ended. There were a couple of kids fishing under another overpass; I still didn’t see any fish, and nobody else seemed to be catching any either.  I continued on, and presently I encountered a fork in the path; I took the one nearest the river. I then encountered a dozen young men, white and a couple of guys from India; they were all wearing the same uniform of red T-shirts and white shorts. I figured they must be students from some exclusive prep school.  I recall reading something about a Supreme Court decision that ruled that a Sikh—who claimed that because he was Caucasian, that whites-only covenants didn’t apply to him—was in fact not white, because while the Caucasian classification included people of similar features, it didn’t necessarily include people of dissimilar skin color. 

I decided to divert to the other side of the river, where the trail reopened, accessible from a bridge. I soon regretted this decision, as the trail turned sharply, and was clearly meant to be an entrance or exit point. I retraced my movements, past “Kid’s Town.” Hugh Masekela’s Sixties instrumental hit “Grazing in the Grass” was playing on a loudspeaker; I guess it sounds like a kid’s song. It’s odd, but I haven’t heard an original pop instrumental hit since the mid-1980s. It just goes to show you that the music part of music-making seems to have been lost. Instead of melody, it is just a droning “beat” shoe-horned behind bizarre “singing” styles. 

The trail was shaded on the other side, which was good because I was starting to sweat from the humidity. It was 10:30 AM. Along the trail I saw someone slicing-up a large fish. Maybe it was a Steelhead. They figured they wanted people to observe their good fortune, although I noted that fish looked a bit too frostbitten.  Up ahead there was a wide clearing with several benches astride the trail. A woman was sitting on a bench reading a book. She was wearing short shorts, and showed a bit too much of her rather plumb thighs; maybe that was the point.  I tried to decipher the meaning of her overly friendly expression when she looked up each time someone passed. Was she letting people know she was open to conversation? Was she was providing a subliminal message that she was “fishing” too, perhaps for some nice man with an interest in books? 

Up ahead there was a park where kids were playing soccer; they all seemed to be white, and mainly girls, except for a match being played by a white boys’ squad and a team supposedly from Mexico, or immigrants from Mexico. There didn’t seem to be many people cheering for them. At this point I probably would have preferred a more “nature” than urban trail, but then again I was learning so much here—the jungle of human existence. 

Some further distance I encountered a stone marker. It identified this spot as the “Black River Junction Landing,” where flat-bottomed boats supposedly carried passengers and goods. I looked around and decided that there was no useful reason why this particular spot was chosen over any other. I walked past a golf course. An older woman who was walking behind me with her dog passed me while I was writing down my observations concerning the marker in a notebook; as I was passing her, she told me without actually looking at me that she observed me writing, and inquired as to my purpose. I wouldn’t say it was an exactly friendly inquiry;  I had the sense that perhaps she thought I had some evil terrorist-like design. I told her that I was just taking notes of the things I saw—you’d be surprised by the things you learn about the world; she pretended to agree. 

I recalled this 2004 story about this man who was taking pictures at the Ballard Locks when some suspicious person called the police, because a black man (he was actually bi-racial) using a camera is naturally suspicious.  I have no clue why the boring Ballard Locks would be a terrorist target, but there is no accounting for taste, I suppose. A racist fear freak apparently called Seattle police when he or she spotted the improbably-named Ian Spiers taking pictures at the locks; he wasn’t doing it for fun, but for a photography course he was taking at a community college. He was then followed by police and questioned at his home. A month later, he set-up a camera tripod at the locks. Before you could say Jack Johnson he was surrounded not just by local police, but by federal agents—which goes to show how a paranoid “tip” leads to ignorant assumptions.  Spiers was questioned by Homeland Security flunkies and told it was against the law to take pictures of the locks without first notifying the government authorities.  They could have also have noted that this only applies to targeted minorities, because even while the suspect was being questioned, white people were taking pictures without being hassled. In fact, the Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the locks, has stated that it has no “objections” to members of the public taking pictures. After this incident became public, some locals gathered for a camera-in at the locks, but apparently no one thought this “suspicious” enough to call police, or required a permit. 

The trail continued adjacent to Interurban Ave. in Tukwila’s “gambling row”—a couple of large casinos that once housed a bowling alley and a dance hall, and several smaller ones. There had been a story in the paper about a movement afoot in Tukwila to close them down, because, they don’t “fit-in” with the “family friendly” atmosphere of the city. Why don’t they shut down the Southcenter Mall while they are at it? It’s the only reason anyone gives a damn about Tukwila. Or why it exists all. From what I can tell, it doesn’t attract any better grade of citizenry. 

I also spied a 7-Eleven, and decided to pick-up some supplies: Two slices of pizza and a diet coke. I continued on. At Prosser Piano and Organ the trail moved temporarily out of the urban environment and continued adjacent to the highway. The river was still near, and I observed more people fishing, none of whom seemed to have notable success.  Frankly, I now could think of better ways of taking advantage of a day-off, like sleeping. 

Eventually the urban environment reappeared. On my side of the river were the promised manicured office parks, and on the other side were mostly ramshackle houses in need of paint jobs. One particularly drab abode had a flagpole in the back yard; waving in the wind was an American flag and a yellow flag with a curious emblem on it. On more minute inspection it was revealed to be that symbol of “revolution,” the coiled snake and “Don’t Tread On Me.” As I was making this observation, a white man with long silver hair tied in a ponytail ventured outside to take note of this person looking in his direction and taking notes. I waved at him and moved on; I didn’t need to find out what this reactionary’s response was.

I saw nothing eventful for a long while, except that a great blue heron flew ahead of me and alighted on the river bank; unlike the skittish little blue heron, the great blue will not fly off merely because its presence is discovered. I then saw a Boeing building, so I knew the end was in sight; my legs were starting to ache. It was 12:12 PM. I saw more Lance Armstrong wannabes in those stupid tights. Presently the United States Postal Service main terminal came into view; the trail continued off to the left.  For some reason I thought that the trail would eventually lead to the southern reaches of Elliot Bay. Instead, the trail ended in the middle of absolutely nowhere. An “End of Trail” sign greeted me next to some anonymous back road. It was 12:40 PM. There was nothing for me to do but turn back to Tukwila a find a bus back to where I came from. 

At 2:02 I reached the nearest stop; I had been walking over 8 hours by now. I got on a bus and sat behind two giggling Japanese girls, living in their technologically, hermetically-sealed world, a couple of preppy-looking white guys with their self-satisfied, smug expressions, and some rude people in the back playing their annoying noise without the benefit of  required headphones. In other words, back in “civilization.”

Monday, September 21, 2015

Packers handle Seahawks, not Bevell and the officials

Despite the fact that I was surrounded all weekend by more people wearing Seattle Seahawk gear than normal, I felt somewhat confident that my Green Bay Packers would defeat the Seahawks in Lambaugh. The Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” was nowhere to be found against St. Louis last week, thanks in small part to Kam Chancellor’s continuing holdout, and there was no reason to believe that a far better quarterback than Nick Foles couldn’t take advantage of that. In last year’s NFC Championship game, just an 80 percent Aaron Rodgers would have taken advantage of 56 minutes of horrible play by Russell Wilson—which included four interceptions—and delivered a brutal beating to the defending Super Bowl champions. 

Instead, a barely ambulatory Rodgers could not even take advantage of a one-armed Richard Sherman loath to touch anyone, let alone tackle someone, and Rodgers repeatedly made poor throws that left frustrated looks on the intended targets’ faces. The Packer defense, had thoroughly contained the Seahawk offense into virtual non-existence, literally ran out of steam, and helplessly allowed the dam to burst as the Seahawks scored three touchdowns on consecutive drives within the span of five minutes, including the opening overtime possession. 

But in the Sunday night game with Rodgers presumably healthy, this time he was able to take advantage of Seahawk mental mistakes in the first half, and in the second half when Seattle seemingly took control of the game, he was able to engineer three unanswered scoring drives and the victory, 27-17. Even the Packers' backup running back, James Starks, ran for a game high 95 yards on the Seahawks without apparent explanation,

It was, of course, amusing to listen to the Monday morning quarterbacking on the local sports radio stations. It was predictable that the homers Brock and Salk on the ESPN station would provide no useful analysis, but on the other station Hugh Millen was calmly breaking down plays, assigning blame where it belonged, and pointing out that an ambulatory Rodgers is a very good quarterback who has certain qualities that negated efforts to neutralize him. But many fans and “experts” blamed offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for “conservative” play-calling in the first half, refusing to adapt until “too late.” There were those who blamed the officiating, and others were asking the question “Where is Jimmy Graham?”—the high-priced tight end they traded for in the off-season who has been nowhere to be found in the Seahawks offense. Not that this shouldn’t been a surprise to anyone; after all, Wilson had trouble “finding” high-priced tight end Zach Miller too. 

One thing for certain is that the blame game seemed especially insipid at times. The “opening up” of the playbook in the third quarter may have appeared so only  because the Packer defense was caught asleep at the wheel, which was subsequently substantiated when the Seahawks’ fourth quarter drives ended in turnovers.  Yet the offense’s apologists blamed the failures on the return to Bevell’s “conservative” play-calling. What are they talking about? Giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch is “conservative”? In the plays preceding Wilson’s drive-killing interception, Lynch ran twice for 13 yards and a first down. 

While many local commentators insisted on blaming the officials and Bevell for the loss, some did put the blame squarely on the players for failing at inopportune moments: jumping off sides on hard counts, getting kicked out of the game after a scrum, Sherman getting called for an unheard of pass interference penalty, and turnovers in the fourth quarter. Those were on the players, and at least 13 points were directly attributable to those mistakes. Every team in the league (except maybe New England) has to overcome such setbacks to win football games, and ultimately the fault lies more with the players failure to execute and the opponent’s own efforts. 

Complaints about Bevell’s play-calling seems particularly hypocritical, given the leash that Wilson is given to “make plays.” This was particularly evident with the alleged plays targeting Graham, in which it was noted that Wilson seemingly ignored him even when he was clearly open. Wilson claimed that he was forced to move out of position to make the throws to Graham, but he can’t keep using this excuse on every play. Does he have some personal “issue” with Graham, like not wanting him to showcase his own playmaking ability? Wilson added that he had “distributed” the ball to many receivers, although this doesn’t explain why Graham was targeted just twice officially on 30 pass attempts. Graham is supposed to be a possession and red zone receiver, his size dwarfing those likely to cover him. Is he being wasted because of what Lynch during the offseason intimated was Wilson’s need to be THE “hero”—even to the detriment of the team?

But I’m just a “dispassionate” observer. I don’t “hate” the Seahawks or even Wilson; if they win a game against a Packer division rival or a team I particularly dislike (like any team Peyton Manning is on), I don’t begrudge them. But I am predicting that they will have a fallback year, 8-8 or 9-7. I think the team’s offensive inconsistency will be exposed this season, and this season’s defense will not bail them out every time. Of course I could be wrong, but that is my expectation.

Being a Packer fan back when the team was frozen in time and space, having made the playoffs just twice between 1966 and 1992, it had become frustrating to watch the Packers inability to handle “athletic” quarterbacks, and they’ll have another crack at Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers later in the season. In the meantime, this victory goes a long way to adding credibility to the team’s supposed “elite” pretensions, just as Brett Favre’s first victory over the Troy Aikman-led Cowboys (also in Lambaugh Field after seemingly countless failed ventures into Dallas) gave the then defending Super Bowl champions in 1997.