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Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013

GREEN BAY PACKERS: ACROSS A GIANT DIVIDE

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Funny, isn't it, how the same game can look so different to two people depending on where they're located, physically and emotionally? Witness a phone conversation Sunday night between Milwaukee and Long Island...

 

Artie: Well, that was a waste of time! Though perhaps not for you.

Frank: Giants 27, Packers 13. Yup, time well spent.

A: Nothing like the giddy feeling of being 4-6, ain’a?

F: But the "4" is a winning streak, going into a shot at Tony Romo and the Cowboys to climb, amazingly, into the playoff hunt.

A: All I see is "3," as in straight losses without Aaron Rodgers, and a desperate need to beat the Vikings at Lambeau.

F: The good news is that the Lions lost in Pittsburgh...

A: But the stinkin' Bears somehow won, so the Pack is back to chasing two teams in the division.

F: I knew I'd be more into this game than usual just because I'm on Long Island, scene of my childhood agony over those two Giants-Packers championship games in the '60s. And because I'd be watching with my brother, who's been much more devoted to "Big Blue" in recent years. But some of my, um, passionate comments surprised us both!

A: I got passionate too, over an offense that on any given play was essentially nine guys, and a defense that was maybe nine and a half. And especially after we found out just before the game that Sam Shields wouldn't play.

F: I heard the TV guys note his absence and thought, "I hadn't heard anything about that."

A: Not a whisper all week, or in the Sunday paper.

F: What, dare I ask, was his ailment? Not the dreaded...

A: Exactly. The official injury of Packer defensive backs, the hamstring. With Shields' hammy joining Casey Hayward's on the sideline, the secondary should have been renamed the Keystone Packs. So many times they looked like they didn't know what to do, where to be, running around like a bunch of clowns with blinders on!

F: Funny, that's the way I felt—loudly— about the Giants' D-backs on those deep strikes that Scott Tolzien threw. Fortunately for the Giants, Jason Pierre-Paul turned Tolzien's shortest pass into the clinching touchdown. Teammates said on the Giants' postgame show that Pierre-Paul predicted his "pick" before the play.

A: He timed his leap great, but Tolzien still needs to work on a higher release.

F: As you said last week after the loss to Philly.

A: I guess there's no longer any question where the next Tony Romo is coming from.

F: What, you're comparing Tolzien to your premier object of contempt?

A: Don't get me wrong. Scott has a real good arm and controls a game well. But those dang picks—they're very Romo-esque.

F: Any news on when Rodgers might be back?

A: Just a lot of speculating, nothing concrete.

F: The Giants did a good job controlling Eddie Lacy right from the start.

A: A big part of the sub-par ground game was injuries too. Don Barclay was not at right tackle, and run-blocking is his strength. With Marshall Newhouse replacing him, well... I think Newhouse's best position would be doorman-bouncer at that Apartment 720 nightclub Larry Sanders likes so much.

F: So it's a "must win" against Minnesota, especially because four days later they go to Detroit for Turkey Day.

A: And this time the Lions should have Calvin Johnson playing. And with that Keystone Packs secondary... I'm thinking 9-7 is the best I can hope for.

 

STRONG POINTS, WEAK POINTS

F: I didn't see the Marquette hoopsters against Ohio State because I was with my Princeton-sophomore nephew for a football beat-down of Yale.

A: Beneath a big mural of Touchdown Einstein?

F: No, nothing like the mega-Jesus at Notre Dame. But it looked like they'd need a supercomputer to keep up with Princeton's offensive stats. The final was 59-23.

A: Well, you didn't miss much from the Bradley Center. You couldn't see the game and the MU guys apparently couldn't see the basket.

F: When I heard 52-35 I thought it was a halftime score. I saw almost as many points from football!

A: Halftime was 19-19, and although the Buckeyes didn't shoot all that well they finished better than MU's 18.9% and 1 for 18 on three-pointers.

F: Just like the big chill that ended last season against Syracuse in the tournament.

A: The fact that this happened on their home court is worrisome. And in the second half their ball movement just died! It looked like every play was Todd Mayo dribbling around and either launching or trying to drive.

F: Well, I think their losing this way makes it easier for MU fans to think of this game the right way—as something that essentially means nothing because it happened so early. I mean, the conference and NCAA tournaments are basically four months away! And remember, last year MU got trampled early by Florida and still had a terrific season.

 

THE BUCK-ACHES CONTINUE

F: Later Saturday at the Bradley Center the Bucks fell to 2-7, although I guess they played Oklahoma City pretty tough for most of the game. But like the Packers they can hardly find enough warm bodies to suit up.

A: Caron Butler is still out with the shoulder thing he picked up last week, and Larry Sanders' Apartment 720 thumb will have him out for several more weeks.

F: I notice Luke Ridnour has finally started playing after his back issues.

A: But now I'm worried that he'll revert to the injury-prone ways he had when he first came into the league. Plus Ersan Ilyasova's ankle is still bad and Carlos Delfino is out for the season with his bad foot. Some return on that signing!

 

BUT ON THE BRIGHT SIDE...

A: It was far from a lost weekend, though, because the Badgers won both of their games.

F: I figured they would slaughter Indiana in football, and they did, but it looked like they had trouble on the court against UW-Green Bay.

A: I expected that, because it was in Green Bay and the Phoenix is picked to win the Horizon League, such as it is. But they're a genuinely good team, and one of their guys, Keifer Sykes, dropped 32 points on the Badgers.

F: But no surprises with the football game, I guess.

A: Of course I expected UW to win, but I was really surprised that they held the Hoosiers to only three points. Going into the game the Badgers were averaging about 487 yards a game, but Indiana was averaging 527! And the Hoosiers had laid 47 points on Michigan, 39 on Minnesota and 52 on Illinois.

F: I guess this game was more evidence that UW is a lot better overall than last year. But with Ohio State still rolling along and eligible for the post-season again, the Badgers don't look bound for the Big Ten title game.

 

Frank Clines covered sports for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek has not thrown an interception this season.