Thursday’s win over the Bears was a pleasant surprise to me. Going in, I expected my beloved Packers to lose. It’s always fun to win one over the Bears and on a night when so much went right for the Packers my favorite moment was the fake field goal .
Here’s why –
4’th and 26 – There aren’t many down and distance measurements that have their own wikipedia page. But 4’th down and 26 yards does. For it was one of the most unbelievable plays in NFL history. Personally it’s like a childhood scar that never went away. Prior to the 2004 game, I was two years in to being a hardcore Packer fan and was fresh off my first (and only visit yet) to Lambeau field. I was young, naive and completely sucked in by the mystique of Lambeau, Favre and cold weather. Seven days earlier, I had watched in person, Al Harris win a game in the most memorable manner possible. I was told by Wisconsinites that the Packers never lost when it was cold. They had also won five straight including an unforgettable Monday nighter a day after their beloved quarterback’s father died. Ahman Green was running the ball like a man possessed by the ghost of Bruce Wayne and a Superbowl berth beckoned the team of destiny.
The Packers started strong and looked unbeatable en route to a 14-0 lead. Favre and the offense looked crisp while Mcnabb and Andy Reid looked just like they always did in their annual playoff pushes
poops. Sometime in the second quarter, head coach Mike Sherman went for it on a fourth and goal dagger rather than a ‘measly’ 17-0 lead only to be stopped just short. A play that could have turned the notoriously fickle Eagles crowd on the home team and led to a Packer rout instead triggered a slow and painful-to-watch Packer degradation that took the better part of 5 years to recover from.
The rest of the game was largely forgettable. Both teams looked out of sync and struggled to score points. What I remember most vividly though is how inevitable a Packer loss started to seem as the game wore on even though the Packers never trailed in regulation. With every second half Packer drive that failed to result in a touchdown, an eerie sense of doom gathered strength. Eventually, The Eagles clawed their way to within 3 in the fourth quarter only to face the aforementioned fourth and 26. It is hard to describe what the minute surrounding that play felt like for me. I was convinced the Eagles wouldn’t convert on it. But I also knew of Sherman’s annoying tendency to play prevent defense. Mcnabb got adequate protection on the play and the rest is history.
I don’t think there was a single Packer fan who thought the result was in any doubt after that play. And since that day, 4’th and 26 has been a very dark place for all Packer fans. To a lot of us it is a recurring nightmare every time the opposition throws one deep. PREVENT DEFENSE is about as bad a noun in Wisconsin since that play. It is a play, the reaction to which led to one of the worst drafts in Packer history (Ahmad Carroll plus BJ Sander anyone?).
I for one didn’t think the memory could ever be undone. Playoffs and Superbowls may come and go but the throw and catch lies firmly imprinted in most Packer memories. Until Thursday…..
Mike Mccarthy’s gutsy fourth and 26 fake field goal call and the excellent execution by all involved (including the replacement refs) made up for eight scarred years. While it may have been fitting to have pulled this off against the Eagles, the Bears are a worthy opponent for such revenge. For years, Lovie Smith’s offensively challenged cast of Bears have used special teams prowess to beat the Packers. The highlight was this unforgettable special teams’ call last year. Even though it was nullified it showed the kind of voodoo the Bears constantly attempted and pulled off against the Packers.
To pull off what they did yesterday against the Bears at the moment did was amazing. To me it was 1 part revenge, 1 part vindication, 1 part pleasant-surprise and 1 part pride. And 26 alphabets are not enough to express how happy I am that Fourth and 26 will no longer be an F-phrase in Packer parlance.
Go Pack, Go