Saturday, January 2, 2016

5 (More) Questions with Vikings Territory

With the last regular season game upon us and a division crown on the line, Adam Warwas of VikingsTerritory fame once again asked to pick our brain. Since the last result was so satisfying, I thought I'd give it another go. 

1.    Last time you stopped by, our readers had some fun with your answers in our comments section, but it was you and Packers fans everywhere that got the last laugh. The Packers beat down the Vikings in a 30-13 romp at TCF Bank Stadium. Is Green Bay destined to repeat this success at home or has something changed since November that causes concern about this matchup?
Going into the TCF game, we were coming off a streak of three mind-numbingly bad losses. Last week, we were flat-out embarrassed. Injuries have mounted and some frustrations vented, but there’s something about playing the Vikings that brings out the best in the Packers. I’m willing to bet that’s in the back of the minds of both the players and fans of Minnesota.
2.    I'm a firm believer that seldom are there "experts" out there better at analyzing any given team than their fan base that pay close attention to every snap, every success, and every failure. Assuming you fall into that category, what weakness to the Packers currently display that could most effectively be exploited by the Vikings?
How’s your pass rush these days? Oh, it’s good you say? Damn. It’s no secret the Packers’ offensive line is one ailing unit. Combine that with receivers that aren’t getting open and it could be a long night. For the Vikings, the timing is excellent, but as the players like to say, it’s all about execution.
3.    The NFC playoff participants are decided and both of our teams are in. All that is left is seeding and, specific to this game, deciding whether or not the Vikings can take Green Bay's throne atop the NFC North. Can you tell me what the atmosphere is right now within your fan base? Is there excitement like there is with ours? Is there disappointment that Green Bay hasn't locked it up already? Is the gaze already set upon the playoffs and advancing there? Tell me about how the narrative is playing out east of the border.
The Vikings and their fans should be thrilled to have a chance to take the division at Lambeau on the last game of the year. As for the GB fan base, a minority of beastly trolls have staggered out from under their bridges. It happens from time to time. But when you are accustomed to being so good for so long, any chink the armor is magnified. I’m a believer in this team, but the concern is falling short this year and not maximizing the time with our future HOFer at QB. Despite a few rumblings of laying down this week for a better playoff matchup, I get the impression most fans are just hoping the coaches can make adjustments, replacements step up and the team makes a statement Sunday.
4.    Last time you were here, you opined that the Packers should be far more concerned with stopping Adrian Peterson than Teddy Bridgewater. Since then, Bridgewater has been playing quarterback at a much higher level and had a December to remember. Has your opinion as to whether or not Bridgewater is a legitimately dangerous opponent changed since our last time talking?
No, not really. The majority of has been against weaker teams, and a very poor decision late against the Cardinals cost you guys arguably your biggest win of the year. He’s decent though, and clearly locked in as your guy for a while. If I’m planning against the Vikings, it’s still about stopping AP.
5.    Last week was rough for the Packers. Of course, I love to talk some trash when I see something like that happen, but the truth is that this type of experience is not something Green Bay has experienced much of for a long, long time. Vikings fans cannot say the same. Do you think the Packers will be disheartened by this loss and allow it to carry over to the postseason or are they mentally tough enough to forget about it and move forward with even more motivation?
Good question, and I don’t have a clue. Maybe the Packers don’t either, and won’t until the game gets going. If they happen to fall behind early, it’s going to be hard. As a fan, the belief in Packer comebacks has taken a hit this year despite the Miracle in Motown.
BONUS: Got a prediction for us on the outcome of Sunday night's game?
Essentially repeat of last game: Packers 30, Vikings 17.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

5 Questions with Vikings Territory

Adam Warwas over at VikingsTerritory reached out to us to answer a few questions (in bold) and I gladly answered. While we've had some fun trash-talking with these guys in the past, I was *a little* more straightforward this time. Please let us know what you think in the comments.

1. The obvious elephant in the room is that the Packers are on a three game slide and playing some pretty ugly, relatively speaking, football. Can you talk a little bit about what factors have been involved with these three losses and what solutions the team might try to employ in Minnesota?

It’s as though they went on a two-week bender and were still hungover last week. A good night’s sleep and a strong cup of coffee should sufficiently wake them up. Rodgers has always been a master of improvisation and there’s a chance he’s been boxed in by some vanilla play calling. Giving him more freelance ability with the secondary playmakers will keep defenses guessing and frustrated before #12 drops the hammer.

2. Prior to the season, I'm on record saying that Eddie Lacy being on that Packers roster is just plain unfair. As it turns out, Lacy's year is going pretty poorly and Green Bay is looking fairly one-dimensional on offense these days. Is that a fair assessment and how is that impacting Aaron Rodgers?

While it’s not ideal, Lacy’s short history has indicated he may be a slow starter. Couple that with an injury and the numbers speak for themselves. Starks is a very capable backup but brings a different set of skills to the scheme, probably resulting in more week-to-week adjustments on offense than preferred. That being said, I don’t know it impacts Rodgers that much. I mean, he won the MVP in 2011 when the team was 28th in rushing. He hasn’t played his greatest, but his receivers outside of Cobb and James Jones are relatively young and inexperienced as well. Some struggles are to be expected. As they mature and gain Rodgers’ trust, the offense will get exponentially better sooner than later.

3. Can you tell Vikings fans a bit about Green Bay's 2015 rookie class? I'd like to get your perspective on which rookies are contributing to the success of the team and which have been underwhelming.

In typical draft-and-develop fashion, we picked up some supporting cast members in Rounds 1-3 and depth the rest of the way. You’ll want to pay attention to our first pick especially, Damarious Randall, who has already save our behinds more than once in the secondary. Ty Montgomery, our return guy and WR, appears to be healthy enough to contribute in a variety of ways. Quinten Rollins is real intriguing ball hawk with upside in the secondary. He’s actually a former college basketball player who was his conference’s defensive player of the year his senior year – the only year he played college football. There’s a chance you might see John Kuhn’s potential successor and fellow redhead, Aaron Ripowski, aka “The Ripper.” Jack Ryan of “Sixteen Candles” fame is also an intriguing middle linebacker to watch – if not this season, then the next.

4. The Vikings have really had a hard time getting Adrian Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater both into rhythm at the same time. By that, I mean that the offense has yet to fire on all cylinders in 2015. This Dom Capers defense has had ups and downs this season, and I'm wondering if you think the Vikings are most likely to find success through the air or on the ground?

Ha! I mean, what do you think? Despite his decent weapons, if Teddy has above-average success through the air it would probably be a surprise to everyone. #5 is still growing but you have to wonder if there’s much ceiling left to reach? Of course it’s the ground game that’s the concern. Even though we’ve won the majority of the matchups, Peterson has almost single-handedly kept you in the game. If he’s semi-contained, I don’t see you winning through the air.

5. Look, I understand that divisional games are always hard-fought, and they can be as unpredictable as they are difficult to win. Still, the Green Bay fans seem to be taking last week's loss to the Lions particularly hard. To those fans that seem to think the sky is falling in Wisconsin, what message would you like to relay?

At 6-3, many other teams would gladly trade to be in our shoes. That said, we’ve set the bar high and expect more. Fans should know the upside of this team by now and that if we get into the playoffs, there’s a helluva a good chance we can make this season special. Go troll your boat somewhere else.

BONUS: Have a prediction for the outcome of Sunday's game?
Hard-fought 27-20 Packers victory.

Our question for Vikings Territory: If the Vikings were sitting at .500 or below at this point, what would be the initial offer to Ragnar to come back and save the Vikings’ season?

Vikings Territory: Unlike the Packers, the Vikings are not that dependent on any individual, nor do we live in “What If” Land and dwell on the past. The fact is that we currently sit atop the NFC North and the Minnesota Vikings, not the Green Bay Packers, are the present and motivated to place Green Bay firmly in the past.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Packers' Defensive Mystery Has Been Solved

At some point, someone decided that a team's defense should be judged on yards given up. That's cool. I mean, offenses get bonus points for yardage milestones during NFL games, so if you don't give up yards you limit these opponents' bonus points. What? That's just fantasy football? Oh. So total defense is just yards? Huh. Seems like scoring usually determines the victor of any given football contest. Am I right on that? I am? Okay, good.

Hello, what have we here? The Packers have the best scoring defense in the NFL? Interesting. Sometimes it's hard to hear over the "Fire Capers" chants, so I'll repeat, the Packers have the number one scoring defense in the NFL. This got me wondering, "How is the defense this good?" Being the inquisitive type, I started asking around hoping to find some clues as to the defense's emergence. I got nothing but dead ends. No one was talking. 

Finally, I followed up on one last lead. It was a long shot. I contacted a security guard at the Hutson Center whom I had helped recover a Travis Jervey autographed cheesehead for a few years ago. We'll call him "Tommy". Unfortunately for Tommy, his dog had eaten it, so the recovery operation was suboptimal. Anyway, Tommy owed me a favor. I texted him over the bye week to see if he had noticed anything different during his time around the practice facilities. His reply was brief. All his text said was, "Follow the Clay."

Following the Packers' best defensive player seemed like a good, and fairly obvious, place to start to get to the bottom of this excellent defensive start for the team. So during the bye week, I tailed Clay Matthews to see if I could find his secret. While he did his best to conceal his activities, he was no match for my superior sleuthing skills. What I found was shocking. 

Clay Matthews was training actual bronco. Amazing. His ability to physically outmatch and mentally destroy his enemies was the product of training against his LITERAL opponents. This explained so much. It was all becoming apparent. The mystery of Packers stingy defense has been solved.

As you can see from the photo above, Matthews seems more than ready to take on the Broncos tonight. It's going to be a bloodbath. Packers 34, Broncos -15.

***Disclaimer: Neither The Packer Ranter nor Clay Matthews will accept liability for your health or safety if you decide to take on a similar training regimen. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Catching Up on Some Correspondence

Usually during the bye week, I divide my time equally between replenishing my cheese stores, taking bratwurst inventory and telling Robert that I would finally sit down and write a Rant. Well, the bye week is almost gone. I have a house that smells like Gruyere, Gorgonzola and goat cheese, a solid handle on my remaining bratwurst supplies and zero inspiration to weave a cogent, yet brilliant, analysis of the Green Bay Packers. I told Robert this. His reply: "Do it, or you're fired."

He's right. Time to get motivated. I sat down with a brick of Havarti, hit "play" on my Tracy White training montage video and waited for the creative juices to start flowing. Three hours later, I awoke from my cheese coma. The answer had come to me in a dairy-induced dream: "What's the easiest way to find something to write about? Make someone else think of it." I'll sort through some emails and share my responses. I believe it's called a "Mailbag".

Right on. Here we go.

DraftKings, DraftKings, FanDuel, LinkedIn, DraftKings, ESPN Fantasy, LinkedIn, FanDuel, Cheese of the Month Club, FanDuel, Twitter "Follow: @Vikings, @DarrenRovell and @notTedThompson" ...sigh...well, maybe this isn't going to go exactly as...wait a minute, what's this?

SUBJECT: morons 
Dear Kool Aid Drinkers, 

 You're guys are like all the rest of the "media". People bring up actual points about why our team is not as good as people say, and you think you know better than real fans because you have a blog. Wake up it's 2015, and your the only 2 guys too still blog. You just say, there 6-0 in response to everything. 6-0? Means nothing…NOTHING. How many times have we steamrolled in the regular season now to be caught with our pants down in the playoffs? It’s such a waste of talent. Before you know it, Rodgers will be gone with ONE SB and maybe another regualr season MVP. My question…for what?  And the so called other “playmakers”? Lacy—ha! Everyone puts him in commercials after last year and now look at him!... Hurt? MOre like an overweight, plodding has-been after only two years! GIVE STARKS THE DANG BALL! Play that harris guy too. He had a good run this year. We’ve got ONE guy on defense capable of making a play but guess what? He can’t stay healthy! If you get half a season from Clay consider yourself lucky.  And Cobb? Jordy? Those guys are hurt to, look at all that money you wasted that could’ve gone to getting some real playmakers on defense. SIgn a free agent one time. In case you forgot – DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS. And we’ve been bottom of the barrel for YEARS in that category. So bad in fact an average QB like Patrick Rivers comes in with no run and throws 500 FREAKING YARDS, a week after a ROOKIE running back goes for 150+!!! Meanwhile just wait until the playoffs when we lose at home. Probnably to the Giants again. ELI MANNING will get at LEAST one more because at the Giants know how to build a winner by drafting that Beckman receiver. Ted "trust Me" Thompson needs to take some lessons from a winner. I’ll take a couple crappy seasons in between if that’s what it takes. Wake me up when its over.Then you'll see us real fans were right. 
Fed up with mediocraty, 

 I didn't know how to respond. First of all, I'm not used to getting fan mail. Secondly, I know another guy with a blog, so it's not really cool to say we're the only two. Sure, podcasts are sweet because you can listen to them when you're at the gym wailing on your pecs but to write on the internet will never not be cool. Also, I haven't actually written anything here since June (it's pretty accurate though), and the last thing Robert did was give some helpful tips about tailgating, so I'm not quite sure where this is coming from. He must have seen, and obviously been frustrated by, our unwavering positivity on Twitter.
I jotted down some initial notes for a response. Labeling anyone who doesn't agree with you as "media" is always a pretty weak start to any argument but comparing them to us is an insult. To them. I mean, they have jobs and are professional, and a lot of times, they are right about things. We usually shoot for a nice 70%, good ol' C average. 6-0? I personally think making it six games into the season is a pretty good barometer of where a team stands, even though things will undoubtedly shift as the year progresses, but to each their own. I'm not sure I know how to respond to the portion on Aaron Rodgers' legacy. I'm not Biff Tannen, I can't consult Gray's Sports Almanac to see what will happen. Falling back to the "Lacy looks big argument"? Well, it could maaaaybe, possibly, slightly be the ankle injury, but I'm no doctor. Defensive playmakers, I'm pretty sure the defense won the Packers a couple games this year, oh well, recency effect of Patrick Rivers, I guess. On Eli Manning...

Ah, forget it, I just take a stab at writing a response.

I really appreciate you taking the time to write to us and share your thoughts on the Green Bay Packers, [REDACTED]. I can tell you are incredibly passionate about the team and care about their long term success. Go, Pack. Go! Am I right? Who is your favorite player on the Packers? I really like Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Do you have any fun gameday rituals? I wear the same socks every game. Hahaha. What is your favorite tailgate food? If you're from Wisconsin, it must be bratwurst, right? I sometimes make chili though too. Do you like sauerkraut? I love it. You know a lot about football, you must have played. High school? I played tight end and punter. Did you know Tim Masthay's nickname is "Ginger Wolverine"? Pretty awesome, right? Wolverine is my favorite X-Man. Haha. Who is yours? Do you like going to Packers' games? Lambeau Field is so cool, right? It's great when everyone yells, "Go, Pack, Go!" and does the wave. I'll bet you have some good ideas about plays the Packers should run. You should send them to the coaches. Hahaha. Bye weeks are so boring, aren't they? Anyway, it was great to hear from you. Keep up the great work as a Packers fan and Get Loud Lambeau, right? Ha! Did you get one of those shirts? You should they are cool. Go, Pack!
Frank Hillside

I really think I matched the sophistication of the initial email. I hope [REDACTED] writes back. Pen pals are fun. Feel free to use this email as a template when responding to other "passionate" fans.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

10 People You Don't Bring to a Tailgate

1. The Sloppy
A little splash here, a broken bottle there – it’s all good for the Sloppy. After all, it’s a party and that’s why they invented napkins and washing machines. It’ll only get worse as the day goes on as you watch the Sloppy’s drink hand flail around in new and unexpected ways with every first down. Anyone sitting within a five-foot radius of this person during the game is going to get wet. I suggest donning your custom Gortex jumpsuit before you head in. If you can’t spot the Sloppy within the first half hour, you are the Sloppy.

2. Cell Phone Guy
You tailgate for the comradery. To catch up. To BS. To enjoy each other’s company while sharing the common interest in that of the team. But Cell Phone Guy has never grasped that concept because his head is either buried in his phone or he’s talking to someone (probably quite loudly). If it buzzes, tones or rings, he must give it full and immediate attention.

3. Sir Betsalot
I have no problem throwing a little cash into a friendly wager or fantasy football. But when Sir Betsalot comes along, he’ll want to not only gamble on every game that day, but also every possible spread or statistic he can think of, or that you want to volunteer. There might even be kickers, bonuses or parlay opportunities. Your fellow tailgaters will hear a lot of “You want in?” that day. The odds are usually in his favor if for no other reason than he has the most experience and you just bet to get him to shut up. Just so no one forgets, this walking casino will take copious notes on every bet and remind the group who took what throughout the day.

4. In Ted We Trust Guy
This one is unique to the Packer fan kingdom. At the end of the day, you have no clue what a Packers draft pick will turn into. So amid mock drafts and mass speculation diarrhea, I love the phrase “In Ted We Trust” – you need to just have faith that Ted and the organization know what they’re doing. However, I’ve seen people so pro TT that in their eyes, Ted Thompson is impervious and undeserving of any criticism and only worthy of never-ending praise. Infallible. First round a bust? Not his fault. Just lost in the playoffs? Just part of his plan. Don’t bother to question whether the Packers will win that day because you know the answer you’ll get.

5. The Scab
This person shows up with nothing but a healthy appetite. Maybe they’ll use the excuse “I didn’t know we were supposed to bring anything.” Five minutes later they’ll be sitting in your chair, drinking your beer, and asking what’s on the menu. If you ask for money, he’ll insist he’ll “get you next time.” The ongoing reckless indulgence and subsequent excuses are simply part of this seasoned moocher’s resumé. Do not hesitate to publicly shame the Scab – it is our only hope.

6. Dale Kazwicki
Just trust me on this one, OK?

7. Man of a Thousand Requests (MoTR)
A close relative of the Scab, the MoTR wants you to make him a drink – whatever that yummy-looking thing you made for yourself that probably costs $15 inside. Same goes for your food. He has no boundaries. In fact, he might even ask to go inside your car to pee in a bottle instead of waiting in line at the official bathrooms. He wants to trade places with you at the game. Any time someone leaves a seat at the game, MoTR asks them to pick up another drink, and perhaps some nachos. And at the end of the night, he’ll want a ride home because he got too wasted. But first he wants you to swing through Taco Bell. Oh, and can he borrow five bucks?

8. Agenda Guy
This guy begins to deflate your tailgate before it even begins. Expect numerous emails with itemized lists of responsibilities and well as a tentative schedule disguised as “options.” His OCD carries over in ways you never imagined, and while you appreciate the fact he is prepared for every possible scenario, adhering to his strict timelines and strategic rendezvous points will make your party suffer.

9. Uncle Rico
“Yes, I believe you could throw the ball over that row of cars and hit me in the numbers on the run. You don’t have to prove anything.” For the Uncle Ricos of the world, the football is the first thing in the car and the first thing to come out when you get there. At minimum, there will be lengthy, competitive game of catch. More than likely, there will be play calling and you will run the play as designed and clearly called out by your group’s Uncle Rico. The other tailgaters in the lot will just have to grow eyes in the back of their heads. By the end of the day, you will have apologized to no less than five groups for Uncle Rico smashing their bottles or knocking over their grills. It’s all for the tailgate glory.

10. The Loud Mouth             
Urban Dictionary actually summarizes a Loud Mouth pretty well.

Moreover, while in a group of his so-called peers, he’ll feel that much more empowered to speak his mind and trash talk the out-of-town family with little kids wearing the opponent’s jersey. You’re lucky if he gets away with just offending someone. If you think he’s an embarrassment to be associated with at your tailgate, wait until you get into the game. Note: the Loud Mouth is an equal gender offender.

Did I get them all? Do you think this article could appear on Buzzfeed? Be honest.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Favre-orite Moments: Fan Submissions

In honor of Favre week, I polled my Packer friends for their Favreorite Favre memory. I was not disappointed. Thanks to everyone who responded. Enjoy…

"Who can forget Favre’s touchdown pass to Andre Rison in Super Bowl XXXI when he immediately took off his helmet and sprinted toward the sideline? Pure elation. Although I was only four years old at the time and don’t remember it happening specifically, that’s still one of my favorite Favre highlights."

"Has to be the Monday Night Football game against the Raiders the day after Irv died. 311 passing yards and 4 TDs – all in the first half. The receivers and tight ends catching everything he threw up. One of those games where you remember exactly where you were and who you were with, and you just had that feeling that something special was happening."

"I still remember the snapshot of him running in the TD and BARELY placing it on the corner of the end zone in the Superbowl 31. What a play!"

"End of the season 2003-2004. Felt like we were the team of destiny. We had the Monday night smashing of the Raiders where Favre set records after his father died. We snuck into the Wild Card game when the Vikes lost on a last-second touchdown by the terrible AZ Cardinals. Al Harris makes Matt Hasselbeck's OT dream of, 'we want the ball and we're gonna score!' come true. 52-yard pick six. And finally the heartbreaking, fist mashing, 4th and 26 against Donovan McNabb and Freddie Mitchell (an otherwise utterly forgettable receiver). Though not strictly a Favre moment, the highs and lows of that season make it my favorite time to be a Packer fan." 

"Sure there are a lot of them to choose from, but I still go back to 1994 and the last game at County Stadium. Funny how memory works, up until about a year ago, I had convinced myself this game was against the Bears instead of the Falcons. Well, I was politely, but sternly, corrected by a nice old lady. In sum, Packers are down by three with 21 seconds left, ball is on the nine yard line. Plenty of time to throw to the endzone and score. Plenty of time for an incomplete pass stopping the clock for a field goal. Brett Favre, 'Nah, I’m just going to end this right here.' I’m not sure who jimmylegs06 is, but I like his style." 

"The Raiders game the day after his father died. The initial shock. The speculation whether he’d even play. The nationwide support when he ran onto the field. The explosion of passing offense. The team stepping up like I’ve never seen. The heartwarming walk off the field with Deanna. Sports aside, I’ve never been so glued to the TV."

"I was at Lambeau stadium the day he replaced Don Majikowski (injury), the collective group of 65,000 strong were muttering under their breath...will this guy be any good? I think we know how that turned out..." 

"I had the privilege of sitting next to Brett Favre's father, during a preseason scrimmage one year at Lambeau. Wow what a treat, a true football family from Kiln, MS.  His father was a coaching legend and Brett took his teachings to heart."  

"Favre against the Raiders on Monday Night Football after his dad died is one of the greatest individual performances of all time, considering the circumstances."

"Every time he ran to the end zone after a TD pass and threw DD or another receiver over his shoulder in celebration brought a smile to my face. It was refreshing to see greatness and fun go hand in hand, and made me feel like he could be at the local school with me and my buddies in one of our pickup games."

"Watching the Raiders game with my own Dad after Favre lost his father. Magical performance. I was home from college and the timing of that moment could not have been better for my Dad and me to watch it together."  

"Kind of random but it was a MNF game versus the Jaguars I watched in a bar in Minneapolis amongst Vikings fans. I was proudly decked out in green and gold so the patrons enjoyed giving me crap the entire game. For most of the night, they were reveling in the Packers losing, but Favre slowly chipped away and capped the comeback with a six-yard run with about a minute left. The Vikings fans were stunned and man, did I let them have it."

"I was attending game with my best friend from high school—it was Nov. 12, 1995. The previous week Favre and the Packers lost at dome in Minnesota and Favre severely sprained his ankle and was knocked out of the game. This was the famous TJ Rubley game. No one knew if Favre was going to start the next game. We got to game and sat in our seats….Bears games are always fun and they were getting ready to announce the starting lineups—this week was the Offense’s turn to be introduced. (Coach Holmgren always switched every other home game introducing D and O starters). Well, Holmgren kept all 3 QBs (less Rubley who was cut that week) in tunnel and when they got to the final announcement (QB usually) the announcer said “and starting at quarterback from Southern Miss…..” after that you could not hear a thing….the roar of the crowd at that moment was so deafening. It was awesome and definitely gave me chills. Favre proceeds to beat the Bears that game (even as a light snow came down) and ending up throwing for over 300 yards and 5 TD passes basically all on one leg. One of my favorites that I was fortunate enough to witness first hand. One of the best NFL games I have even been to because of the buzz and energy in the stadium after the starting lineup were announced and to beat the rival Bears was just an overall great game. Packers 35—Bears 28."

"Not an individual memory, but more like a collective appreciation of his time in GB. Was fortunate that Favre took over essentially as my youth began, and got absolute enjoyment just from seeing him have fun out there. Can still remember playing catch after games and mimicking the announcer as we played, saying, 'Favre to Sharpe!'"

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