CROSSING THE LINE: BUCS 30 PACKERS 21Jerry Gilbert 9/30/2008
One of my all time favorite movies was The Alamo. There have, of course, been multiple versions featuring from Fess Parker to Billy Bob in leading roles, and we can all pick our favorite retelling of the story. Every one of them features the historical dramatic moment when Colonel Travis explains the reality of the situation to his troops. He offers everyone a chance to depart with honor, but asks those who agree to stay to step across a line. For the men who stepped forward, it was a heroic moment. In Tampa Florida on Sunday, crossing the line had a different meaning.
For 60 minutes in Raymond James Stadium, Packer fans watched the offensive and defensive linemen from Tamp Bay playing the game on the Packers' side of the line of scrimmage. The Green Bay linemen were beaten over and over. The defense had its moments and the offense opened a couple of holes for a back, but the dominant theme of a game was a butt kicking in the trenches. That is why the team lost.
What is notable about the game is that three playmakers, Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Charles Woodson nearly produced a victory despite the situation they faced. Rodgers was running for his life, but he still made plays. Woodson is an amazing football player. I would say something similar about Jennings except that he dropped two passes in a game in which dropping passes cannot be permitted. The penalties, mistakes and the Ryan Grant fumble prevented the victory which Charles Woodson and the others almost made possible. Ultimately they could not overcome the play of the Packer linemen.
I read today that Tampa quarterback Brian Griese is now 8-1 against the Packers. He played a solid game, and seems to know what he needs to do against Green Bay. He was assisted by a solid rushing attack. The Bucs also displayed an aggressive and good tackling defense. They made it very difficult for the Packer offense to get a drive going. It is not a disgrace to lose to Tampa, but it should have been a winnable game. The Green Bay Packers did not play well enough to beat a good team. Until they start beating team of this quality, the Packers are not a playoff team.
The Packer offensive line is an experienced unit. One has to think that Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher will play better the rest of the season. Clifton left the game limping, and that will be a concern. There is no adequate replacement. However, the interior of the line is a problem. They have not returned to the level they showed last season.
On defense, the inability to stop the run could doom the season. It is hard to believe that the loss of Corey Williams at tackle would make a huge difference. This is basically the same line as the one that finished last season and the talented Johnny Jolly was on the injured list then. On the other hand, with no new players available to plug in, the existing players have to play better if the problem is to be solved. The options are limited, but these are good people and good athletes. They will come around.
A remaining problem for the team is the injury factor. On defense, Al Harris and Atari Bigby missed the last game. Cullen Jenkins, A.J. Hawk, Will Blackmon and Aaron Rouse left the game injured. Nick Collins and Charles Woodson have played with significant injuries for weeks. At least most of these players need to be in uniform next week. On offense, the main concern is Aaron Rodgers. However rookie Josh Sitton could be helping the offensive line and James Jones is a talented receiver. Chad Clifton is the other concern.
Because I live in Minnesota, I have many friends who cheer for the Vikings. The Alamo metaphor is much more appropriate for those fans. They feel the need to stand together against overwhelming odds. For Packer fans, this is not an Alamo. It is a loss in a difficult but winnable game. Next week the Packers face Atlanta. Their players will need to be kept on their own side of the line.