Monday, September 15, 2014

I Went There - Brewers/Reds & Packers/Jets

I scored tickets for the 2014 Green Bay Packers regular season home opener against the New York Jets.  As luck would have it, the Milwaukee Brewers had a home stand that weekend against the Cincinnati Reds too so I thought it made sense to double-dip watching the Brewers on Saturday night at Miller Park and the Packers on Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.  A Cheesehead double-dip, if you will.

Brewers tickets were actually tough to get for Saturday night not because the Brewers are fighting for a playoff spot but because it was Hank the Dog bobble-head night.  Thankfully my buddy Gaber was able to score three tickets together in the upper deck down the first base line.  We were late getting into the game so we missed the first pitch.  As we made our way to the entrance, people were already leaving the game with their Hank the Dog bobble-heads in hand.  Even though we were late, there was still a line to get into the game too because we had to go through metal detectors.  Not sure if the metal detectors were Hank the Dog related or something else but that process delayed the first pitch.

In terms of the game itself, there was really nothing of note to report other than a bungled sausage race that saw the Brewers try to get Hank the Dog a victory.  Unfortunately for the Brewers, Hank the Dog was overwhelmed so he didn't even run the race.  Instead, a Brewer intern had to pick-up Hank the Dog and run him past the line in 6th place.  Hank the Dog was about as impressive as the Brewers given that their pitching was sub-par and their offense was non-existent en route to losing 5-1 to the Reds.

After starting the season 27-15, the Brewers have been an average team, at best. Thankfully their pitching has been pretty good because their offense has really struggled following a hot start to the season.  With each day, their playoff hopes continue to fade.  I am not saying that I've turned the page on the Brewers yet but their inability to score runs is really testing my patience, which is why fans were probably more interested in the bobble head giveaway than the actual game.

After the game Gaber, Uncle Patty, and I headed back to my parent's place to catch-up and set our plan of attack for the main event of the weekend...Packers/Jets at Lambeau.  We spent the night catching up about everything from our all-time favorite Milwaukee Wave players to family updates, which meant we only got a couple hours of sleep but still woke up with a hop in our step to start the pilgrimage north.

Sug met us as we were picking up tailgate goodies at the Metro Market.  I mention that because for those that have never had the privilege (you read that right), the fun starts in the meat section of the Metro Market in downtown Milwaukee.  There are a ton of Mariano's with tasty sausages in Chicago but let's not forget that those fantastic meats got their start at the Metro Market in Milwaukee.  It is great walking around the Metro Market with everyone, including the staff, wearing Packers gear.  As I've said many times in this space, you really can't go wrong with any of the brat options besides the habanero cheddar.  My favorites are either the jalapeno cheddar or the classic beer brat.

With a full cooler of beers and brats accompanied by some other tasties, we headed north.  We made it up to Green Bay just around noon.  We decided to park south of the stadium but not too close because traffic is a nightmare following the game. We had a beautiful day to throw the football and play bags.  Thankfully Uncle Patty overcame a pulled muscle on his first throw of the day so we could whip the pigskin and bags around the parking lot as we feasted on brats.  Given the issues we had getting into the Brewers game on time, we decided to head into the Packer game a little early so we wouldn't miss kickoff.

Once we got into the stadium, Uncle Patty and I tried to hit-up the new Packer Pro Shop.  One of the new Packer Pro Shop oddities is that it is under the Lambeau Field atrium.  Unfortunately it seems like almost everyone else in the stadium had the same plan so we bagged it in hopes of getting to our seats in time for kickoff.  Our original tickets were split-up two and two, which I traded for four tickets together in the north end zone, opposite the wall of sound.

The Jets kicked off to start the game.  In their first snap from center, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and rookie center Corey Linsley didn't connect, which resulted in a fumble that the Jets recovered.  That started the wost quarter of football that I've seen the Packers play at Lambeau in my entire life as the Packers trailed the Jets 21-3 with just over 10 minutes left in the first half.

With how horribly the game started, I decided to walk around the concourse of the stadium to try to calm myself me, I know I have problems.  As I chronicled in my review of the Packers/Eagles game from last season, Eagles fans are the biggest a-holes in the NFL but Jets fans are doing their best to overtake Eagles fans based on how they carried themselves in Lambeau.  Instead of taking their good brakes in stride, Jets fans cheered with borderline vitriol, not a good look for such an underwhelming franchise.

The Packers added a pair of field goals (20-yard and 55-yard) via placekicker Mason Crosby to cut the lead to 21-9.  The Jets were driving for a touchdown at the end of the first half when Jets quarterback Geno Smith threw a pass up for grabs as he was pressured by Packers defensive lineman Mike Daniels that was intercepted by Packers cornerback Tramon Williams right at the goal line.  Given their offensive struggles, I thought the Packers might sit on the ball.  Instead, the Packers put together a clinical 97-yard touchdown drive to end the half down just 21-16, which honestly felt like they were winning given how horribly the first 20 minutes of the game went.

At the start of the second half Packers head coach Mike McCarthy had possibly the biggest brain-fart of his tenure in Green Bay, which is a fairly long and illustrious list.  The Jets looked to complete a 14-yard pass on 2nd and 8 from their own seven yard line.  Somehow the Jets were unable to get organized following that play so they were forced to burn a timeout.  Coming out of a full television timeout, which is at least two minutes, McCarthy challenged the play and lost.  I get sometimes coaches are forced to throw a challenge flag in the heat of the moment but McCarthy's gaffe was the antithesis of heat of the moment.  Everyone in the stadium got a million looks and knew not to challenge the call but somehow McCarthy didn't see these same replays.

Following a couple punts, thankfully the Packers went up 24-21 when Rodgers connected with wide receiver Randall Cobb for a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the end zone right in front of us.  Following the two-point conversion, things got chippy.  Muhammad Wilkerson, arguably the Jets best defensive player, threw a punch and got ejected.  As Wilkerson walked off the field he did his best Hulk Hogan impression, apparently forgetting that he was playing on the road not at home.  Those same a-hole Jets fans somehow defended Wilkerson, which tells you all you need to know about them.

At that point I thought the Packers were going to run away with the game but credit the Jets, they tied the game on their next drive thanks to a 52-yard field goal.  The Packers responded on the next play from scrimmage with a beautiful catch and run that resulted in an 80-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to wide receiver Jordy Nelson in the end zone right in front of us to put the Packers up for good.

The rest of the game was fairly ho-hum till the Jets scored what looked to be a game-tying 37-yard touchdown pass right in front of us.  On the throw it looked like Williams went for the interception instead of knocking it down.  I say "looked to be" because Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called a timeout before the play.  By NFL rule only the head coach coach, which in this case would be Rex "Twinkle Toes" Ryan can call a timeout.  In practice it is hard for refs to decipher voices so when they hear a timeout called they always grant it.   Apparently Williams and some other Packer defenders heard the timeout as well because it looked like some of them were slow to react at the start of the play.

The Packers were able to stop the Jets following the timeout and run out the clock with their game clinching play...a 15-yard pass to Jordy Nelson on 3rd and 3.  That is the kind of aggressive play calling that I would like to see more often from McCarthy given that the Packers have (arguably) the best quarterback in the NFL.  Nelson finished the day with 209 receiving yards and a touchdown.  If I had to hand out three game balls they would go to Nelson, Rodgers (25 of 42 for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns along with six rushes for 28 yards), and Daniels (5 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 quarterback hits, and a sack).

There really is nothing better than a Packers win followed by a Chicago Bear loss.  The Packers/Jets game was a late afternoon kickoff and the Bears played on the road against the San Francisco on Sunday Night Football.  Given how much trouble the 49ers give the Packers and the fact that they were opening their new stadium on Sunday Night Football at The Chaps, I thought it was a slam dunk that the Bears would lose...especially after the Bears collapsed at home last week against the underwhelming Buffalo Bills.  We turned off the game at halftime because the Bears were getting beaten badly and their announcers are such homers even when the Bears are losing that we didn't want to listen them whine about losing to the 49ers for the entire 2nd half.  Somehow the 49ers imploded and the Bears pulled it out so after two weeks, every team in the NFC North is tied at 1-1.

The Packers head on the road for two big divisional games against the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears followed by a divisional game on Thursday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings.  If the Packers make any personal moves, check back for my thoughts, otherwise I will have my updated rankings to The 53 following their divisional trifecta.

More importantly, thanks to Gaber, Sug, and Uncle Patty for a great Cheesehead sports weekend, hopefully we can do it again early next fall.

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