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Close Doesn't Count

by Tom King

The Green Bay Packers can't win close games.Once again on Sunday the Packers let a lead slip away and the Bengals pulled out a 34-30 win. Both teams had four turnovers and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. But the Packers fumble occurred on a 4th and inches when they were trying to ice the game. Rookie Jon Franklin, who had run well in this one replacing the injured James Starks coughed it up and Terence Newman returned it for a score. There will be plenty of talk this week about why the Packers went into Cincy with only 2 healthy running backs. In today's NFL you had to believe that James Starks would never make it through the game without getting dinged. But I would rather talk about the play call on 4th and inches with the game on the line. Mike McCarthy said after the game that it always comes down to the play caller. When a play works its because of good execution by the players...when it doesn't it's because of a lousy play caller. He's right. In baseball when a suicide squeeze works it because the hitter got the bunt down...when it doesnt it's a stupid call by manager. I have no gripe about going for it in that situation...9 out of ten times you pick up the yardage no problem....but what ever happened to the good old quarterback sneak? not to sound like one of those "things were better back in the old days" guys...but wouldnt a quick count sneak with Rodgers pick up a few inches without putting the ball in the hands of a rookie playing his first game against a rabid Bengal defense looking to strip the ball? And what about my opening comment up top....The Packers cannot win close games....In Mike McCarthy's seven plus seasons, the team is 9-20 in games decided by four points or less and Aaron Rodgers is 6-18 in those games. Close isn't good enough if you're going to the Super Bowl.

Got my first extended look at the Badgers this week. I'm plenty excited about the run game. Melvin Gordon looks like a superstar in the making and James White and Cory Clement are right behind him. Too bad they will also need a passing game if they want to beat the big boys. Stave is not quite their yet although he doesnt have many weapons to throw to with the exception of Jared Abredderis. We will know more after Saturday night.

We say goodbye this week to Mariano Rivera...the greatest closer in major league history. And what makes it even more amazing is he did it with every batter knowing what was coming. They still couldnt hit his cutter. And to think that he almost got traded twice in his early days for the likes of Felix Fermin or David Wells. As a Red Sox fan I couldnt stand the Yankees...but you had to realize you were witnessing one of the greatest whenever "Enter Sandman" blared through the stadium speakers.

Speaking of one of the greatest. The Red Sox unveiled a statue yesterday outside Fenway Park for Carl Yastrzemski. He played all of his 23 seasons in Boston hitting 452 homers and winning the Triple Crown in 1976. I wore #8 in my high school and Legion playing days in honor of my favorite player.