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I was off my game at Lambeau

September 11, 2011
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

I've always said I'm a sports fan first, and a journalist second. I honestly didn't get into the business because I love to write. I became a sports writer because I love sports.

While my love of sports has not diminished one bit, I'm starting to question my status as a fan.

Via Twitter, Green Bay Packers offensive guard Josh Sitton ( let the fans at Lambeau Field have it on Friday, saying the crowd was too quiet during the New Orleans Saints' drive in the final minute of regulation that stalled on the 1-yard line with no time left on the clock.

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I was one of the 70,000-plus in Lambeau Field for the NFL Kickoff spectacle. While I'd like to tell you I was screaming my lungs out and doing the best I could to drown out quarterback Drew Brees' play call from Section 111, Row 59, Seat 12, I can't.

While those around me, including my father, were doing their best to make as much noise as they could, I was silently analyzing the Saints' formation and breaking down the personnel package Packers' defensive coach Dom Capers had brought in to stop the run.

It was a theme all night for me.

On offense, it was tough not to watch the blatant mismatch of Saints strong safety Roman Harper trying to cover Packers tight end Jermichael Finley.

Twice, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers could have kept drives alive by throwing to Finley while he was in single coverage against Harper. Instead, Rodgers went elsewhere with the ball.

While others were cheering, I continued to analyze the Saints' use of their safeties. New Orleans was so concerned with Greg Jennings as a deep threat that the free safety spent most the night playing 20-25 yards off the line of scrimmage.

While Jennings never broke lose for a 60 to 80-yard TD, Randall Cobb was able to use the space provided to gain speed and run 32-yards for a touchdown, stiff-arming Malcolm Jenkins along the way.

Beyond that, I took note of how the Packers were using running backs James Starks and Ryan Grant.

I was shocked to see James Jones slip to sixth on the receiver depth chart behind Jennings, Donald Driver, Finley, Jordy Nelson and Cobb.

I couldn't help but wonder why the Packers re-signed Jones - he was targeted once, making one catch for one yard - if they weren't going to use him.

What I should have been thinking about was cutting Grant from my fantasy team because by season's end, he'll be nothing but a third down back.

Throw me on the James Starks bandwagon. He was just that much more explosive than the veteran.

Storylines and headlines filled my head following the game, from the coming-out party of Cobb to the defensive stand at the end by the Packers.

Sean Payton's play call may have been surprising to some, but it was the obvious choice in my mind after watching the Saints' offensive line blow up the Packers' defensive front all night.

I have tickets to one more Packers game at Lambeau this season, when the Bears visit on Christmas Day. My seats that day will be more fan friendly in Row 5 as opposed to sportswriter friendly in Row 59.

There's no better place in sports than Lambeau Field in my mind, whether you're on the field, in row 59, or in the press box. As my dad said Thursday night, "This is the biggest sporting event in the world right now, and we're a part of it."

On Thursday, you didn't even have to be one of the 70,000-plus inside the stadium to have a great time as Kid Rock put on one heck of a show for the estimated 70,000 outside the stadium.

Maroon 5 and Lady Antebelum - not so much.

Hopefully, I can be a better fan that day and overcome the hours and hours and hours I spend each week as a quiet, non-partisan observer of sports from sidelines and press boxes.

It will be a tough habit to shake, but hopefully, I won't let Sitton down again.

At least, I pulled off the card stunts correctly.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is



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