I was fortunate to travel to Green Bay to watch the Redskins play the Packers this past weekend. Thanks to my wife’s willingness to usher our kids to flag football and dance recitals on her own all weekend, I got the go ahead for a guys’ trip to Lambeau. The result of the game aside, it was an amazing experience at one of the must-see NFL venues.
The people of Green Bay are incredible. Everyone we spoke to seemed to genuinely care how we were doing and if we were enjoying our experience. Several of their fans took pictures with us almost like we were famous. It was a pretty unbelievable dynamic when you consider that we were there hoping that their beloved Packers lost. I don’t think I fully appreciated how nice the people of Green Bay were until, on the ground back in DC for no more than 30 minutes, we watched someone unreasonably berate the man working the Taxi line back at DCA. Welcome home!
The town itself is almost like stepping back 30 or 40 years and I mean that in the nicest way possible. The entire town is all-in on the Packers. It reminded me of the way you see small towns in Texas support their local high school football teams (or at least how that’s shown in movies and television). Everyone has Packer flags outside their homes or bumper stickers on their car. People occasionally even greet one another saying “Go Pack Go” on the street. It’s very cool to see. Also, it’s electric all around town on a game weekend. Everyone seemed to spend the entire weekend at the bars and restaurants right near the stadium, so it had the feel of a 48-hour tailgate.
The game experience is pretty jovial too. It probably helps that they win the vast majority of their games in Green Bay, but the crowd is VERY involved from the first snap. After each first down, the public address announcer yells “That’s another Packers’…” and in unison the crowd finishes his sentenced with a deafening “FIRST DOWN!” Needless to say, we heard that a lot on Sunday.
As for the game, what can I really tell you? I was mildly impressed with the early defensive effort. In fact, we were probably slightly better field position away from giving up only 3 first quarter points (the Cobb TD on 4th-and-3 never happens is the Packers don’t start that drive well past midfield).
My hope is that the slow offensive starts are putting way too much of a burden on our defense and that the dam is just breaking by the second quarter. I’d like to think that if we can score early and stay more balanced deeper into the game (it’s tough to establish our running game down by 24 points), the defense will hold up a little better over four quarters. I never thought we were bringing a top-10 defense into the season. I figured we’d have to win with offense and some timely defensive plays.
On offense, if we can’t make teams believe that Griffin is a threat to run, we will be swimming up stream all year. His legs petrified teams last year. That’s why he had forever to throw out of a clean pocket and it’s part of the reason Morris was able to gain 1,600 yards. I understand that everyone would like him to be a traditional passer, but if you aren’t going to use all of his tools, why did you trade so many picks to get him? It’s unfortunate that our coaching staff introduced an innovative offensive attack last year, rode it to a division title, and now seems like one of the few teams not to use it the following year. In my humble opinion, Griffin is either healthy enough to play or he’s not. If someone isn’t comfortable with him running the entire playbook, then I’d have to question how he’s ready to play at all.
I’m hoping we see the entire playbook starting next week and would really like to see the team get back on track. No matter how this season goes as Griffin returns from injury, we play a brutal schedule, and we crawl out from under the severe salary cap penalty…I think this team is a legitimate contender over the next several years and I’ll enjoy watching them grow into that.