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Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008

Shouldering On

The Fairly Detached Observers

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The Observers took a week off from baseball to prepare for a “look back, look forward” analysis of the Brewers that will run next week. But there was plenty of football to talk about.

Frank: Boy, the state owes Aaron Rodgers one. After three straight Packer losses, his big second half in Seattle had everyone breathing more easily.

Artie: Especially after that debacle in Madison. The Badgers get manhandled by Penn State, 48-7, and then the Packers are 10-10 at halftime and I’m thinking, “Here we go again.”

Frank: And in the second half Sunday I’m sure we were all thinking what the TV guys were: That Rodgers’ sprained right shoulder might be making it impossible for him to throw a deep pass. His first throws of the game and the second half were way short on midlength routes, and after that it was almost all dump-offs and short slants. It looked like the offense from now on would be three yards and a cloud of dust with Ryan Grant...

Artie: More like two-and-a-half yards.

Frank: Right, and six yards and a cloud of dust on a quick one to Donald Driver.

Artie: Who gets drilled right in the chops over the middle. That’s one tough guy.

Frank: So is Rodgers. He took a huge hit in the second quarter and bounced right up. And just when everyone believes he can’t go deep, he puts one right in Greg Jennings’ hands for 45 yards and the biggest score of the game. 

Artie: What a thing of beauty, even if he were totally healthy! I’m thinking the Packers were setting Seattle up for that.

Frank: Sure looked that way. One troubling thought: Maybe Rodgers only has one or two of those throws in him per game.

Artie: It would make the game-planning absolutely Machiavellian.

Frank: Or McCarthiavellian. As for Sunday, the Packers’ defense also stepped it up from the last few weeks.

Artie: Especially with all those guys in the secondary injured. Cripes, they were almost down to the kids who lend their bicycles to players at training camp. 

Frank: Well, for the second straight week our game-by-game prediction for the Packers’ season was wrong.

Artie: And we admit it!

Frank: But remember, last week we predicted—well, we expressed the possibility—that the Packers would prove us wrong again in Seattle. And they did, sowe were right! Sort of. Now we’re right on track because we had them at 3-3— which ties them for the division lead.

Artie: We sure can snatch brilliance from the jaws of stupidity, ain’a? And I’ll go a step further: They can still match their 13-3 record of last year by running the table, as long as the opponents play their third-string quarterbacks.

Frank: Yeah, Charlie Frye was hopeless Sunday. Unfortunately, this weekend the Packers play Indianapolis, and their first-string guy, one of those Mannings, is healthy.

Artie: Hey, we can hope for some injuries in practice. And I think the Colts’ third-string QB is still Tom Matte, who’s got to be around 70.

Frank: The Packers handled him in that 1965 playoff game—although it took overtime.

Artie: After the Colts, the Packers get their bye week, so maybe Rodgers gets healthy. Otherwise, it looks like a repeat of that lingering thing they had a few years back with Brett Favre’s injured thumb.

Frank: Speaking of Favre, his Jets won again to go to 3-2, but he threw two interceptions and had a fumble returned for a TD.

Artie: So far, no one can say the Packers would have been better off with Brett.

Frank: Absolutely. Rodgers hasn’t been the reason for any loss.

Artie: It’s been the defense and the fact that they have no running game. But hey, a win is a win, and you can quote me.

Frank: I didn’t know you spoke Coach-ese.

Artie: And a loss is a loss—especially when Dallas and the Bears do it on the same day.

Frank: The Bears were priceless. They score in the last minute to go ahead, then give the Falcons a chance with a squib kickoff. Everybody knows the Falcons need a 25-yard sideline pass to kill the clock, and they get a 26-yard sideline pass and kick the field goal. Some defense.

Artie: Hey, that “26” rings a bell—as in the fourth-and-26 the Eagles pulled off against the Pack five playoffs ago.

Frank: Gotta let that one go, my friend.

One other thing about the Seattle game: After Charles Woodson made his big interception, his teammates were giving him... handshakes! Not high-fives or elbow bumps but dignified ol’ handshakes, like they were at a business meeting. I saw the Jets do it two weeks ago and I guess it’s catching.

Artie: No autographs with Sharpies, no pantomimed phone calls, no Randy Moss wiping his butt—that’s just crazy! By the way, my hat’s off to Woodson. He’s not a loudmouth, he just plays tough. He could lose a limb and still be out there. It pains me to say that about a guy who went to Michigan.

Frank: The same Michigan that lost at home to Toledo? What does that say about Wisconsin, which gagged up a 19-point lead in Ann Arbor?

Artie: That’s nothing compared to what happened Saturday night.

Frank: I didn’t see a single play. Good planning, huh?

Artie: I had it on but at 17-0 in the second quarter my attention turned to doing the dishes and some light vacuuming.

Frank: A 3-3 record looks a lot worse on the Badgers than the Packers.

Artie: Especially when the second 3 is all from Big Ten games.

Frank: And yet coming into the season, we and everyone else figured the Badgers were strong.

Artie: It’s mighty depressing. The offense just hasn’t done enough. The starting quarterback, Allan Evridge, was 2 for 10 in passing and has eight turnovers in the three conference games. The sub, Dustin Sherer, was a little better at 9 for 17. The fans cheered when he came in, which he acknowledged with an interception on his first series.

Frank: Hey, not to worry. The Badgers have six games left, and if they win three it’s on to a bowl game at a mighty 6-6.

Artie: That’ll be some big deal—the Papa Luigi’s Grated Parmesan Cheese Bowl at 8 a.m. on Dec. 22.

Frank: Don’t be so sure about that name. By December all the bowl sponsors might be bankrupt.

Artie: Yes sir, with their executives catching all the action from jail.

Frank Clines labored almost 20 years in the sports department at the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and covered the Brewers part-time for most of those years. Art Kumbalek once shook hands with funnyman Louis Nye.

Photo: Aaron Rodgers leads the Pack back to .500

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