Two of the best offenses in football making two of the better defenses in football looking invisible. Two of the best quarterbacks on earth one-upping each other on every other drive. Darren Sproles slicing through Packers in one direction, and Randall Cobb weaving 108 yards down the field the other way. And then that final play, distilling the whole insane spectacle down to the basics. One yard, and one play, to decide the whole thing. Jesus.
A good game wasn't surprising... From my NFL preview Thursday morning:
You could make a case that the past two Super Bowl champions are better now than they were the year they won it all. So, yeah: Tonight should be pretty fantastic. It's almost too bad it's coming in Week 1, because I feel like we'd appreciate it more if this game went down, say, eight weeks from now.
But THAT game on Thursday night was on a whole 'nother level. The sort of thing that leaves you out of breath afterward, and then you spend the next 30 minutes thinking about how great it is to have football back.
Of course, once the NFL comes back, we're reminded there's something about the NFL that feels omnipotent. No less than the President of the United States scheduled his speech around the NFL's opener. The league's ubiquitous, and between the endless partnerships with corporate America, the billion dollar TV deals, the 24-hour coverage, sometimes it starts to seem a little bit insane. It feels like pro football systematically hypnotizes America, turning hundreds of millions into hopeless addicts, that consume football year-round, and when they're not watching it, they're dreaming about it. Then a game like Thursday happens, and you see what the fuss is all about. It's not just the league that seems too good to be true; the games deliver, too. This is why the NFL works.
So really, are we sure it wasn't scripted? Are we sure it's not all part of a massive corporate conspiracy where the NFL slowly takes over the world? There was even a controversial final play to keep cable sports shows arguing about this game 'till Sunday, and wonder insane things, like whether Sean Payton "lost his nerve". Keep in mind that this is Week 1, the Saints are working in a completely new running game, and on some level, New Orleans will need time to master a situation like Thursday night--from who to run with to who to run behind, to what formations to run. Had the play worked, we'd all be talking about how great it was that he trusted his running game.
Instead, the Packers defensive line owned the Saints up front, and Green Bay won round one of a matchup that'll hopefully be revisited in January. It doesn't even matter that the tackling was as sloppy as the NFL's ever seen and it took three quarters for the Saints defense to show up.
Complaining about defense in a game between Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees is like complaining about the miles-per-gallon on a Ferrari. They completed 69-84 passes for 731 yards and six touchdowns Thursday night, and they both looked about as flawless and unstoppable as any player in the league. If it hadn't been for Marques Colston's first quarter fumble, there's a decent chance that both teams would have traded scoring drives for the entire first half.
The Packers ultimately looked like the better team Thursday, but this is September. Even during a normal year the first month of the season should be taken with a grain of salt, but especially after a year where the NFL has had five weeks to break in new personnel. People crowning the Packers seem to forget that Green Bay was playing at home with mostly the same roster as the year before.
What's scary about the Saints is how they could improve--their new defensive line can't possibly be that bad all year, Payton will get better at juggling Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram to take pressure off Drew Brees (he can't throw 49 passes if New Orleans is going to win), and what's most incredible about Thursday night's game is that a rematch could be even better.
And that's the thing: A game like Thursday's is a football fan's fantasy, but when it was all over, it only left me going to sleep and dreaming about what's next.
(Just like the Roger Goodell scripted it, right?)