by Troy Sparks
GREEN BAY – Legions of Packer fans couldn’t wait for the day that the
NFL regular season kicked off at Lambeau Field, Sept. 8. Traffic was
tight. Thousands of people were decked out in green and gold colors.
Some took pictures next to the towering Vince Lombardi statue
outside the stadium. He was the man who helped make the Packers a
Everyone wanted to know if the team that brought the Lombardi Trophy back home
could do it again. It is believed that the Pack can repeat.
The NFL wanted to do it big on kickoff Thursday. They had pregame
concerts on a stage that was set up behind Lambeau Field. It was a
If the Packers had it any other way, they would rather play someone
other than the New Orleans Saints. The last two Super Bowl winners
was a good matchup for fan interest, for NBC, who broadcasted the
game, and for Commissioner Roger Gooddell.
Opening day in the NFL was an afterthought over the spring and summer until
cooler heads prevailed and the owners and players met halfway to iron
out a new deal in order to play the entire season.
The Wisconsin NBC affiliates decided to air the pregame show, which
occurred around the same time frame as President Obama’s jobs bill
speech to Congress. It was a no-brainer for the affiliates here
because the game was in Green Bay and people here would rather see
football than the speech. If the Packers were on the road, the
pregame show would’ve been interrupted.
If there was any doubt of whether the Packers would pick up where they
left off, then doubt no more. A Green Bay score on their first
possession and another touchdown off a turnover in the first quarter
gave them a 14-0 lead. But Drew Brees led New Orleans back into the
game with a touchdown that cut the Packer lead in half to 14-7. It
looked to be a shootout between him and Aaron Rodgers.
Packer fans wanted to know a little about this Randall Cobb guy. He was the
all-purpose player at Kentucky who did some of everything. And in
his first NFL game, he scored two touchdowns and did the Lambeau
Leap. How’s that for a kid who shined on national TV?
“You’ve got to be excited about Randall,” head coach Mike McCarthy said.
“He’s shown that from the first day of training camp his ability.
He missed some time with the knee injury on the kickoff. When other
players talk about a player having a chance to be special, he is one
of those guys.
“He’s very raw. He’s picking up our system. But he knows what to do
when he gets the football in his hands, and he knows how to get open.
He’s a gifted young man with a lot of good football left in him.”
It was evident in the third quarter of how valuable Cobb can be when
returning kicks. The Packers haven’t had a good one in a long
time, not since Terrell Buckley and Desmond Howard. In recent years,
they chose players by committee for kick and punt return duties.
After John Kasay made a field goal for the Saints to cut the Packer lead to
28-20, he kicked the ball to Cobb deep into the end zone. Instead of
kneeling down to take the touchback, Cobb ran the ball out on the
field and didn’t stop until reaching the other end zone, 108 yards
away. He tied the NFL record for the longest kick return in history.
The 35-20 Green Bay lead didn’t hold up for long. Even after both
teams traded TD’s in the second half, it was still a one possession
game at 42-34. New Orleans was driving for a possible touchdown and
two-point conversion that would have forced overtime. The defense
stopped the Saints at the goal line as time ran out.
“We wanted an up-tempo game,” McCarthy said. “We were able to take
advantage of the environment. We were able to get that done with the
opening kickoff, going down to score. Our defense had a turnover
(fumble forced by safety Nick Collins). So the game started the way
we would like it to start. You would like to say it’s the way we
planned it, but it was the way we would like it to.”
If the Packers can put their high-powered offense on the field every
game and score lots of points, it will be hard to stop them. The
running game is still a work in progress, but the passing game is
good to go. Rodgers threw at least one pass to nine different
players in the game. His performance against the Saints spoke
With Rodgers’ performance, did it matter if he chose not to hold team
workouts during the lockout? Said Rodgers: “I just have to ask
myself, ‘What would have happened if we had offseason workouts?
Could we have started any faster and scored more points?’ ”
His comments was interpreted to the assembled media as being too
arrogant, as if he didn’t need to gather the team and hold group
workouts as Brees did. In fact, Rodgers was criticized for not
bonding with the team during the time they weren’t allowed to be
around the facilities and the coaches during the lockout.
The Packers passed the first test with their defeat of New Orleans. Two
straight road games at Carolina (Sept. 18) and Chicago (Sept. 25)
await them after a 10-day break.
Milwaukee Blast Tryouts
Milwaukee’s new ABA men’s pro basketball team, the Blast, will hold tryouts,
Sept. 17, from 9:00 a.m. until noon at Wisconsin Lutheran College.
It will be open to the public.