Monday, December 01, 2003

Packers 14, Detroit 22. Ugh. 3rd down conversions and turnovers. In the first half, the Packers defense couldn't get off the filed and Detroit was 4 for 7 on third down. In the second half, especially in the 4th quarter when the Packers had 2 fumbles and 2 interceptions, the Packers offense couldn't stop turning the ball over. The only good news was that Minnesota got crushed in St. Louis and their remaining schedule is tough; home against playoff bound Seattle (although Seattle can't win on the road), at Chicago (winners of their last two games), home against 11-1 Kansas City, at Arizona (Arizona sucks, but they are 3-2 at home and almost beat St. Louis in Arizona). All of those games will be tough for Minnesota, so an 8-8 record for them to end the season is very possible. The Packers would have to win 3 of their last 4 to finish 9-7 and win the division, and considering they had won 3 of 4 prior to the Detroit loss, it is very possible too.

First Quarter: The first (and only) touchdown drive by Detroit was very discouraging, Detroit was able to run and complete several short passes to move down the field, but the Packers defense only got better as the game went on. Najeh Davenport has become my favorite kickoff returner; he has speed in the open field and he has size to run through arm tackles that smaller returners, like Antonio Chapman, might get stopped by. The Packers drive to the Detroit 40 yard line, but they are forced to punt. The next Detroit drive looks stalled until Mike McKenzie gets an personal foul for shoving the Detroit receiver after the play out of bounds. It was a weak call, but McKenzie did slightly shove the receiver in the back. The Packers had 3 personal fouls (one on Aaron Kampman was offset by one on the same play by Stockar McDougle, although Kampman did nothing to deserve it while McDougle did) and this one made a big difference. Detroit was able to end the quarter with a nice field goal drive. Packers 0, Detroit 10.

Second Quarter: The rushing stats for the Packers look feeble in this game (16 carries for 52 yards) but the Packers did have some success running the ball in the first half, before abandoning it in the second half. A nice Ahman Green run, along with a rare downfield pass to Wesley Walls, led to a great grab by a Bubba Franks for the touchdown. After Franks had a bad game vs. San Francisco, it was good to see him have a solid game against Detroit. Unfortunately, Detroit answers with a long 8 minute drive. Joey Harrington had a very good first half, completing 11 of 12 passes (many on this drive). The ball is not bouncing the Packers way this season, and it is a big reason the Packers are 6-6. All the teams with winning records this season can probably point to a couple plays this year when the ball bounced just right and won them a game here or there. In this game, the Packers had 2 huge 4th quarter fumbles that Detroit recovered, while Detroit had 3 fumbles (including 2 on this drive alone) that easily could have been recovered had a Packer been in the right place at the right time, but the ball just didn't bounce their way. This drive also had another stupid personal foul (plus the phantom foul on Kampman) and led to a field goal. This was the last drive of the game where Detroit looked competant on offense, and had it led to zero points and the Packers could have recovered either fumble and turned it into any points, the entire game would have been different. The Packers try to answer but the first drive with 2:30 left in the half leads to a rare Brett Favre sack when he looked confused and ran into a sack, and a second drive that just ran out of time. Packers 7, Detroit 13.

Third Quarter: My mistake, Detroit had another competant drive in the game, this one to start the 2nd half, but a holding penalty killed it in Packer territory, and Detroit punted. Now the Packers start to go pass happy. Detroit's defensive line was tough on the day, and the Packers offensive line probably had its worst game of the season, but after several great rushing games in a row, the Packers only ran 2 times for 5 yards in the quarter. Favre completes 4 out of 5 passes before Dre Bly intercepts the ball at Detroit's 32. This was the second week in a row where a defensive back just muscles a receiver out of his way for an interception. The receivers can't be this passive and have to fight for the ball. This was the 1st of 5 turnovers in the half, and 4 of the turnovers were in Detroit territory. The Packers had several opportunities but the constant turnovers killed them. Fortunately, Detroit's offense begins to struggle and on the next drive Favre connects with Javon Walker for Walker's second big touchdown catch in 2 weeks. The Packers are leading for the first and last time in the game. The next three drives are 3 and outs followed by punts, including another lucky fumble for Detroit when Harrington has the ball slapped out of his hand but Detroit recovers it. Packers 14, Detroit 13.

Fourth Quarter: If the Packers never turned the ball over in the 4th quarter, Detroit would have never scored again, as 3 turnovers led to 3 Detroit field goals, and the Packers would have won a field position battle. Also the running game went MIA as they only rushed 3 times for minus 3 yards in the quarter. The quarter starts with a Walker fumble and Detroit recovery, which leads to a long field goal after a Detroit 3 and out possession. After a Packer punt, McKenzie intercepts Harrington for Detroit's only turnover of the game, but on the very next play Favre fumbles the ball and Detroit recovers. Detroit gets a nice Shawn Bryson run to get in field goal range for another long made field goal. Davenport has another great kickoff return, but then for the 3rd time in 4 drives, the Packers turn the ball over when Bly makes a great jump on an out route. Bly went for the interception, he would have been burned badly on an out and up, but he gambled and won on the play. Detroit has some success on the next drive, enough to get into field goal range, but everything Harrington throws is short, there is no chance at a big play, and as soon as Harrington throws a couple of incompletions (which is inevitable) the drive is dead. Harrington slumped badly in the second half, and if he can't complete over 60% of his passes he will never be successful in Steve Marucci's offense. But the drive leads to another Detroit field goal. After all these turnovers, and 3 Detroit scores in the 4th quarter, the Packers are still only down by one score (touchdown and 2 point conversion). The Packers get another drive going and they are in Detroit territory with over a minute left in the game, but a defensive player rushes untouched to Favre on a blitz, Favre throws up a prayer, and Robert Ferguson misplays the jump ball and Detroit's Doug Evans turns around at the last second for a gift interception. Evans was beat but Ferguson completely missed the jump ball. There was no reason Ferguson shouldn't catch that ball. The Packers are able to get the ball back because they used all 3 of their timeouts on Detroit's last possession, but there just isn't enough time, although on the hail mary, the ball was slapped down in the end zone, and it almost bounced right into Tony Fisher's hands at Detroit's 5 yard line (he was just a step too late), where he could have walked in for an easy touchdown. But nothing bounced the Packers way in this game. Packers 14, Detroit 22.

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