This is an exercise in tough love. Since contributing to the Packers secondary for the past two seasons Atari Bigby has developed a knack for making mistakes at crucial times when they mattered the most. Bigby would take his helmet off after a big hit, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Bigby would bump a receiver 20 yards off the line late in the game, stopping the clock and yielding advantageous field position. Bigby had a tendency for messing up late in the game and for losing focus, an unforgivable fault in the National Football League.
But 2008 is a new season for the Green Bay Packers and all players are a newly baptized tabula rasa. They step onto the field, liberated of sin and shrouded in religious metaphor by an audience that needs to quickly finish East of Eden so they stop trying to sound like Steinbeck. But last night, during the season opener between the Packers and the Vikings, Green Bay’s undisciplined back field threatened progress once again.
A pivotal Third and Five in the late fourth quarter for the Vikings threatened to end the drive Tarvaris Jackson was leading into Packer territory. Down by 12 the Viking’s needed a conversion to stay competitive. Conversely, the Packers needed a stop. After the snap, the Packer line collapsed the pocket quickly and closed in on Jackson. Poised under pressure Jackson resorted to his last option as play-maker and lofted the ball down the line to a receiver in man coverage, hoping for a penalty. The ball wafted in the air like a fat man’s fingers hovering indecisively over an Almond and Coconut Joy. The pass was incomplete, but flag on the play.
In a night plagued by penalties, this was by far one of the worst. The defensive pass interference call would give the Vikings a fresh set of downs and Adrian Petersen the opportunity to run it in for a touchdown. The culprit on the penalty was not Atari Bigby but rather Tramon Williams. Bigby’s innocence aside, the mental lapse on what could have been the turning point of the game is indicative of the larger problems the Packers defense face.
Bringing the point home and perhaps setting the stage for the drama to unfold throughout the season was Atari Bigby’s massive interception to thwart the Vikings potentially game-winning drive. What Bigby did after intercepting the ball, however, speaks volumes about the tremendous room for error that exists among the Packers’ backs. Instead of taking a knee and allowing his offense to run out the clock, Bigby attempted to return the interception. Even Kornheiser on play-by-play stared in disbelief, muttering on national television, “Nothing good can come of this, Bigby. Nothing good.” Fortunately for all in Packer country nothing bad came of Bigby’s decision to gallivant around the field like a court jester. He was finally brought down, in possession of the skin, allowing Fav-er, A-Rodge and Co. to come out and knee it out.
Bigby’s lack of foresight into the game made it seem okay in his mind to scamper around the field of play when his job was already done and his heroic status already confirmed. Fortunately on Tuesday morning it’s funny and not morose. But the past two years have seen far too many crucial stops squandered because of mental lapses on the part of the Packers secondary, particularly by Atari Bigby. A new year and a new quarterback mean all can begin again, free from the baggage of past performance. Bigby has the potential to be, well, big, as his name implies and not a mental midget. It’d be a shame if his mistakes got the best of him. We’re not insulting you, Atari, because you could break us like a Desert Storm an Iraqi POW. Some might call it hate, but we here on ‘dem blogs prefer the term tough love.