Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Packers 29, Carolina 32. Over the last three games, the Packers are 0-3 and have lost all three games by a combined 6 points. The Packers have also committed more turnovers than their opponent in every game this season. If the Packers had committed fewer turnovers in any of the last three games, the Packers would have won any of them. Both Packer turnovers led to a Carolina touchdown in this game. The Packers are so close to turning this season around. In any other division in football, the Packers season would be a lost season or a long shot. But not in the NFC North, where division leading Chicago is 1-2 and still hasn't played the Packers this season.

First quarter: TE David Martin stays back on a pass play to block, ignores DE Mike Rucker and gets in LT Chad Clifton's way as he tries to block Rucker's speed rush. Rucker gets around Martin easily and forces a fumble on QB Brett Favre. QB Jake Delhomme hooks up with TE Kris Magnum for an easy touchdown after LB Robert Thomas struggles again in pass coverage. One minute into the game and the Packers spots Carolina 7 points. At least the Packers offense gets away from the predictability that plagued it in the Tampa Bay game. Backup RT Kevin Barry is rarely in the game tonight and the Packers commit to running the ball with RB Ahman Green all game long (until Green is hurt in one of several Packers injuries in the game). Green didn't have much success in the game, but the Packers need to keep giving Green the opportunity. You never know when Green will break a long run. Martin makes up for the poor blocking and makes an excellent catch for a touchdown. Take away the poor blocking that led to the sack on the first series, and Martin has an excellent game.

Second quarter: WR Robert Ferguson continues to have a bad season. He has the ball taken from him after he catches it for an interception. Ferguson has made some plays this season, but bad things often happen when the ball is thrown to Ferguson. Just an awful quarter for the defensive secondary. CB Ahmad Carroll committed an obvious pass interference call that led to a Carolina touchdown. Then S Earl Little was dragged by RB Deshaun Foster for 25 yards on a pass play that led to another TD. Little looked bad, but rookie FS Nick Collins deserves blame for the big play. Collins took an awful angle to Foster and whiffed on the tackle. Collins isn't getting too much press for it, but he is having an awful rookie season. If anyone deserves slack for the bad start, it is Collins. He is starting as a rookie and he is making the leap from Division I-AA college football to the NFL. The Packers are asking too much from him to start in his first season. Collins has almost made numerous plays, but the bottom line is that he hasn't created any turnovers and has helped turned 10 yard gains into 80 yard touchdown passes.

Third quarter: Unfortunately, Ferguson will continue to receive more playing time, because WR Terrence Murphy was hurt on a botched kickoff return. The Packers were down to three wide receivers after Murphy left and the unit looked winded by the end of the 4th quarter. This is a good time to mention the outstanding job of the run defense. Defensive coordinator Jim Bates is rotating eight defensive lineman throughout the first four games and all of them are playing well. NT Grady Jackson comes in for obvious run downs and DE KGB is always in on passing downs, but there is no consistent pattern to the rotation. KGB, DE Aaron Kampman, and DT Cullen Jenkins are receiving the most playing time, but DT Colin Cole, DT Corey Williams, and DT Kenny Peterson are receiving substantial time too. Rookie DE Mike Montgomery comes in for at least one series to spell KGB or Kampman. Unfortunately, this unit isn't generating a consistent pass rush and the Packers efforts at blitzing usually don't work out and open the door for big offensive plays.

Fourth quarter: Carolina has their last score in large part on a weak pass interference call on SS Mark Roman. Roman probably bumped DE Julius Peppers (who was playing on offense in the slot), but Roman had clearly turned to play the ball and it was probably thrown too high for Peppers to catch. By this point, the Packers offensive line has lost two starters (Clifton and C Mike Flanagan) and is playing Adrian Klemm at left tackle, Grey Ruegamer at left guard, and Mike Wells at center. It wasn't a world beating unit, but Carolina knew the Packers had to pass nearly 100% of the time, and the unit gave Favre good protection. The revamped offensive line played well and deserves a lot of credit for helping the Packers get back in the game. Of course, nothing helps like turnovers. KGB forced a fumble which Favre turned into a quick TD pass. It was exactly like the play the Rucker made at the start of the game that led to the very early 7-0 Carolina lead. Favre hit backup TE Donald Lee. Lee was signed right after the preseason ended and he looked like a big blocking tight end, something the Packers didn't have on the roster, but he showed great hands on the TD pass. If the Packers hadn't started in such a big hole and then win the turnover battle, then they could win these close games.

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