Toppled by the turnover and the Minnesota Vikings on opening day, the (0-1) Green Bay Packers' focus is on "ball control" as they prime to host another NFC North Division rival, the 1-0 Detroit Lions, in Lambeau Field Sunday (Sept. 14).
A season-ticket sellout (72,515), the kickoff is set for 12 noon, CDT, Wisconsin time.
Beset by five turnovers during the course of the afternoon, the Packers saw the long-awaited celebration of the "Rebirth of Lambeau Field" dampened by a 30-25 loss to the visiting Vikings, who stepped out to a 10-0 first quarter lead Sunday and weathered a 22-point second half comeback by the Packers to emerge with a 30-25 victory.
As might be expected, the outcome was not what a record "Lambeau" house of 70,505 had in mind for the historic occasion, graced by the presence of NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, on hand to congratulate the Packers and the faithful upon completion of a $295 million renovation of the team's 46-year-old home.
The Lions, meanwhile, indicated they could well be a factor in the NFC North Division race, dispatching the Arizona Cardinals, 42-24, in their debut under their new head coach, former Packers aide Steve Mariucci.
THE TV-RADIO COVERAGE: Sam Rosen will call the play-by-play and Bill Maas will provide the analysis for the Fox Sports Network's telecast of Sunday's game against the Lions, with Chris Myers reporting from the sideline. Mike Burks is the producer and Rich Russo directs.
The game also will be aired over the 62-station Packers Radio Network, with Wayne Larrivee handling the play-by-play and Larry McCarren the commentary and analysis. The Network's broadcast also will be available on www.packers.com for NFL Field Pass subscribers.
THE SERIES: History of sorts will be made when the Packers and Lions, about to meet for the 146th time in one of the NFL's most venerable and competitive rivalries, come together in Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon.
The Lions, already the possessors of a brand new stadium in downtown Detroit (Ford Field), will find themselves making their first appearance in fully-renovated Lambeau Field, formally "re-born" in connection with the opener against the Minnesota Vikings following the completion of a three-year redevelopment project.
Detroit's impending visit is somewhat reciprocal, the Packers having provided the opposition for the Lions when they made their regular-season debut in Ford Field last September. And it was one for the memory book, the Packers building a 31-17 lead and then surviving a late resurgence by the Lions to pull out a 37-31 victory after Detroit had closed to within a field goal in the last 2 minutes.
The latter scenario was hardly a surprise, the rivalry having been one of professional football's most contentious over the past seven decades, underscored by a point differential of a mere 2.1 points per game over the 143 previous encounters.
The Packers had a more comfortable outing against their Motor City brethren in the Nov. 10 rematch in Lambeau Field, riding a 27-point second quarter eruption to a 40-14 victory.
As a result of last year's season sweep, the Green and Gold own a 14-game advantage in the series, having won 76 games while losing 62. There additionally have been 7 ties, the most recent a 13-13 standoff in Lambeau Field in 1973.
The Packers and Lions also have crossed paths twice in postseason play, with Green Bay prevailing in both games. The first one, a Wild Card playoff, was a legitimate nail-biter, the Packers coming away with a last-minute, 28-24 victory by dint of a 40-yard scoring pass from Brett Favre to wide receiver Sterling Sharpe in the closing seconds the contest - at the Pontiac, Mich., Silverdome on Jan. 8, 1994.
In another tightfisted struggle, an equally memorable Wild Card confrontation - in Lambeau Field Dec. 31, 1994, the Packers' smothering defense turned in one of the most remarkable performances in NFL history, limiting the Lions' gifted running back, Barry Sanders to a minus 1-yard rushing (in 13 attempts) en route to setting an all-time NFL record, holding the Lions to minus 4-yards on the ground as a team in a 16-12 win.
The Detroit franchise was founded in Portsmouth, Ohio, in 1930, and originally known as the Spartans before being purchased by G. A. Richards and moved to the Motor City in 1934.
THE COACHES: A model of organization, consistency and commitment, Michael Francis Sherman has - in the short span of three years - entrenched himself among the elite head coaches in the National Football League and premier field leaders in the Packers' storied history.
In those three campaigns (2000-2002), he has presided over more victories (33) than any other head coach in the Green and Gold's 84-year annals, thus surmounting a list which includes team founder Earl "Curly" Lambeau, Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren.
The impeccably organized New Englander also has matched another Lombardi accomplishment by leading the Packers into the playoffs in only his second year as head coach. He likewise ahs gone one up on him by escorting the Packers to victory in his first postseason game - an achievement that eluded Lombardi, who lost his initial playoff game as Green Bay's field leader.
In the overall process, Sherman has established himself in a greatly expanded role, (he added the titles of vice president and general manager to his résumé after one season as head coach) leading Green Bay to three consecutive winning seasons and, in 2002, to its first division championship since 1997on the way to a second consecutive playoff appearance, earning him Staples 'NFL Coach of the Year' honors for the 2002 season.
Typically, assuming the additional duties with total commitment and literally without missing a step, Sherman led the Packers to back-to-back 12-and-4 records in 2001 and 2002 - the Green and Gold thus becoming the winningest team in the league over that two-year span - including the NFL's only perfect home record (8-0) in 2002.
Moreover, the 12-4 marks have been exceeded by only four teams in the club's 82-year NFL history and the 12-12 parlay was only the second such coupling in team annals (12 or more victories in back-to-back seasons.
Along the way, the 48-year-old Northborough, Mass., native has surpassed the regular-season achievements of the fabled Lombardi over a comparable span, forging a 33-15-0 mark in his first three seasons (16-game campaigns) compared to Lombardi's 26-12-0 (two 12-game seasons and one 14-game campaign) while he served as the Packers' head coach and general manager (1959-61).
En route, Sherman has made Lambeau Field an uncomfortable place for NFL rivals to visit. Since he checked in at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in 2000, the Packers have compiled an imposing 21-4 record, the best regular-season mark in the NFL during that span.
The first man in a half-century to take on his tri-cornered role - since Lambeau served as vice president, general manager and head coach in 1949 - Sherman brings multiple credentials to his responsibilities. They include a Super Bowl following the 1997 season, during which he was a member of the Holmgren coaching staff that led the Packers into Super Bowl XXXII against the Denver Broncos at San Diego.
It was to be the first of three consecutive years in the playoffs for Sherman, who returned to the postseason as tight ends coach with the Packers in 1998 and as the offensive coordinator on Holmgren's Seattle staff in 1999.
In his 26th year in the coaching profession, the Central Connecticut State University alumnus began his coaching career at Stamford, Conn., High School in 1978. He went on to coach in the college ranks for 16 years, his résumé including one year as offensive coordinator at Holy Cross and terms as offensive line coach at such highly respected programs as UCLA and Texas A&M. He launched his NFL coaching career with the Packers in 1997, when he signed on as tight ends/assistant offensive line coach under Holmgren.
Steve Mariucci, an Upper Michigan "original" who became the 22nd head coach in Detroit's pro football history February 4, 2003, returns to his NFL roots Sunday. The 47-year-old Iron Mountain, Mich., native, a three-time All-America quarterback at Northern Michigan University, launched his NFL career as the Packers' quarterback coach (1992-95), guiding Brett Favre to his first league Most Valuable Player award in 1995.
Mariucci, who left Green Bay to become head coach at the University of California-Berkeley in 1996, has since entrenched himself among the premier head coaches in the NFL, compiling a 60-43 won-lost record as the field leader of the San Francisco 49ers (1997-2002) while escorting them into the playoffs four times (1997, 1998, 2001 and 2002).
The possessor of other impressive credentials, Mariucci is one of 13 coaches since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to lead his team to a division title in his first season. He also established an NFL mark for consecutive wins by a rookie head coach with an 11-game winning streak.
Mariucci's first pro position was in 1985 when he was receivers/tight ends coach for the USFL's Orlando Renegades. Later that fall, he had a brief stint with the Los Angeles Rams as quality control coach.
Prior to entering the pro ranks, he began his coaching career at his alma mater, Northern Michigan (1978-79), moving to Cal State-Fullerton (1980-82) and Louisville (1983-84). He joined the Southern California staff in 1986, then moved to California in 1987, later serving as the Bears' offensive coordinator in 1990-91.
THE OPPOSITION: Detroit quarterback Joey Harrington emerged from the NFL's opening weekend as the NFC's leading passer with a 116.0 rating, based on 17 completions in 30 attempts for 195 yards and 4 touchdowns, without an interception.
Lions wide receiver Charles Rogers, Harrington's primary target, is tied for the NFC lead in non-kicker scoring with 12 points and running back Olandis Gary ranks 15th among conference rushers with 44 yards in 12 attempts, a 3.7-yard average.
From the team perspective, Detroit ranks 25th on offense (25th in rushing and 19th in passing) and 32nd on defense (15th against the run and 32nd against the pass).
THE LAST TIME(S): Brett Favre threw for 357 yards and three touchdowns as the Packers held off the Lions, 37-31, in Ford Field's first official game, spoiling rookie Joey Harrington's first start in the process. Green Bay (2-1) led by 17 early in the final quarter, but Detroit (0-3) scored two TDs, including a 52-yard pass to James Stewart with 1:37 left to cut the deficit to 34-31. Darren Sharper then secured an onside kick. Ryan Longwell kicked a 47-yard field goal and Tod McBride sealed the Lions' fate, picking off Harrington's final pass.
Favre completed 31 of 47 passing attempts and on his first scoring toss, he moved past Warren Moon to fourth on the NFL's all-time touchdown-pass list with 292. The Packers played without the services of running back Ahman Green, out with a quadriceps injury. Rookie Najeh Davenport carried the load and ran for 84 yards in 22 carries.
After Detroit took a punt-return reverse 72 yards for the game's initial points, Green Bay bounced back when Steve Warren tipped a Harrington pass at the line and Marques Anderson, making his pro debut, picked it off and raced 78 yards to score.
Favre had another large afternoon in the Packers' Nov. 10 rematch with the Lions in Lambeau Field, throwing for 351 yards and 2 touchdowns en route to a 40-14 victory, thus amassing more than 700 yards through the air in the season series.
The Packers improved their NFL-best record to 8-1 while taking a 5-game lead over second-place Detroit (3-6) in the NFC North.
After running backs Ahman Green (concussion) and Najeh Davenport (foot) left with injury, Coach Mike Sherman took no more chances with Favre, who guided Green Bay on seven scoring drives in 10 possessions and completed 26 of 39 passes. He had 295 yards passing by halftime, a career-best. Donald Driver caught 11 passes for 130 yards and Ryan Longwell kicked four field goals in Green Bay's seventh straight victory - the team's longest streak within a season since 1963.
-1934: Lions' Glenn Presnell kicks then-NFL record, 54-yard field goal to defeat Packers, 3-0 (October 8) on occasion of Detroit franchise's first visit to Green Bay.
Packers return favor in '34 rematch at Detroit (November 25) when Green Bay's Clarke Hinkle kicks a 47-yard field goal to give Packers a 3-0 victory over Lions in Green Bay's first visit to Detroit.
-1945: Packers set team single game scoring record - which still stands today - with a 57-21 victory over Lions at Milwaukee's State Fair Park (October 7).
Packers' Don Hutson also establishes an NFL one-quarter scoring record, amassing 29 points in the second period, catching 4 touchdown passes and kicking 2 extra points. He later added a pair of conversions in the second half to finish the day with 31 points, then a Packers single game record.
-1950: Lions spoil Gene Ronzani's debut as Green Bay's head coach with a 45-7 victory at old City (now East) Stadium (September 17).
-1951: Detroit wins point-fest, 52-35, in Packers' first Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions (November 22). It remains the second-highest scoring game in Green Bay's history.
-1959: Packers, under new Head Coach Vince Lombardi, seep Lions for first time since 1947 (28-10 in Green Bay and 24-17 in Detroit).
-1962: Lions end Packer hopes for a perfect season, posting a 26-14 Thanksgiving Day victory (November 22). Packers subsequently finish with a 13-1 record, still the best in their history, en route to '62 NFL championship.
-1963: Packers, Lions play to 13-13 tie (November 28) in last of 13-consecutive-year Thanksgiving Day appearances in Detroit.
-1972: Packers defeat Lions in Green Bay, 33-7 (December 3) to clinch NFC Central Division championship.
-1975: Lions shade Packers, 13-10, via former Packer Errol Mann's 23-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining on Green Bay's first visit to new Pontiac Silverdome (November 16).
-1978: Second-year defensive end Ezra Johnson spearheads tight-fisted Green Bay defense with 5 quarterback sacks to key Packers' 13-7 victory in '78 season opener (September 3).
-1986: Walter Stanley's 83-yard, scoring punt return in final minute triggers 44-40 Packers, come-from-behind victory on most recent Thanksgiving Day appearance in Pontiac (November 27).
-1987: Rookie quarterback Don Majkowski, making his second start as a professional, passes for 323 yards to lead Packers past Lions at Silverdome, 34-33 (October 11).
-1989: Packers pull out a 23-20 win in overtime at Milwaukee on a 38-yard Chris Jacke field goal at 2:14 of sudden death period (October 29).
-1990: Trailing 21-10 at the end of three quarters, Packers forge come-from-behind, 24-21 victory, quarterback Don Majkowski hitting wide receiver Jeff Query in the end zone with a 26-yard scoring pass in the final minute for the winning margin (September 30).
-1990: Leading Lions 17-10 early in fourth quarter in Lambeau Field's coldest game day since the legendary "Ice Bowl." Packers see Detroit's Ray Crockett convert a mid-air "recovery" of an Ed West fumble into a 22-yard scoring runback, then watch Lions recover a Michael Haddix fumble at their own 35 and drive to winning touchdown, a 6-yard run by Barry Sanders, to escape with a 24-17 win. Darrell Thompson earlier had warmed hearts of 46,700 shivering faithful by returning second half kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown - the Packers' longest KOR of the season - as the wind chill descends to 35 degrees below zero during course of the game.
THE INJURY REPORT: The status of wide receivers Donald Driver (sprained neck) and Robert Ferguson (knee/ankle) for Sunday's game against Detroit is uncertain, according to Packers Trainer Pepper Burruss. Both were injured in the loss to Minnesota. Wide receiver Karsten Bailey (hamstring) also is questionable for the Lions contest, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said.
THE (NFL) STATISTICAL UPDATE: Running back Ahman Green led the NFL in the production of first downs in Sunday's opening regular season action with 11, six via rushing and five receiving and also tied for the league lead in non-kicker scoring with 12 points on a pair of rushing touchdowns.
In addition, the fifth-year professional is tied for sixth place in the NFC in receptions with 7 and ranks ninth in the NFC in total yards from scrimmage with 115.
Rookie Antonio Chatman registered the NFL's second-longest kickoff return of the opening week, a 46-yard second-quarter runback. He also ranks eighth among NFC punt returners with a 6.5 average and ninth in kickoff returns with a 22.3-yard average for 6 returns.
Quarterback Brett Favre ranks seventh in the conference in 4th-quarter passing, having completed 7 of 13 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown, with one interception.
As a team, the Packers rank 17th on offense (27th in rushing and 11th in passing) and 24th on defense (29th against the run and 12th against the pass).
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