Sunday, September 9, 2007

Week 1 - Packers vs. Eagles, Recapitulation

On a rainy afternoon that later turned sunny at Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre took another step towards claiming part of the record books. Favre and the Packers overcame some sloppy play and a tough Eagles defense to defeat Philadelphia 16-13 on a Mason Crosby field goal with two seconds on the clock. The victory was number one hundred forty-eight for Favre, tying John Elway for most wins by a quarterback all-time.

This game was defined by the skill, or lack there of, of special teams. Early in the first quarter, Eagles wide receiver Greg Lewis, making his first career punt return, muffed a Jon Ryan punt. A muffed punt is not allowed to be advanced by the kicking team, so as various Packers tried to pick the ball up, it was moved into the Eagles end zone where Packers linebacker Tracy White recovered. Mason Crosby, a rookie from Colorado who beat out incumbent Dave Rayner for the starting kicker job, converted his first career extra point soon after.

After taking a 10-0 lead with 9:39 left in the first quarter on Crosby's first career field goal, a 53-yarder, the Eagles came storming back, scoring 13 unanswered points in the second and third quarters, on two David Akers field goald and a Donovan McNabb-to-Jason Avant touchdown pass, the Eagles took a 13-10 lead with 8:20 left in the third.

The Packers' next drive was the highlight of the game. Starting off the drive with three consecutive passes to Brandon Jackson, Donald Driver, and Donald Lee for 28 yards, Favre looked like, well, Favre. After advancing all the way to the Philadelphia 42-yard line, the Packers were set back after a Driver offensive pass interference penalty, a very ticky-tack call.

With around six minutes left in the game, Favre made one of the greatest plays of the game. On a third-and-ten, Favre took the snap from center and was immediately under intense pressure from the Philadelphia defense. While being wrapped up by Joselio Hanson, Favre alertly flipped the ball to a surprised DeShawn Wynn, who gained control before scampering up the middle of the field to the Eagles 24-yard line for an eighteen-yard gain.

Two plays later, Favre's magic struck again. On a second-and-ten, Eagles defensive end Juqua Thomas had a bead on Favre, and Favre, while being dragged down backwards, rifled a pass to tight end Donald Lee for a six-yard gain. This sudden change in momentum forced the Eagles to use their first timeout. After a Mike Patterson sack and a third-down incompletion, the Packers had to rely on Crosby once again and he made the 37-yard field goal with ease, tying the game at 13 apiece. The drive was the statistical highlight of the game for Favre, as he went 5-out of-7 for 66 yards.

The game seemed lost for Packers late in the fourth quarter. After getting the ball with around five minutes remaining, Favre was sacked and stripped of the ball and it was recovered by Jevon Kearse. However, the Eagles were not able to go anywhere, leading to a punt by 6'5", 265 pound rookie punter Saverio Rocca, a rookie from Australia. The Packers, getting another chance at taking the game, were stopped at their 40-yard line with 1:09 left.

Jon Ryan sent a short punt towards his left and Eagles return man J.R. Reed took a long run after calling fair catch and trying to get to it. However, the ball was too far out of reach and as Reed dove for the ball, he muffed it and the ball was recovered by Packers defensive back Jarrett Bush at the Philadelphia 31-yard line. Immediately within Crosby's range, Jackson rushed for eight yards before Favre took a knee and called a timeout with six seconds left. Crosby's forty-two-yard field goal attempt was good, giving the Packers the 16-13 win.

Despite the win, Green Bay still has a lot of work to do. Favre managed the game pretty well, completing 23 of 42 passes for 206 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Favre was without second-year wideout Greg Jennings who is nursing a hamstring injury. James Jones, a rookie from San Jose State, made his first career start and caught four balls for 29 yards. Driver led the receiving corps with six catches for 66 yards. The running game also missed Vernand Morency as rookies Jackson and Wynn combined for 48 yards rushing.

The Packers pass defense had a scary moment early in the game when Al Harris hyperextended his elbow in the first quarter. Harris would return to the field eventually with a heavily taped arm, but the damage was done while he was off, as Kevin Curtis caught a thirty-seven yard pass from McNabb to set up a David Akers field goal.

Overall, the Packers defensive play was a success. McNabb was held to under 200 yards passing and completed only 45% of his passes. The Packers D also held Brian Westbrook to 131 yards of total offense, or five yards per touch. No receiver, after Westbrook, had more than three catches for the Eagles. The Packers were outgained by sixty-eight yards while Eagles held the ball for around three more minutes.

Overall, the Packers were lucky to escape with this win. The running and passing games (basically the entire offense) needs to step up if they are to have a chance against the New York Giants next week. The defense was a pleasant surprise, holding a high-octane offense to only 13 points.

Nice start to the season.


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