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[Packers] Packers timing it just right

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  • [Packers] Packers timing it just right

    Green Bay has won five straight since it flopped in its last appearance on 'Monday Night Football'

    By Todd McMahon
    There was a time, not long ago, when a general consensus had formed that the Green Bay Packers' time was all but up in the 2004 season.

    They left a national TV audience equal parts flabbergasted and appalled the evening of Oct. 11. The Tennessee Titans stormed Lambeau Field and battered the Packers into submission by way of a 48-27 defeat, the most points ever surrendered by the home team at its sacred stadium.

    Like that, the two-time reigning NFC North champions had sunk to the unfathomable low of being at the bottom of the division with a 1-4 record spun out of a four-game losing streak.

    That was the last time the Packers had a co-starring role on ABC's "Monday Night Football." My, how the times have changed in the seven weeks leading up to their return engagement - and there's more to it than the network's catching flak for one of its desperate housewives baring herself to Philadelphia star receiver Terrell Owens in a recent pregame locker-room spoof.

    At 8 tonight, the coast-to-coast TV audience will be introduced to a Green Bay team that has taken on a new, albeit familiar identity. All the Packers have been doing since bombing in their last "MNF" episode is win.

    They put a five-game winning streak on the line against St. Louis (5-5) at Lambeau Field. At stake for the 6-4 Packers is maintaining a hold on the NFC North lead, a concept that seemed a pipe dream in the wake of the debacle against the Titans.

    "We know how it feels to be 1-4. That feels pretty bad. We've been through that, and we don't want to go back there," said right guard Marco Rivera.

    No turning, or looking, back is precisely the outlook head coach Mike Sherman drilled into his players' heads Wednesday morning. It was his first meeting with the team since addressing it late last Sunday night, following its gritty 16-13 comeback win at Houston in another prime-time game.

    He paralleled what transpired in those four quarters to how the Packers' season has unfolded to date.

    A 13-3 deficit through a dismal three quarters mirrored their 1-4 start in the win-loss ledger. "In that game, things weren't looking very good," Sherman reflected.

    Lo and behold, the Packers caught fire in the final 15 minutes to score 13 unanswered points, pulling out the victory on Ryan Longwell's 46-yard field goal as time expired. A microcosm of how they've rallied in the past month and a half to string together the five wins.

    "The guys hung together throughout the game; they believed in themselves," Sherman continued with the analogy. "You're down 13-3 going into the fourth quarter, and guys battled back. I thought it displayed, as our season has in many ways in my mind, a tremendous amount of mental toughness and character."

    Quarterback Brett Favre, who engineered the 32nd game-winning rally from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie in his storied 13-year career with the team, concurred. "That really is a good example of how our season has gone," said Favre, who is set to make his 200th consecutive regular-season start tonight.

    "We struggled early, and we could have easily given up. There were times it looked like we were not going to get any breaks, and we found a way to do it."

    Judging by the previous two weeks of play, it could be argued that time now is on the Packers' side.

    Longwell has proved to be Mr. Clutch by winning the last two games with buzzer-beating field goals, including a 33-yarder for a critical 34-31 victory over visiting Minnesota on Nov. 14. Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud, in 1983, was the last Packers kicker to decide back-to-back wins with a field goal on the final play.

    As left guard Mike Wahle acknowledged, "We would rather blow (teams) out, obviously. We would rather be up 30-0 at halftime and throw it into cruise control, so to speak."

    No matter how nerve-racking, the Packers are getting the job done to keep in step atop the division with Minnesota, which improved to 7-4 with a win over Jacksonville on Sunday, their current lot surely beats the path toward destruction they were on at 1-4.

    It would be natural to surmise that they would be coming into tonight's game with a chip on their collective shoulder, determined to make amends for their embarrassing performance on the home turf last time out in the company of broadcasters Al Michaels, John Madden and Michele Tafoya.

    Think again.

    "You can't make up for it," Wahle asserted. "I'm not concerned about that (Titans) game at all. The fortunate or unfortunate thing about football is you have 16 games to play. You don't get any of them back.

    "When you lose one, especially at home, it hurts. But, we're not looking in the past; we're looking forward. We still have some good things we can accomplish with this season."

    Saying "it would be out of character for me to necessarily go back to the past, whether it's good or bad," the motivational speaker in Sherman has deliberately avoided in the past week any reference to his team's Monday night meltdown last month. Partly out of fear that, if he were to remind the players of it, "you would be living with ghosts out there on that field."

    The Packers are concerning themselves only with the Rams, a team that can be scary in its own right.

    St. Louis is desperate for a win as it tries to stay in contention for a postseason berth. Despite losing three of their last four games, the Rams can reclaim the NFC West lead with a win tonight. Seattle, which has lost twice to the Rams, dropped to 6-5 when it was hammered at home by Buffalo on Sunday.

    Possessing arguably the most dynamic pass-catching duo in the league with Isaac Bruce (58 receptions) and Torry Holt (53), the Rams figure to attack the Packers' 23rd-ranked pass defense. The Packers will have no choice but to put gradually improving rookie cornerback Ahmad Carroll on one of the top-flight receivers.

    Meanwhile, the Rams' 29th-rated rush defense could catch a break if Pro Bowl halfback Ahman Green is sidelined because of sprained rib cartilage. Green didn't practice the entire week and is questionable to play. Najeh Davenport would make his first pro start, though he's less than 100 percent because of a strained hamstring.

    "In the situation we were in this last game, we came out on top throwing (the football) 50 times. If that's what we have to do, we will," Wahle said. "But, obviously, we would prefer a more balanced attack."

    Incredibly, the Packers have rolled up the victories despite a stark imbalance in the turnover department. Their takeaway/giveaway ratio is minus-four during the five-game winning streak, and they've lost the TO battle the last three games - minus-two at Washington, minus-one vs. Minnesota and minus-two at Houston.

    Having not come up with a fumble since their Week 2 loss to Chicago and with only two fumble recoveries on the season, the Packers rank 28th in the 32-team league at minus-13 for the takeaway/giveaway ratio. One spot ahead is St. Louis at minus-11.

    If it's reasonable to think some give-and-take could be in the offing tonight, the Packers will be content simply with concluding this national TV appearance by enhancing what has been a successful time continuum the past seven weeks.

    They're not looking back because, as Sherman has cautioned them, "the true test will be in the future."

Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    [Packers] Packers relish Rams' visit
    by DJRamFan
    AP Sports Writer
    GREEN BAY, Wis. - The Green Bay Packers finally have the St. Louis Rams right where they want them: at Lambeau Field, on grass, in freezing weather.

    Forgive Brett Favre if he's not jumping for joy.

    "Well, I would much rather play them here than at their place. We haven't had much success at their place, and there's no guarantee that we will here," Favre said. "I think it's going to be a very difficult game. Either way. Here or there."

    That might be, but he tied an NFL playoff record by throwing six interceptions at St. Louis 22 months ago, then broke his right thumb there last year.

    The desperate Rams (5-5), who have lost three of four games, face the surging Packers (6-4), winners of five straight, on Monday night in a crucial game for two teams hoping to display some playoff pedigree in the jumbled NFC.

    The Packers are banged up in both backfields, which might very well negate any home-field advantage _ something that sure was missing the last time they played at home on a Monday night, a 48-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 11.

    "We'd like to erase that memory with a special Monday night performance and get rid of some of those ghosts we have from earlier in the season," Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman said.

    The problems with the Rams go back to Jan. 20, 2002, when Favre threw those half-dozen interceptions in a 28-point playoff loss.

    In October 2003, Favre broke his right thumb in a loss at St. Louis. Because he decided to play the rest of the season with a splint instead of having season-ending surgery, he kept alive his consecutive starts streak, which will reach 200 in the regular season Monday night, 219 counting the playoffs.

    Few teams have had Favre's number like the Rams, who capitalized on 12 Packers turnovers to outscore Green Bay 79-41 in their last two meetings.

    So the Packers have been looking forward to this night ever since the schedule came out.

    "They're a different team, as everyone knows, indoors," safety Darren Sharper said. "The fact that we have them at home hopefully will play into our favor. But we're just happy to see them because they put a whooping on us last year and we'd like to get a little payback."

    Payback? Guard Mark Tauscher is thinking more along the lines of a setback.

    "You can't do anything about what happened last year, or the year before," he said. "But we can give them a big setback and knock them off here and really give ourselves a big boost because anytime you struggle against somebody and then you get over that hump, that's big emotionally."

    Just like back in the 1990s, when the Packers lost seven straight to the Dallas Cowboys, three times in the playoffs...
    -11-29-2004, 02:21 PM
  • DJRamFan
    200 next on Favre's iron-man streak
    by DJRamFan
    By Todd McMahon
    One start a Hall of Fame legacy is not made. Yet, Brett Favre continues to mull all of these years later what might have been had he not gotten through that anxiety-filled first one.

    Head coach Mike Holmgren tabbed Favre as the Green Bay Packers' starting quarterback Sept. 27, 1992, against Pittsburgh at Lambeau Field.

    Seven days earlier, the 22-year-old Favre was summoned to relieve an injured Don Majkowski in the first quarter of a home game against Cincinnati. Favre rallied the Packers to a 24-23 victory, throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kitrick Taylor in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter.

    With Majkowski still on the mend with a bum ankle, Favre was given his first shot in his second year as a pro to direct an offense from the outset of a game. The encore proved to be a smashing success, as Favre was an economical 14-of-19 passing for 210 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in a 17-3 win over the Steelers. The highlight was a 76-yard scoring strike to Sterling Sharpe.

    "I remember being extremely nervous and having a lot of uncertainty from my standpoint of, 'OK, what will happen? How will I play? Will we win this game? Things that really I couldn't control," Favre recalled this past week. "As I look back now, with so much experience under my belt, I think those were normal feelings. Now, I know what I can control and what I can't. That's as far as I go with it."

    Where the perpetually under-control Favre doesn't limit himself is how far he has been able to take what is shaping up to be one of the most hallowed achievements in sports, not just football.

    Having come a long way from that early-fall afternoon 12 years ago, Favre is set to make his 200th consecutive regular-season start Monday night, when the Packers host the St. Louis Rams.

    "Of all the awards that he's won and all the accomplishments that he's attained, I don't know if there's one he would be more proud of than the consecutive starts," said Mike Sherman, the Packers' head coach since 2000. "That embodies his character, and I think that's really what he's all about. I've never taken him for granted. I appreciate every day he's the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers."

    Technically, Favre reached the 200-start milestone for which he's garnered a lot of attention this week Nov. 16 last season at Tampa Bay. Counting playoff games, Favre has started 218 straight contests entering the game Monday.

    The league, however, doesn't combine regular-season and postseason time of service for statistical purposes.

    So, Favre will need to take the first snap in the Packers' initial series on offense against the Rams to become just the seventh player in recorded NFL history to start at least 200 consecutive games.

    -11-29-2004, 02:22 PM
  • RamWraith
    Unlevel Playing Field: Field position, fan support help Packers
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Monday, Dec. 17 2007

    For nearly three quarters, the St. Louis game plan worked effectively and the
    Rams stuck with it. They established Steven Jackson and the running game early,
    and took their shots with Marc Bulger in the passing game.

    Through three quarters, the Rams had a 2-to-1 edge in possession time and had
    outgained Brett Favre and the potent Green Bay offense by nearly 100 yards.
    Yet, when the Rams looked up at the scoreboard at the Edward Jones Dome — aka
    Lambeau Field South — they trailed by two touchdowns.

    How did this happen?

    Well, some gridiron historians refer to football as the "100-yard war." On
    Sunday, it became more like a "50-yard skirmish" for the Packers. Thanks in
    large part to lousy special teams play, the average starting point for the
    Packers' drives was their 48-yard line.

    Of Green Bay's 12 offensive series, six started in St. Louis territory. Three
    others started at the Packers' 40, 44 and 48-yard lines.

    "I just know when we're on offense and we hit the 50, it's kind of like you're
    going downhill," Bulger said.

    The Packers were going downhill all afternoon, like a sled on the snow at Art
    Hill. Of the 53 offensive plays by Green Bay, 41 began in St. Louis territory.

    "You're not going to beat a good football team like (Green Bay) doing that,"
    coach Scott Linehan said.

    Given such a lopsided edge in field position, it's almost surprising that the
    final score wasn't more lopsided than Green Bay 33, Rams 14.

    "They have only two losses for a reason," Bulger said. "They're a good team.
    They made us play with that field position."

    And made them pay because of that field position. Green Bay's victory coupled
    with Seattle's loss to Carolina clinched a first-round playoff bye for the
    Packers (12-2).

    On a day when Favre eclipsed Dan Marino's NFL record for career passing yards,
    it seemed as if all of Green Bay was on hand. With Rams fans continuing to bail
    on their 3-11 team, thousands of "lower bowl" tickets belonging to Rams
    season-ticket holders ended up in the hands of Packers fans.

    Green and gold were the colors of the day. Cheeseheads everywhere. Dozens of
    pro-Packers signs throughout the stadium. There was no way to know officially,
    but it looked as if there were more Packers fans than Rams fans in attendance.

    "It was a joke," Jackson said. "It's as simple as that. The whole (lower) level
    was Green Bay Packers. We allowed them to put up signs. It's a joke."

    "That was the worst, as far as the other team's fans,"...
    -12-17-2007, 06:23 AM
  • RamWraith
    Packers give the Rams extra motivation
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Sunday, Dec. 16 2007

    For the past couple of months, the Rams have been under the radar, out of sight
    and basically out of mind in NFL circles. That's what happens when you open the
    season with eight straight losses.

    On Sunday, the Rams play somebody from the other side of the tracks. For only
    the second time since October, the Rams play a team with a winning record. And
    it's not just any team. It's the Green Bay Packers, arguably the most storied
    franchise in NFL history.

    At 11-2, Green Bay can clinch a first-round bye with a victory, coupled with a
    Seattle loss (or tie) at Carolina. A Green Bay tie and a Seattle loss also does
    the trick.

    The incomparable Brett Favre, at age 38, can surpass one of the NFL's biggest
    passing milestones if he throws for 184 yards Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
    That total will allow Favre to break Dan Marino's record for career passing
    yards, set at 61,361.

    Even at age 33 and in his 12th NFL season, defensive tackle La'Roi Glover
    admits to being a bit more energized than usual because of the caliber of the

    "The motivation is there because of who Brett Favre is and the things he's been
    able to accomplish in the NFL," Glover said. "So it's going to be a little
    heightened excitement."

    But it's not as if the Rams are going to seek out Favre's autograph during TV

    "He's a quarterback who is good at what he does," running back Steven Jackson
    said. "But you can't get caught up in that. We are playing the Green Bay
    Packers. If you are in awe of who you're playing, then that's a loss already.
    We have to go out and take care of business."

    As for Favre's pending record, which can be achieved at the Rams' expense with
    that modest total of 184 yards?

    "I'm not worried about Brett Favre setting any type of records," cornerback Ron
    Bartell said. "I'm worried about getting the win. He's set so many records in
    his career, who cares about if he passes for 180 yards? I just want to get a

    For the Rams, 3-10 and officially out of playoff consideration, getting a
    victory will be no mean feat. Not only are the Packers ranked No. 3 in the NFL
    in total offense, they come to St. Louis with the league's ninth-ranked
    defense. With a special teams unit that ranks in the top 10 in most major
    categories, the Packers have few soft spots.

    "They can run the ball. They've got, to me, the greatest passer that's ever
    played the game," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "And they've got
    great receivers. So we have our work cut out...
    -12-16-2007, 09:54 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Packers] Spotlight finally finds Longwell
    by DJRamFan
    By Rob Demovsky

    John Bonamego, the Green Bay Packers special teams coach, does the same thing every time he sends kicker Ryan Longwell into the game to attempt a field goal.

    No, he doesn’t cross his fingers, pray or go through any superstitious routine. None of that, Bonamego says, is necessary.

    “I walk to the other end of the sideline,” Bonamego said, “and get the kickoff team ready.”

    That’s how certain Bonamego is that Longwell will come through.

    What had been another solid yet quiet season for the eighth-year kicker has turned into a heroic one in the last two weeks, when Longwell has kicked game-winning, last-second field goals to keep the Packers in a share of the NFC North Division lead. In their history, the Packers have won 41 games on fourth-quarter or overtime field goals, but only one other time have they won games in consecutive weeks on last-minute kicks.

    Longwell, who booted a 33-yarder as time expired to beat Minnesota on Nov. 14, curled in a 46-yarder last Sunday night to beat Houston at the final gun to match Jan Stenerud’s back-to-back feat from Dec. 4 and Dec. 12, 1983.

    “To have one that ends a game in a season is even rare,” Longwell said. “But to go back-to-back, it’s very humbling.”

    What could have been a trying season for Longwell, who watched his best friend Josh Bidwell leave the Packers in the offseason and had to endure a midseason change in holders, instead might end up being his finest.

    Longwell never has made a Pro Bowl despite being one of the most consistent kickers in the NFL. He entered this season as the fifth-most accurate field-goal specialist in NFL history, having converted 82 percent of his kicks.

    This season, his only misses have been a 45-yarder that hit the right upright against Chicago in Week 2, a 52-yarder that hit the crossbar against Indianapolis in Week 3 and a 49-yarder that was wide right against the Texans.

    Packers coach Mike Sherman called Longwell “underrated,” and punter Bryan Barker, a 15-year NFL veteran, said Longwell is a “Pro Bowl-caliber” kicker.

    What might help Longwell in the Pro Bowl voting this season is that his game-winning kicks have come in high-profile games. The Vikings’ game was the 3:15 p.m. featured game on Fox. The Texans’ game was the Sunday night ESPN game. Longwell also made a 53-yard field goal on “Monday Night Football” against Tennessee on Oct. 11.

    “I think I’ve kicked the ball well enough to go to the Pro Bowl,” Longwell said. “I’d love to go there. It would be a dream of mine.”

    Though Longwell’s game-winning kicks have been called clutch by teammates, Barker said that word doesn’t do Longwell justice.

    “To say he went out and made an unbelievable kick, I don’t think that gives Ryan enough credit,” said Barker, who took over...
    -11-28-2004, 06:40 PM