Packers 14, Philadelphia 17. Ugh. This was a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory type of defeat. The Packers had more yards on offense (307 to 282) and had the ball longer on offense (31:15 to 28:45), but they were killed on return yards (46 to 159) and turnovers (3 to 0). The Packers defense has only generated two turnovers in the last four weeks, and the special teams have been outperformed on kick returns (253 to 424) over the last three weeks. The Packers offense continues to make big plays, but unless the defense and special teams contribute big plays, the Packers will continue to lose close games. Although a 7-9 record might win this division (if Minnesota can't beat San Diego, who can they beat?) and the Packers get a Chris Berman inspired Bay of Pigs matchup next week with equally desperate Tampa Bay.
First Quarter: Fumbles. Its hard to blame Brett Favre with his broken thumb, but he just couldn't grip the ball in the rain with his cast on. Favre shouldn't have been benched, but I found myself considering the possiblity. On a team with no margin for error, Favre's fumbles were as deciding a factor as any in this game. The Packers start the game by running successfully. After watching Ahman Green struggle in the first half of games over the previous 3 years, and now to watch him succeed all game long is exciting. They started with a two fullback set, but the Packers were successful running without that alignment too. Unfortunately Favre's fumble on the first drive effectively kills the it, and Green's fumble on the second drive kills an even more promising drive. Philadelphia can't run or pass the ball, and Donovan McNabb got really lucky when he got hit on a pass and his dying quail wasn't intercepted. These two turnovers lead to punts, but Philadelphia is lucky not to be down by 6 to 14 points at this point. The Packers also got their lone sack when New Orleans castoff Grady Jackson and Jacksonville castoff Larry Smith generate more pass rush than any other high paid defensive lineman for the Packers. John Madden just seemed to ramble at times (e.g. "Philadelphia drafted TE L.J. Smith because they thought he could fill the TE/WR type of receiving position..." duh!), but Madden noticed the slick black elbow pads Green was wearing during Green's two fumbles, and Green didn't fumble the rest of the game once he removed them. Packers 0, Philadelphia 0.
Second Quarter: The Packers had as many critical penalties in the first half as they had all year up to this point. TE David Martin had a rare offensive pass interference call in the first half to call back a first down, and WR Robert Ferguson (I believe) had a holding penalty that called back another one. Favre's second fumble kills the first drive of the quarter. Philadelphia's offense is still comatose. Madden calls it again when Madden says that Nate Wayne, who was in statement game mode to prove the Packers made a mistake with him, has forced a turnover every time he has played on MNF. The second drive of the half in Philadelphia territory ends with a turnover, when Wayne makes the best one handed catch of the night for either team. Al Michaels is explaining how this is a Gold package game for former Milwaukee season ticket holders tonight and I am wondering if the Packers are trying to get their Milwaukee season ticket holders to turn in their tickets. Its hard enough to go to a Monday night game and then to work the next morning, but by the time the Milwaukee area residents fight traffic and get home its probably Tuesday afternoon. Why do the Packers schedule Gold games for Monday night? Luckily the Wayne interception only leads to a missed field goal. Philadelphia gets a chance to run the clock out for the half and let their inept offense regroup, but they can't even do that. The Packers offense finally puts together a drive without a turnover, Favre completes a couple of passes, and Green runs loose on a screen pass for the touchdown. Packers 7, Philadelphia 0.
Third Quarter: Philadelphia gets the ball first and changes the tone of the game. They still can't run (yet) but McNabb completes a few passes for the easy field goal. The Packers have a nice answering drive, but they run it one too many times, and a big negative loss on a 3rd down carry puts it out of Ryan Longwell's range, and he misses his first field goal of the season. This quarter is consumed by the first two long drives. MNF decides to show some great sauercraut footage and lets Madden do commentary about the sauercraut production workers techniques. Plus the ever exciting Turducken reference. I might have missed the thrills, but I didn't see any shots of the horsetrailer tonight. Packers 7, Philadelphia 3.
Fourth Quarter: The Packers first drive this quarter was really wasted. Three passes for 1 yard and punt. The passing game hasn't been working and the running game has been so why three passes? I don't know. Great tackle by Antuan Edwards (I think) stops Todd Pinkston from a first down on the next drive. The Packers respond with a run-run-pass-punt drive and then Philadelphia gets really lucky. McNabb uncorks another dying quail "long" pass but Mike McKenzie isn't playing the ball, he runs past James Thrash and slips, but Thrash is paying attention and goes back to the ball for the big play. If Favre had thrown that pass this season, it would have been intercepted. It is just one of those years. McNabb runs in for the short yardage touchdown. But Green makes up for his two fumbles and rips off his second big play of the game on a 4th down 45 yard touchdown run. The defense comes up big after a big kickoff return by Thrash, but then the Packers do the same thing Philadelphia couldn't do at the end of the first half; get first downs and run out the clock. McNabb dusts off the forgotten Duce Staley and Chad Lewis on four plays that take it down to the Packers 12 yard line. Edwards had Staley wrapped up on the screen pass, but he missed the tackle, and I am left wondering if Marques Anderson was playing safety whether he makes the tackle and changes the outcome of the game. Then Madden has another lucid moment and notices that Bhawon Jue is playing at cornerback for an apparently injured Al Harris. Jue has given up game winning touchdown passes before this season (Kansas City) and he is burned by Pinkston for Pinkston's first touchdown catch of the year and only the second touchdown caught by a wide receiver this season for Philadelphia. Nice. Additionally, Jue was one of the problems in the Arizona loss this season, and I don't think the Packers can afford to rely on him anymore. The Packers almost get back into field goal range again, but the football slips out of Favre's hand on the last chance pass and the game is over. Packers 14, Philadelphia 17.