World Champion Packers make successful season debut with win over the New Orleans Saints; Carolina Panthers next

Written by admin   // September 15, 2011   // 0 Comments

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 dynasty.

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 festive atmosphere.

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 volumes.

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.


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