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Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013

Post-Season Brightens Up

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The Packers' 24-10 playoff romp over Minnesota earned them a trip to San Francisco and a chance for double payback against the 49ers for an opening-day loss, and against the Bay Area for Wisconsin's 20-14 Rose Bowl loss to Stanford.

 

Frank: I turned things over to the DVR at halftime because it was 17-3 and I was pretty sure there'd be no suspense. How about you?

Artie: I savored every second! It's always enjoyable to see the Pack pillage the Vikings because I remember the ’70s, when things were different, and even the ’60s when Fran Tarkenton gave 'em fits.

F: Actually, I figured the game was over when I heard the Vikings were starting someone named Joe Webb at quarterback instead of an injured Christian Ponder.

A: It would have been interesting to see if Ponder could have two good games in a row, but after the first drive it was pretty clear Webb wasn't going to have even one.

F: He ran for 68 yards but most of his passing connections were with the ground. And once the Packers got up by two scores, even Adrian Peterson was unlikely to make a difference.

A: He can break a big run anytime but when you're behind in the second half you're in a clock situation that forces more passing.

F: Besides, the Pack contained Peterson for “only” 99 yards and a long gain of 18.

A: One good thing about Webb was that he gave the Pack a taste of what they'll get with San Fran's young QB, Colin Kaepernick.

F: Another of those “run dimension” guys.

A: But as I heard Mark Chmura say on the radio, at this stage he's still a “two-read” guy—after one or two quick looks for a receiver, he'll give up and take off. And the pressure will really be on in a playoff game.

F: Which has some people wondering if Alex Smith, a better pure passer, should start.

A: His passer rating was real good, like 104, when he got hurt, Kaepernick took over and Jim Harbaugh chose to stick with him. But I wonder what Harbaugh will do if the Pack gets up by 10 points early.

F: Smith had a terrific game in the 30-22 win at Lambeau Field—20 for 26, two scores and no interceptions.

A: The 49ers haven't looked as mighty as they did early in the season but they're still a fine team, especially on defense. I can't imagine this game being remotely as comfortable to watch.

F: But I think you should be confident. They're pretty healthy again—Charles Woodson's return sure seemed to help the defense—and this little running back, DuJuan Harris, is giving them a boost the way James Starks did two years ago in the Super Bowl run.

A: You never know about things like injuries or goofy turnovers, but this one should be quite a game. You can quote me on that.

F: Candlestick Park isn't too far from the Stanford campus in Palo Alto, where they're savoring that win over Bucky Badger.

A: UW played pretty well in Pasadena but let's face it, they're an 8-6 team. And an 8-6 team has some major flaws and/or major inconsistencies.

F: It was a strange season. Every loss was close, which meant little things were crucial. That Stanford penalty on the punt in the third quarter could easily have been a 15-yarder, giving UW a first down and great field position.

A: But the ref made it a 5-yarder and Stanford got the ball.

F: The long quarterback saga was disruptive. The transfer, Danny O'Brien, wasn't close to being another Russell Wilson. Joel Stave took over and looked good, then got hurt. Curt Phillips filled in pretty well, but it's clear he's not a top-flight passer.

A: The offensive line stomped all over Indiana and then Nebraska in the Big Ten title game, but somehow UW had only 19 rushing yards in the overtime loss to Michigan State. It'll be interesting what the new coach, Gary Anderson, does with the offense. At Utah State he ran a spread, which is not the Wisconsin way.

F: I presume Stave is the favorite to start at QB.

A: But they also have this redshirt kid from California, Bart Houston, who was really highly rated.

F: They're still set at running back with James White and Melvin Gordon.

A: But they sure could use some receivers besides Jared Abbrederis.

F: Alas, Stanford made UW the second Big Ten team, with Michigan in the ’70s, to lose three straight Rose Bowls.

A: Almost like the Bills' four-peat Super Bowl agony in the ’90s—or those ’70s Vikings, who could beat the Pack but never the AFC champs. Can't say I mourned those losses!

 

Frank Clines covered sports for 18 years at The Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek has lived and died with the Packers and Badgers for a lot longer.