Brooks Presents Vick-Like Challenge


The good news is the Packers have faced a quarterback similar to the New Orleans Saints' Aaron Brooks before. The bad news is, it was just last weekend.

And as slow as the legs are to revive after chasing Michael Vick around a hot and humid Lambeau Field for not four, but five quarters, even slower is the process by which the Packers defense could begin to forget about what the Falcons' quarterback did to them last Sunday.

The numbers for Vick read: 15-of-23 for 209 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions. And that's just passing. Vick also carried the ball nine times for 72 yards -- that's an average of 8-yards per carry -- and 1 touchdown.

But Vick's performance went well beyond the numbers. He was dynamic, often dominant -- he didn't throw an incomplete pass until the third quarter. After the game he had safety Darren Sharper opining that stopping a Vick-powered Falcons offense in the red zone was a nearly impossible task, what with Vick's blazing speed and pinpoint accuracy.

So what to make of last weekend? Did the Packers' talented defense fail to live up to its preseason hype, or did Vick simply exceed his own? And with Brooks, a fleet-footed quarterback with a solid arm who happens to be Vick's second cousin, waiting in the wings, is there cause for alarm that it could be -- in the words of Yogi Berra -- déjà vu all over again for the Packers this weekend?

"When you don't execute to the expectation level, you're always concerned," Packers GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman admitted Wednesday. "I do believe in the players there in that locker that play defense for us. (They) will get it fixed this week."

What could help the Packers this Sunday, in addition to the comfortable temperatures of the Louisiana Superdome, is that in Brooks they face not only one of their former draft picks, but a player who last year provided a season's worth of film for them study.

When preparing for Vick, who had only two starts in his rookie campaign of 2001, they didn't have that luxury.

"We did play an extraordinarily talented quarterback that was new, that hadn't really shown some of the composure, accuracy (that he showed Sunday)," Sherman said of Vick. "(The Falcons coaches) didn't let him run a whole lot in the preseason, so we didn't see the complete package (on film). Not that it would have mattered a whole lot, because he kind of had his way with us, but I think our defense will rise to the occasion."

They'll have to if they want to control Brooks. Although he sputtered down the stretch throwing 13 interceptions over the final four games of 2001, in his first full season as the starter Brooks tied the team record for touchdown passes (26), while setting the mark for rushing yards by a quarterback (358) and total offensive yards (4,190).

"Those running quarterbacks that gain yardage, boy, they really change the complexity of the game," Sherman said. "Aaron is a quarterback that's mobile, that's going to look to throw it and beat you with his arm more so than his feet; although he can beat you with his feet."

Compiling a mere 9 yards rushing, Brooks hardly needed his feet in the 2002 season opener last weekend when he threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns while defeating the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, something the Packers haven't done since 1997.

If Brooks didn't have it before, certainly that win caught the Packers' attention. But as dangerous as Brooks can be, there's a contention that the Packers can't draw a tougher assignment than they did last week, up against an in-the-zone Vick and suffocating temperatures.

Even Saints Head Coach Jim Haslett said the Packers' defensive performance against Atlanta was more of an aberration than a revelation.

"I like the Packers' defense, they've got a good defense," Haslett said. "(Vick) is a talented guy. I thought he was going to be a good player. I just hate to play him two games in our division every year, but he's a heck of a player. I think that had a lot to do with the yardage last week."

While he conceded that the defense will look to right several of last weekend's wrongs, former Saint Joe Johnson agreed.

"There's only one Michael Vick in this league, thank God for that," Johnson said. "He's just one of those special players. You won't see another one like him, maybe similar, but not like him."

As for how Brooks stacks up with Vick, sack-savvy defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila suggested that while Brooks may be among the fastest rabbits in the league, he's just one of the many chasing Vick.

"(Brooks is) more like a (Daunte) Culpepper or a Donovan McNabb, those type of quarterbacks, not like a Vick," Gbaja-Biamila said. "Vick is probably one of a kind."

Considering how narrowly the Packers won their season opener, they'd better hope so.

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