It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
On one hand, you have multiple takeaways on special teams, a defense that dominated the #2 ranked offense from a year ago, and a rookie kicker nailing his third field goal of the game to lift a team that no one was talking about over a team that some described as Super Bowl Bound.
On the other hand, you have two of the most embarrassing losses in the history of the team. Both at home. In back to back weeks. Combine that with the rumblings that the starting quarterback may be done for the season (or at least at substantial part of it) and the team that many had pegged as a National Championship Contender might be fortunate to keep their consecutive bowl streak in tact.
It's amazing how fast expectations can be raised or lowered. What once looked to be a very promising season for the Wolverines has quickly turned into a disaster that actually has me looking forward to (gulp) basketball season. Or at least hockey season.
I'm not sure what more can be said about the Wolverines. I take solace in the fact that we're one of the only (if not the only) football power than hasn't ever really fallen off this cliff. Maybe it's time. And if this disaster is finally the thing that snaps the program out of the 1970s, then it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. I can't imagine anyone from the current staff will even get a sniff when it comes time to find a new coach, and that's a good thing.
Mike Hart is the guy that I feel for. He's dinged up, and he's still in there with Michigan down by 30+ points in the fourth quarter. I wondered aloud why he was still in the game and my girlfriend replied, "Maybe they can't make him come out." And truth be told, that's probably what it was. Hard to not feel bad for a guy like that.
The defense was expected to be well....not as good as last year. But when the offense can only put up 7 points against a joke of a defense like Oregon's, you've got major problems. And even though Henne didn't exactly help us these last two games, it's hard to believe that Mallett will be an improvement. In the long haul, maybe it's better. Since this season is basically a write-off anyway (hard to believe I'm saying that when we haven't lost a Big Ten game yet), at least Mallett can get his growing pains out of the way now instead of at the start of next year.
The thing that kind of bugs me is that they were talking in the telecast about how much the offense would be limited with Mallett in there. That means that either Mallett doesn't know the playbook (which is kind of hard to believe since he enrolled early and all) or they're just afraid to take the kid gloves off of him. I understand that he isn't going to have as good of a command of the offense as a fourth-year starter in Henne, but shouldn't he at least know enough (or shouldn't they trust him enough) to not take the offense back to the days of Tecmo Bowl (2 passes, 2 runs)? And if not, then should he really be our backup QB in the first place? I have a hard time believing that making a predictable offense even more predictable is going to be successful. Maybe there's no other way to do it.
All-in-all, it's been a pretty depressing season and it's only two games old.
Then you have my Packers.
I'm as big of a homer as there is, and even I didn't think they could/would beat Philly. In the Eagles, you're talking about a team that has absolutely OWNED Green Bay the last few seasons. When they weren't blowing the Packers out (47-17 in 2005, 31-9 last year) they were winning in heartbreaking fashion (In 2004, the Packers trailed the Eagles for something like 13 seconds and went 0-2).
Then, when you factor in Greg Jennings and Vernand Morency being hurt and the fact that the Packers are a notoriously slow starting team (1-4 starts the last three seasons), it was easy to see why I had the same feeling heading into this game that I usually get when the Wolverines hockey team plays Minnesota.
But what a performance out of the defense and special teams. They held the league's #2 offense of a year ago to under 300 yards and to 13 points. The Eagles managed just 13 first downs on their 12 drives. Also, after being gashed by "explosive play" after explosive play last year, Green Bay gave up just two on the game.
The front four (and with the rotation along the defensive line, it should really be the front 9) were able to pressure McNabb while not letting him break contain. The sustained pressure allowed Green Bay to drop 7 into coverage for the most part and not use any of the LB or Safety blitzes that were so effective against Seattle in the preseason. Atari Bigby, starting his first game, made 8 tackles and didn't have any of the blown coverages that were all too common last year with Marquand Manuel back there.
And the special teams. Oh the special teams! Statistically, the Packers had the worst special teams in football the last two seasons. But yesterday, they won the football game. The Eagles muffed two punts (one was a horribly bad attempt at a fair catch, the other was perfect timing by Jarrett Bush), resulting in a Packers touchdown and the game-winning field goal. Additionally, rookie kicker Mason Crosby hit all three of his field goals including a 53 yarder and the winner from 43 yards out. That 53 yarder would've been good from 65.
The offense did struggle, but even in doing so, Brett Favre provided two plays that were the perfect example of why I don't care if they go 1-15 this year, I'm happy he came back: The first, his underhanded pass-handoff to Wynn while he was being sacked may have been the play of the game not involving the special teams. Instead of being forced to punt, it kept the drive alive that ended in the Packers tying the game at 13. On that same drive, Favre was being sacked and as he was falling, he threw a rope to Donald Lee (I believe) to convert another first down.
The running game is a concern. Philly isn't especially stout against the run and the Packers couldn't do a darn thing on the ground. I keep telling myself that they're still missing their starting running back, but if the offensive line doesn't create any holes, it doesn't really matter. Also concerning was the number of times Favre was hit and/or sacked. Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, usually two of the best the NFL has to offer, were both horrible. If the problems on the offensive line aren't fixed, it doesn't matter how good the defense is.
Especially in light of the way the Michigan season has started, I couldn't be happier about what the Packers accomplished yesterday. It was a game that I truly didn't expect them to win, but they pulled it off. The division and conference are both wide open and the Packers just took down one of the NFC's best. The other favorite, Chicago, looked terrible offensively against San Diego (though SD will do that to a lot of teams....probably including Green Bay in two weeks) and lost two defensive starters for the season. I'm not drinking the Kool Aid after one week and claiming SUPER BOWL!!!!! but if the problems on the offensive line and in the running game can be fixed, it's a realistic goal given the state of the conference. They could still just as easily end up 8-8, but the window of opportunity is there.
Ted Thompson has clearly done an amazing job reworking the defense and special teams and the Packers are suddenly a young team with a load of potential. It's just a matter of how quick they can realize that potential and if the offensive line issues are a one or two week problem, or a fatal flaw in the team.
Either way, yesterday was a statement game. The Packers are relevant again.