Monday, October 27, 2003

Hmm...Minnesota lost its first game of the season on Sunday. I didn't watch it but two numbers jumped out at me. 2 - Daunte Culpepper threw his first two interceptions of the year vs. New York and New York was +1 on the turnover margin. It was the first time all year Minnesota had more turnovers than their opponent. 17 - Minnesota was held to 17 points in the game by New York. It was the first time all year Minnesota's offense was held under 20 points. Minnesota's defense has only held three teams under 20 points this season; toothless Chicago, toothless Detroit, and San Francisco. Chicago has the worst offense in the NFL, and Detroit has the third worst offense. San Francisco is the exception (10th best offense in the NFL), but Jeff Garcia did have an awful game. If Minnesota's defense isn't creating turnovers, then they aren't stopping anybody, and their games turn into shootouts.

Minnesota's loss is promising. Coming into this week, Minnesota was 6-0 and the Packers were 3-4. If, big if, the Packers win in Minnesota next week, then their records stand at 6-2 and 4-4, which looks like a legitimate race. The pressure will be on the Packers offense to not turn the ball over and to score a lot of points.

Monday, October 20, 2003

The bye week. I can't imagine the Packers hoped to be 3-4 at the bye week and four games behind Minnesota for the division lead. However, the playoffs are well within sight because the NFC is filled with mediocrity this season. Seattle, Carolina, Dallas, and Minnesota all lead their respective divisions with 5 or 6 wins, but only St. Louis has 4 wins and six teams, including the Packers, are hanging around with 3 wins. The Packers are a long shot to win the division from Minnesota, but their wild card hopes are in their own hands. It reminds me of 2000, when the Packers started out 3-6 but then had a nationally televised game vs. Minnesota that they won in overtime and sparked a 5-1 finish. The first game after the bye is Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Packers obviously won't be favored in that game, but its all up to them whether they win it. The three games after that are against three of their wild card competitors (Philadelphia, San Fransisco, and Tampa Bay), and if they come out of that stretch with 3 out of 4 wins, that knocks down a couple of their wild card competitors and leaves them with a 6-5 record. I love the Packers offense this year; Brett Favre is passing great and Ahman Green is running great (although he is fumbling too much) and I think it can play with anyone. No matter how they get into the playoffs, I would like the Packers chances in it with their offense.
Packers 24, St. Louis 34. The broken thumb edition. This was the first game of the year where the ball literally didn't bounce the Packers way. Each team had three fumbles, and while St. Louis recovered every Packer fumble, the Packers didn't recover a single St. Louis fumble.

First quarter: St. Louis's first drive leads to the one lucky bounce the Packers got all day; the deflected pass into Marques Anderson's arms. I thought it was very omnious that the Packers couldn't convert the turnover into a touchdown and settled for a field goal, but I have to cut Brett Favre some slack since he broke his thumb on the drive. The break is just at the tip of his right thumb, and supposedly not serious. I would think anything broken is serious, but it apparently didn't effect Favre's performance, as Favre had one of his best games in a dome that I can ever recall. Ironically, the first drive which failed to produce a touchdown was the only time all day that Ahman Green was effective running the football. Another great stop by the defense leads to Al Harris touching the ball while punt blocking. Its hard to blame Harris, because he was only 30 yards away from the line of scrimmage and locked up with a St. Louis player to prevent him from reacting to the ball. Antonio Chapman made an effort to alert Harris, but I don't think Harris heard him. That was a bad punt that just landed at the right spot for St. Louis. To make matters worse for Harris, St. Louis got him in single coverage on the hottest receiver in the NFL, Torry Holt, and Holt spun Harris around to get open for a big touchdown catch. It would have been great to have answered back with a touchdown, but it was the first in a series of poor kickoff returns, Marco Rivera had a holding penalty on 1st down, and the Packers couldn't convert. Then Josh Bidwell had a poor punt. This was the worst game of the year for Packers special teams, and it was as much a reason for the defeat as anything. St. Louis scores another quick touchdown, when the secondary looked like it got its coverage crossed up on two straight passes. The next drive is going very well, especially a great 3rd down pass to Wesley Walls while the Packers offensive line picked up an all out St. Louis blitz, but the quarter ends with a Najah Davenport fumble when the ball was ripped out of his hands while he was stood up. Packers 3, St. Louis 14.

Second quarter: Harris makes a great diving interception catch to make up for the Davenport fumble two plays earlier and the Packers only lose 10 yards on the swapping turnovers. The Packers have a quick touchdown drive; Javon Walker muscles a 26 yard completion right in front of the small St. Louis cornerback, and a beautiful screen play to Green for a touchdown. The next St. Louis drive is stopped by the Packers again the Packers record one of their two sacks of the game. I've been putting most of the blame on the Packers poor pass defense on the secondary, and not the pass rush. St. Louis's pass protection was awful in week 1 when Kurt Warner was sacked 6 times, but Marc Bulger has only been sacked 8 times in 5 games. In the previous 3 weeks, only Arizona got a sack of Bulger, and Atlanta and Seattle didn't get a sack. St. Louis always kept a blocker back in this game for any blitz and Bulger has a quick release. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila looked like a 10 year old kid trying to get around or through the giant Orlando Pace, but he still put more pressure on the quarterback then I have seen him create in recent weeks. The pass rush isn't creating many big sacks this year or getting enough hits on the quarterback, but I think it still has all the components for a good pass rush and it played a quality pass blocking team in St. Louis. The next Packer drive is the second drive of the game stopped by a fumble. Green was almost down, but the ball came loose and a St. Louis player was in the right place at the right time again. I hadn't talked more about Green's lack of success running the ball, but St. Louis's defensive line was constantly in the backfield, and I hadn't seen Green tripped up at the line so many times in one game as he tripped up by St. Louis. Hopefully it was just a one game fluke and not a long term problem. Green's fumbles are a problem that he knows he has to address. Still he is far too valuable to bench just because of his fumble problems. This fumble is not turned back over by St. Louis and Bulger hooks up three times with Issac Bruce who has always killed the Packers (I am thinking of a game in 95 or 96 where St. Louis came to Green Bay and St. Louis upset the Packers on a kick blocked by Bruce). Mike McKenzie was playing soft on Bruce, which led to a number of completions, but he didn't give up any long pass plays either. That is just the game you have to play against St. Louis; play soft and risk the short passes or play tight and risk the long pass plays. The touchdown to Holt was a simple 10 yard slant and unfortunately the Packers ran the wrong defense. Ed Donatell blitzed Anderson from the secondary, Anderson was picked up on the blitz, and Holt caught the pass right in the area vacated by Anderson. This is Exhibit A why I don't want the Packers to blitz all the time just to create pass pressure; although they have extra pass pressure, if the blitzer is picked up, there is a hole in the pass defense. Donatell doesn't blitz too much, and when the Packers do blitz they are often successful with it, but this wasn't one of those times. The Packers try to answer back with just a minute left in the half, but they have one of their worst 2 minute drills in recent memory including a false start penalty and a juggled snap that caused Favre and Davenport to run into each other. Packers 10, St. Louis 21.

Third Quarter: Mike Holmgren used to defer a lot of kickoffs to the second half because Favre's first drive of the game was rarely productive during the Super Bowl years. Favre was too excited and needed a couple of drives to calm down and get into the flow of the game. Favre doesn't play like that anymore, but I still prefer it when the Packers get the ball to start the 2nd half. This game is a little flashback as the first drive of the 2nd half is productive, although not with the running game, as Favre spreads the ball out to 4 different receivers and William Henderson catches a touchdown. The Packers are only down by 4 again. The Packers and St. Louis each exchange a punt before St. Louis gets rolling again. Arlen Harris fumbles the ball with 3 or 4 Packers around him, but the ball bounces right back into his hands; its just one of those games. A catch by Bruce, again, and a dancing touchdown catch and run by Dane Looker leads to a St. Louis touchdown. Anderson and one other Packer both missed Looker on the sidelines, so Looker danced around both of them for the touchdown. At this point, the Packers are down by 11 with 20 minutes remaining in the game, and although Favre has had a great game up to this point, he only throws for 44 yards in the last 20 minutes. It was very surprising how little success the Packers had at this point against an entirely backup secondary for St. Louis. The Packers next drive stalls, but a gift 1st down on an offsides on the punt by St. Louis fails to breathe life into the drive. Packers 17, St. Louis 28.

Fourth Quarter: The next St. Louis drive has two fumbles, another one by Harris and one by receiver Shaun McDonald, that bounce right back to Harris and that bounces out of bounds. A quick turnover for the Packers here might have changed everything, although St. Louis failed to score, they burned 4 minutes off the clock. The next Packer drive fails because the Packers can't run on first down and Favre can't find any receivers open down field. St. Louis has another drive that doesn't do much, but consumes another 4 minutes and leads to a field goal. Gilbert Brown didn't play in the game today, but I think the Packers run defense really suffers without Brown. Brown takes up space and keeps blockers off the Packer linebackers better then anyone else on the roster. The yards allowed rushing per game isn't much different without Brown, but the leading tackler is usually from the secondary instead of a linebacker. I think the Packers keep their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage and sacrifice some pass coverage for more run support when Brown is out. In the 6 games Brown started this year, a linebacker has led the team in tackles 5 times. Brown didn't play vs. St. Louis and Darren Sharper led the team in tackles. I am hoping Brown can come back sooner rather than later. The Packers need to score on the next drive, but instead its a back breaker when Favre has his one interception of the game on a botched screen pass intercepted by Leonard Little. In some ways this is the Packers season in a nutshell. The Packers have played all its games tough this season, but there has been few big plays on either side of the ball or on special teams, so the Packers can't afford any mistakes. On this screen, Favre had to make a perfect throw, which he didn't, and only if Mark Tauscher had kept his hands engaged on Leonard Little for a second longer, Little probably couldn't have reacted quick enough to intercept it. Favre and Tauscher both had great games, but this one not quite so perfect play by both of them ended any chance for the Packers to come back in this game. However, St. Louis's offense isn't clicking either and they have to settle for a field goal. The next Packer drive was ironic, because although the Packers couldn't run the ball all game, Davenport rips a 76 yard touchdown run to give the Packers some hope and to make their rushing numbers look respectible. When the onside kick fails, although it was close to being caught by a Packer, the game is essentially over. Packers 24, St. Louis 34.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Antaun Edwards will play and start at strong safety on Sunday vs. St. Louis, and I am assuming Marques Anderson will be coming in as the sixth defensive back. Edwards is better in coverage, which is needed against St. Louis, but I think Anderson has played better this season. Both of them are good players who have had bad moments this season, so I hope starting Edwards over Anderson is the better decision.

Rod Walker is probably going to start at defensive end, which is an odd decision. Walker has played well this season, and is the most deserving lineman to get the first chance to replace Joe Johnson. But Walker is truly a nose tackle, so the Packers are playing a true nose tackle at defensive end, which should make for one of the biggest defensive lines in the NFL. The defensive line played well against the run vs. Kansas City, when Walker played much of the game at end. The defensive line didn't get much pass rush, however, Kansas City has a strong offensive line so it might have just been a one game struggle and not a long term problem. It will be interesting to watch how the unit performs this Sunday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I have been reading web articles on and and I'm really worried about Sunday's game vs. St. Louis. The big news this week is that Joe Johnson is done for the season, although he hadn't made an impact this season so at this point it is only a loss of depth on a thin defensive line. Both web sites had very similar articles on how Bhawon Jue is going to be a-ok although he was torched on Sunday by Kansas City's receivers. Darren Sharper even went over to Jue's house on Sunday to see how he was doing. All the right words are being said; Brett Favre and Sharper gave words of support for Jue, no one player loses a game, Jue says he has put it all behind him, but a cornerback known for giving up big plays is a marked man in the NFL. Jue's confidence could be shattered if St. Louis abuses him just like Kansas City did, and the poor state of the Packers pass rush is not likely to give Jue much assistance. I don't know if Sharper is still feeling the effects of the injuries he has suffered since and during the last regular season game of 2002, and if Marques Anderson is playing, who is not as good in coverage as Antaun Edwards, Sharper might not be able to help Jue in coverage. This is a big game for Jue, and he has the talent to rebound from last week and have a solid game against St. Louis's great pass offense. The Packers defense has to improve their pass rush, pass defense, and create turnovers better than they did against Kansas City. The offense is likely to struggle against St. Louis because Favre struggles when he plays on turf and in a dome, and the last game he played in St. Louis during the 2001 playoffs was a disaster. If the defense doesn't step up on Sunday, this could be a blowout by a hot St. Louis team.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Kansas City 40, Packers 34. Wow, what a collapse. I can't remember the Packers under Brett Favre ever losing such a big lead so late in the game. When the Packers allow a lot of points, it usually means the Packers have had a lot of turnovers, for example allowing 30 points to Minnesota in week 1. The Packers only had two turnovers, but each turnover was huge and both led to a Kansas City touchdown. Usually one or two plays doesn't make the game against the Packers, but both teams were evenly matched (lots of offense, little defense) and those two plays were the difference. And Kansas City never led until the final play.

First Quarter: Two kickoffs by Ryan Longwell lead to two penalties. Dierdorf thought it was the Packers fear of Dante Hall which lead to both kicks, but Longwell has historically not been good on kickoffs and appearently isn't too good when trying to directionally kick. But both drives were stopped by a temporarily stout defense. In between the Packers had a great drive. Favre spread the ball to a number of receivers, and threw and easy touchdown pass to Bubba Franks. The Packers second drive led to another touchdown, and the Packers were able to run and pass successfully against Kansas City. Then the Packers stout defense abandons them as Kansas City finds out that Al Harris can't keep up with Johnnie Morton, and Marcus Anderson can't cover receivers as Tony Gonzalez blows by him for a touchdown. Ironically, I saw Keyshawn Johnson blow by former Packer safety Matt Bowen on a similar touchdown pass on Sunday, so the Packers didn't make a mistake by letting Bowen go, because he has trouble covering receivers too. Anderson seems superior to Antaun Edwards in run support, but Edwards is better in coverage (although Edwards got torched by Randy Moss in week 1, but who hasn't been torched by Moss this season). Packers 14, Kansas City 7.

Second Quarter: Dierdorf got all excited when ratings-magnet Hall almost broke a punt return for a touchdown, but a nice play by Josh Bidwell broke it up. Unfortunately, Kansas City had a nice drive anyway with Morton abusing Harris and Hall abusing Bhawon Jue (I think). The Packers respond with another excellent drive, but the memories of it get mixed in with a few of the excellent drives the Packers had this game. However, this one prevents Kansas City from retaking the lead in the first half and Ahman Green has a nifty touchdown on a screen pass. Screen passes haven't worked well this year for the Packers, nor in the entire NFL. The league seems to have caught on to them, except for Kansas City. Kansas City's defense did not look too good and Dierdorf correctly comments that Green Bay's offensive line pretty much handled Kansas City's defensive line all game. This would be a problem for most teams, but it hasn't hurt Kansas City yet. Dierdorf and Enberg compare this Kansas City team to the 1999 St. Louis team, but it isn't that good. St. Louis' offense in 1999 was one of the best ever, and while Kansas City's offense is very good, it isn't that good. Packers 21, Kansas City 14.

Third Quarter: The Packers start off the quarter with their last touchdown drive. Favre continues to spread out the ball and Green and Najah Davenport run right through Kansas City's run defense, with Davenport getting the touchdown run. Kansas City's defense continues to look more and more tired as the game goes on, but they don't allow anymore touchdowns. Kansas City's offense stalls in this quarter, because they had some big drops by Eddie Kennison, Gonzalez and Morton. Morton's drop was even challenged. Just as the Packers had worn down the Kansas City defense, however, Kansas City has worn down the Packers defense and it doesn't hold up as well. However, Nick Barnett had an awesome game. Dierdorf compared him to Brian Urlacher, and the comparison isn't far off. On one play, Priest Holmes broke through the right side on a run, but Barnett flew in from the middle of the field to trip him up and stop a big play. As the season goes on, the Packers defense will get better as Barnett improves. The Packers drive but settle for a field goal when Favre is incomplete on a rare, up to this point of the game, 3rd down incompletion. The rest of the quarter is just competing punts. Packers 31, Kansas City 14.

Fourth quarter: Hall has a successful punt return into Packers territory almost immediately, and Kansas City's offense stops dropping passes. Kansas City scores on a quick touchdown drive. Kansas City's defense looks spent as Davenport runs at will against the middle of their defense. Unfortunately, Favre makes his one mistake that cost the Packers and the pass to Donald Driver is tipped to Jerome Woods for a touchdown the other way. Favre threw the pass too high, into too much coverage, and bad things happened. Trent Green had thrown a couple passes like that this game, notably one to a receiver in the red zone that Marcus Anderson jumped in front of, but Anderson missed the interception and Green ended the game with no interceptions. Maybe Green just got lucky and Favre didn't, but there was no room for error in this game. Then the Packers offense stalls and I believe it was Jue again who gets burned on a long pass to Gonzalez, but the defense holds Kansas City to just a field goal. The Packers continue to hand the ball off and it works for most of the drive, until down at Kansas City's 23 yard line, where Kansas City stuffs Davenport and Favre throws two incompletions. Longwell kicks and still hasn't missed a kick this season. But there is too much time left (almost 3 minutes) and Kansas City has their third good drive in a row, which leads to a game tying field goal. Packers 34, Kansas City 34.

Overtime: Kansas City's offense owns the Packers defense at this point and they get the ball to start the period. Holmes has his first string of quality runs in a row, but Kansas City doesn't mix in any passes. Finally, the Packers stop Holmes, and force an incompletion which leads to a missed field goal. Darren Sharper jumped another Green pass to the sideline and if Sharper had intercepted it instead of deflecting it, it would have been returned for a touchdown. Where Favre got intercepted, Green got lucky. The Packers offense has looked good, and so does Green on his first run until he fumbles it. If the Packers got one turnover this game...anyway. Then Jue gets beat AGAIN for a long touchdown pass to Kennison. Michael Hawthorne was the fourth corner in this game and he looked good in it. I would be shocked if Jue keeps his nickel position after this game. In a game the Packers should have won...Packers 34, Kansas City 40.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Packers 35, Seattle 13. I was thinking this game would be the game that tells me if the Packers are going to compete this year in the NFC, or if it was time to start looking forward to next year. The Packers had some holes, but by the end of the game they were clearly the better team on the field.

First Quarter: The Packers first drive might have had Brett Favre's worst play of the game where he tried to force something downfield on 3rd down that wasn't there. If that is Favre's worst, I will take it every Sunday. Shawn Alexander comes out running and proves that he can run off left tackle anytime he wants. Alexander is one of the best backs in the NFL and LT Walter Jones and LG Steve Hutchinson are two of the best linemen in the NFL too, so Seattle can run off left tackle against any team. The Packers defense can't stop quality running teams, unless they turn the ball over and the Packers are very good at forcing turnovers, and Alexander has his first fumble of the year. It leads to Donald Driver's first touchdown of the year. Seattle answers with its own touchdown drive and the Packers linemen are getting stood up and no one is shedding their blockers. On Maurice Morris's 18 yard run, the left side of the defensive line is blown wide open and Na'il Diggs gets knocked over by a Seattle wideout. Then Alexander runs untouched into the end zone for the touchdown. The only good news is that the Packers run defense improves over the course of the game, although their pass rush never gets on track without blitzing and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila is being outplayed by some right tackle for Seattle named Matt Hill. On the Packers next drive, Seattle shows the Packers how to play run defense by fighting through their blocks and not allowing Ahman Green a run longer than 5 yards. Packers 7, Seattle 7.

Second Quarter: Fortunately, Seattle can't stop Favre from making completions (all the while Fox's announcers rattle on about a changing of the guard, how Green is the main man and Favre is complementary, right, uh-huh...). Favre's last completion on the drive sets up a 1 yard TD run by Green. Seattle tries to answer right back, but the Packers have figured out how to play run defense. In the first quarter, Seattle rushed for 70 yards, but Seattle will only run for another 58 yards all game. Matt Hasselback responds by connecting up with Koren Robenson and Bobby Ingram to drive to the Packers 10 yard line, but they have to settle for a field goal. By rediscovering their run defense, the Packers changed the tempo of the game from a shoot out to a blow out. On the next drive, the Packers finally start running against Seattle and Green rips off one run of 9 yards and another of 11 yards. Meanwhile, "complementary" Favre keeps completing passes, and now the offense can run and pass when it wants to. Touchdown. Seattle comes back with a mini-drive but they run out of time in the half. Packers defensive coordinator, Ed Donatell, finally gets fed up with the complete absense of a pass rush in the first half, rushes about 8 guys on second down, and DB Michael Hawthorne sacks Hasselbeck to take Seattle out of field goal range. But Seattle's kicker nails a 58 yard field goal anyway. Packers 21, Seattle 13.

Third Quarter: Seattle goes three and out to start the half on three Hasselbeck incompletions and Tom Rouen's lone punt of the game. Then the Packers come out with a balanced attack (run, pass, pass, run, pass, run, pass, run) where Favre completes three passes to three different receivers, and Tony Fisher makes a great touchdown run, jumps into the stands, and gets a beer dumped on him. The rout is on. Seattle responds with a nice drive, mixing up the pass and run and they are successful with both, but all the passes are short and Darren Sharper starts camping in the middle of the field, reading Hasselbeck's eyes, and jumps a short route for an interception. The next Packers' drive is where Seattle's defense gets frustrated. Ken Hamlin gets in Favre's face, Ken Lucas commits a pass interference penalty, and Seattle allows the fifth Packer touchdown on a pass to William Henderson. Packers 35, Seattle 13.

Fourth Quarter: Seattle gets another good drive going but again its all on short plays and takes almost 4 minutes. It would probably have led to another field goal, but Seattle went for it on fourth down at the Packers 9 yard line and Darrell Jackson dropped a touchdown pass (although a declined penalty would have called it back anyway). Then the announcers have to go and announce that Favre has only been sacked once this year, so on the next play he is sacked by his old buddy John Randle. On the final drive, the Packers have the ball for over 5 minutes, Seattle can't stop the run anymore, and Mike Holmgren doesn't use any timeouts and just gets this game over with for Seattle. Packers 35, Seattle 13.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

First Quarter review. How excited can you get about a 2-2 team? There is reason to be optimistic about the Packers because their offense has played better than a 2-2 team although their defense hasn't. The special teams got a blocked punt against Chicago, but otherwise hasn't been a difference maker.

Offense: The Packers are scoring 26.8 points/game (6th in the league) but on only 331.8 yards/game (12th). But points are more important than yards any day and Dallas with 388.7 yards/game (1st) would probably swap offensive stats with the Packers because they only score 21.7 points/game (14th). The five teams ahead of the Packers in points/game (Kansas City, Indianapolis, Seattle, Denver, and Minnesota) are all unbeaten, so the Packers are keeping good company. Carolina is the only unbeaten team without a top offense, but don't give all the credit to their great defense, because their offense is rushing for 162 yards/game (3rd) and deserves credit too. The Packers are running the ball effectively for 128.8 yards/game (12th). Football thinks the Packers offense is only the 11th best offense so far and Brett Favre's league leading 7 interceptions is probably the biggest negative in their ranking. Favre's interceptions have been very costly (game ending interception in the end zone vs. Arizona) but despite all the turnovers, the offense has remained very productive. The Packers came into this season with three linemen coming back from major injuries (Chad Clifton, Marco Rivera, and Mark Tauscher) and Rivera is the only player to miss any time this season. All the members of the offensive line have played great this season and have allowed a league low one sack this season. My first quarter MVP is the Packers' offensive line.

Defense: It has played like a 2-2 defense, allowing 19.8 points/game (15th) and 336.3 yards/game (24th). They have created some turnovers by catching 7 interceptions (tied for 6th) and forcing 3 fumbles (tied with many teams for 10th). Football has this defense ranked at 18th. They are not very good against the run allowing 118 yards/game (23rd) and below average on passes allowing 218.3 yards/game (18th). This is better than the 124.9 yards/game allowed on the ground in 2002, but a drop off from the 186.7 yards/game allowed against the pass in 2002. I had expected the pass defense to improve this year with the addition of Al Harris, but this unit has regressed. The only consistant pressure generated by the pass rush was during the game with Chicago and that was done by constant blitzing. Cledius Hunt and Joe Johnson have pass rushing ability and past performance, but they need to improve in 2003. The defense is healthy, with the exception of Gilbert Brown playing through his torn muscle injury, and should improve as players such as Hannibal Navies, Nick Barnett and Antuan Edwards become more confident in their new positions. Ed Donatell's defense got better last year until injuries depleted it, so I would expect it to continue to improve as long as they remain healthy in 2003.

Special teams: Josh Bidwell has an unremarkable punting average of 40.6 (21st), but the Packers only allow 5.2 yards/return (6th). Ryan Longwell's kickoffs average a lowly 61.1 yards/kick (28th), but he hasn't missed a field goal or extra point all year (ask Tampa Bay how important it is to make all your field goals and extra points). Antoino Chapman is averaging 23.4 yards/kick off return (16th) and 9.4 yards/punt return (15th), but he has shown great speed and has seemed near to breaking threw on more than one occasion. The blocked punt against Chicago and Longwell's perfection make this unit a positive one that hasn't lost them any games, but hasn't won them any games either.
Packers 38, Chicago 23. The Packers went up 17-0 by the end of the first quarter and the second half just felt like garbage time because of the big early lead. But the fact that a mediocre Chicago offense was still able to score 23 points, on a number of scoring drives because Chicago has trouble scoring touchdowns against anybody, is an ongoing concern.

First Quarter: Boom! On the Packers second drive, Ahman Green rips off his 60 yard run and freezes Jerry Azumah on one of the best moves by a running back I have seen this season. Javon Walker had a key block on the play which is great to see because the best rushing teams have solid blocking from their receivers. Chicago's offense plays like they are always in the red zone; nothing is drawn up more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. Chicago has quality receivers and Kordell Stewart can throw it down the field. They need to open up this offense if they want to succeed. Watching the Packers drive for a field goal, it seems like Chicago plays with only 9 men on defense. Their outside linebackers, Warrick Holdman (coming back from a serious injury) and Brian Knight (first year starter), are not involved unless Knight is committing a penalty. Brian Urlacher has great range but he can't cover the entire middle of the field by himself. Paris Hilton is at the game wearing an Urlacher jersey? Would someone please remind Urlacher that hanging out in the Playboy mansion did not do Cade McNown's career any favors. Has a celebrity relationship with an NFL star ever been successful? Blocked punt! Special teams was MIA last season; keep it up! Green shows his power game by running through a Chicago player and into the end zone. Great way to end the quarter. Packers 17, Chicago 0.

Second Quarter: Brett Favre throws an interception. I don't know if Favre's throw was too weak or if Walker ran his route too long, or maybe a bit of both, but its the only turnover and its not critical. I'll bring it up again about Walker; he has obvious talent but he just isn't running great routes yet. He is still a work in progress. Chicago starts running Stewart, which is a good idea because he is successful at it, but they are an Stewart rushing injury and Chris Chandler concussion from seeing if Rex Grossman is ready (probably not) so Chicago should be frugal with running Stewart. Great run by Anthony Thomas (fortunately called back by David Terrell's tackle of Antuan Edwards) and makes me question why Chicago isn't playing this guy full time? He looks like a big back, and he ran away from the supposedly fast Nick Barnett on the long run. Antonio Chapman is so much better than any return man the Packers had in 2002. Chapman had a couple of returns in the game that seemed like he was one tackler away from a touchdown. I don't know why the Packers picked up Reggie Swinton from Dallas on Tuesday, because Chapman is the guy I want to see returning kicks until he runs himself out of the job. I love seeing William Henderson catch passes (including the touchdown) because it shows how the Packers are spreading the ball around, keeping players involved, and making the defense respect all of the ball carriers and receivers. Chicago drives for another field goal, but you need touchdowns to come back when you were outscored 17-0 in the first quarter. Packers 24, Chicago 6.

Third Quarter: Nice opening drive by Chicago stopped by a Na'il Diggs interception. The Packers defense isn't a great defense, but they are very good at creating turnovers, and that is how this defense is going to stop good offensive drives. Nifty fake field goal attempt, too bad it didn't work, but it was as good as a punt. Stewart's running gets Chicago another field goal, but they still need touchdowns. Three long drives take up most of this quarter. Chicago has to stop nickel and diming the Packers if they want to get back in this game. Packers 24, Chicago 9.

Fourth Quarter: Boom! Thomas does a replay of his touchdown run called back earlier in the game, this time running away from Darren Sharper. Thomas should be starting full time in the NFL. On both of Thomas's long touchdown runs, Edwards was the key because after Thomas got past Edwards, he was gone. This is Edwards fourth start of the season at strong safety, and maybe he started at the position one or two other times in 2002. He still has to learn the position and make those touchdown saving tackles. Sharper blitzed to the wrong gap on the line, but Edwards has to hold those long runs to ten to twenty yard runs. Chicago's defense is tired (and not very good) and Green runs right at them and Favre does a nifty bootleg with a nice move by Walker to ditch his defender for a wide open touchdown. Walker showed his inconsistancy by looking like a rookie on the earlier interception, and a quarter later he looks like a veteran on a touchdown catch. Nice answering touchdown. Stupid clipping block by Olin Kreutz ends any Chicago hope of another touchdown drive, and the Packers unleash Bubba Franks (who should be more involved in this offense) and get an iffy pass interference call to score again. A three man backfield (a rare Nick Luchey sighting) fakes the power run so Franks can find himself open in the back of the end zone. Chicago comes up with another touchdown drive, but it takes too long. This is the concern of the defense, because an offense like Chicago's can actually make plays against it. I don't know how this happened on the onside kick but a guy who is banged up (Robert Ferguson) ended up being the guy trying to make the play, which was probably not the best strategy. But Diggs comes up with his second interception to end any Chicago dreams of comeback. Packers 38, Chicago 23.