Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Packers 14, Philadelphia 19. 5 Packer turnovers, including 2 kickoff return fumbles and 2 interceptions in the end zone, decided the game. For the second week in a row, the Packers offense was awful in the 2nd half, only 109 yards on offense in the second half vs. Philadelphia after less than 100 yards on offense last week vs. Minnesota.

First Quarter: Two three-and-out on offense and two poor punts combined with poor punt coverage started Philadelphia's first two possessions inside the Packers 40 yard line. DE Aaron Kampman forced a fumble on the first Philadelphia possession and Philadelphia only gained 13 yards on the second possession, leading to only a 3-0 deficit. Then RB ReShard Lee fumbles the kickoff return. If that was the only kickoff return fumbled by Lee this season, then Lee has caught, ran, or returned (total touches) 27 times and has 3 fumbles. Last week CB Jason Horton blew coverage against Minnesota in the final minute of the game and found himself on I.R. and out for the season, now Lee finds himself on I.R. with injured ribs after his latest (and last) fumble. Maybe the injury was causing all the fumbles?

The next drive really showed the worst part of the game; the complete collapse of the run defense. Minnesota had a lot of success running right at DE KGB and DT Cullen Jenkins, but also they were able to push NT Grady Jackson way off the line of scrimmage. DT Colin Cole got the start instead of Jenkins, but the results were the same. On RB Brian Westbrook's TD run, he ran to the left side, but then cut back across the middle because it was wide open after Jackson was pushed out of the play. It has been surprising that Jackson has held up this late into the season, considering that he opened training camp by flunking his physical and there is no backup nose tackle on the roster. NT Donnell Washington is on the team, but he has been inactive every game this season. Jackson either needs to be benched or given more time off. The Packers probably need to play DT Kenny Peterson at nose tackle and just hope for the best.

Then RB Samkon Gado shows off why he is NFL offensive rookie of the month by breaking 2 runs for 51 yards and a touchdown. Either constant fumbling is not a factor in being named offensive rookie of the month or it has been a quiet month for rookies. A big reason for Gado's big month is that G Scott Wells has started the last three weeks in place of benched LG Adrian Klemm. Over the last three weeks, the run blocking was great against Atlanta (one of the worst run defenses in the NFL), awful against Minnesota (average run defense this season), and great in the first half against Philadelphia (one of the best run defenses in the NFL). If Gado struggled against Philadelphia, the Atlanta game would look like a fluke. Maybe Gado and Wells have improved the run offense into at least an average unit, but the next few games will have to determine it.

Second Quarter: TE Bubba Franks is injured after taking a shot to the head. QB Brett Favre threw the ball to the wrong side of Franks, but it wasn't an obviously dangerous pass. Unfortunately FS Brian Dawkins timed his hit just as the ball got to Franks, but Franks was at an odd angle reaching back for the ball. Dawkins wasn't to blame, but it was an unfortunate situation and far too similar to the hit that ended WR Terrence Murphy's season a few weeks ago. The good news is that Franks will recover from it. Favre throws the first of his two interceptions in the end zone. SS Michael Lewis hadn't caught an interception all season until Favre threw the pass up for grabs. The Packers need to stretch the field, the offense isn't good enough to slowly work down the field throughout an entire game, but the interception was awful. It looked like the cold weather kept the ball from going to the back of the end zone as Favre intended. But this interception, and the game ending interception in the fourth quarter on a pass attempt to WR Robert Ferguson in the end zone, were either held up by cold weather or an ill advised attempt to throw the ball up for grabs and see what happens. Maybe Philadelphia brings out the worst in Favre's instincts. In the 2003 playoff game at Philadelphia, Favre threw up a pass for grabs in overtime that was intercepted and led to the game losing Philadelphia field goal. Favre did make up for it later in this quarter with a brilliant TD pass to TE David Martin. Despite the poor decision by Favre, the poor special teams play, and the collapse of the run defense; Packers 14, Philadelphia 10.

Third Quarter: The Packers offense has the ball for almost 9 minutes in the quarter and manages a whopping 59 yards. The big drive, a 33 yard drive, ends with another Gado fumble. Fortunately, Andy Reid forgets the Packers run defense is in shambles and actually has useless QB Mike McMahon throw 10 passes in the quarter and only runs the ball 5 times. Unfortunately, Reid lets Westbrook run on 4th and 1 at the 50 yard line, Westbrook runs right at DE KGB (again) for a 22 yard gain, and sets up the only score of the quarter. With the release, excuse me injury, to Horton last week, CB Mike Hawkins receives his first substantial playing time this season as the third CB. The Packers one great strength this season is that they have shut down opposing wide receivers this season. CB Al Harris is probably having the best season of his career and should be heading to the Pro Bowl. Philadelphia only completed 5 passes for 31 yards to their wide receivers in this game to continue the trend. Unfortunately, all the wide receivers with catches started the season competing for the number 3 wide receiver spot and they were thrown by Philadelphia's number 3 QB, so this is not a clear sign the trend will continue. Packers 14, Philadelphia 13.

Fourth Quarter: Neither team decides to run a pro-style offense in the 4th quarter. The Packers gain a whopping 22 yards in the quarter, although they didn't have too many opportunities. Philadelphia has a six minute, 60 yard scoring drive that kept the offense on the sidelines. Philadephia ran it some, McMahon dumped off a couple passes, and he scrambled on a couple other plays. Just enough offense to score a field goal. Then WR Andrae Thurman had the Packers 2nd special teams fumble of the game, which led to a time killing field goal drive. How Thurman didn't end up on the I.R. this week with a rib injury is a complete mystery. A personal foul by the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Week, DE Trent Cole, negated an interception and gave the Packers another chance, but the Favre threw the interception into double coverage discussed during the second quarter that ended the game. Packers 14, Philadelphia 19.

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