Friday, December 30, 2005

With the additions of LB Robert Thomas and WR Robert Ferguson to injured reserve, you can scroll down and see the Packers have quite a list of players injured. As you can read from the list, the early and often injuries to the backs and receivers, not just to the starters but to the backups as well which has led to some starts by 5th and 6th stringers, as been the major story of the season. had a piece on the play of rookie FS Nick Collins this season. Although the coaches are somewhat reserved (Jim Bates says Collins's big play ability is "starting to show up") the article claims Collins's has a "mastery of the plays". Collins has played well for a rookie and has continued to improve as the season goes on, but how does he compare to other free safeties?

Collins has 83 tackles, 1 interception, and 8 pass defenses. Last season's FS Darren Sharper has 47 tackles, 9 interceptions (2 returned for TDs), and 16 pass defenses in 2 fewer games played for Minnesota in 2005 and he was elected to the Pro Bowl. Obviously Collins has been a step down in every way, except he has more tackles than Sharper which Mike Sherman claims "has eliminated the long run." That sounds really good, except the Packers are ranked 23rd against the run in 2005, the same ranking they held in 2004. However, the pass defense is improved from 2004 and Collins is the only new starter in the secondary. The pass defense would probably have been even better with Sharper starting in 2005 and Collins learning as the 3rd safety in Jim Bates new (to the Packers) defense, but that isn't a slam-dunk argument. There is no clear-cut answer.

FS Bob Sanders made the Pro Bowl for the AFC. His stats of 92 tackles, 1 interception, and 4 pass defenses don't compare as favorably to Collins. In case of Sanders and fellow AFC Pro Bowl FS John Lynch, they both have a reputation as big hitters. Their mere presence in the secondary has an impact that can't be measured by statistics, apparently.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Football Outsiders had an article on upcoming free agents this offseason. Two players on their list caught my attention. If the Packers want to make an immediate improvement and make up for the free agent losses in 2005 on the offensive line, then they should target C LeCharles Bentley and/or G Steve Hutchinson.

Hutchinson has already been to a Pro Bowl and probably will be looking for a signing bonus between $8 and $10 million this spring. I don't know what Seattle's salary cap is looking like this season, but after spending big on LT Walter Jones, QB Matt Hasselbeck, and probably breaking the bank for RB Shaun Alexander this spring, it might be difficult to resign Hutchinson too. The biggest problem might be competition from other teams. If a playoff team is interested in Hutchinson, then why would Hutchinson want to play for a rebuilding Packer team if the money is the same?

Bentley might be a unique free agent. New Orleans should have plenty of cap room to resign Bentley, but will any free agent want to resign/sign with New Orleans? New Orleans should be a team without a home again in 2006. Losing team + living in a suitcase = worst situation in the NFL. Bentley may not want to resign under any circumstances and he might slip under the radar of some teams. He probably will not cost as much as Hutchinson and he might be just as good.

Another consideration is that both players should be free-free agents. It seems unlikely that either team would place a franchise tag on them. As I learned when LG Mike Wahle was a free agent last offseason, if the team places a franchise tag on a guard, the team has to pay him like a top 5 offensive lineman, including the high priced left tackles. It doesn't make sense for a team to pay any guard like a top 5 left tackle and this explains why guards are rarely (if ever) tagged as franchise players. Either player should be available at no compensation if the Packers sign them next March.
Will QB Brett Favre play his last game on Sunday? It seemed like Favre wanted to retire after last season, but his wife and family encouraged him to continue playing. I remember seeing his mom interviewed on ESPN and she was positive he would return for 2005 because she couldn't imagine him doing anything else. If Favre does retire, he should retire because the game has mentally worn him out. His awful 2005 is not entirely his fault and he still has the physical ability and health to play in 2006.

Favre has thrown more interceptions than ever by forcing the ball downfield and trying to make something happen. He has made a number of bad decisions this season, but that is how he has played throughout his career and he rarely throws the ball away. He said "the problem is that we're not good enough to overcome those mistakes that I make, where in the past maybe we were able to." The running game has struggled, the defense has forced far too few turnovers, and the special teams has been MIA all season. Favre should try to cut back on the number of mistakes and his turnovers have single-handedly lost games, but the entire team is responsible for the bad season and has not allowed Favre any room for error.

Although Favre has said he trusts his teammates, he doesn't seem comfortable throwing to WR Antonio Chatman or WR Andrae Thurman. He has thrown a lot of passes to WR Robert Ferguson this season and bad things seem to happen. Thompson and Mike Sherman (if Sherman is allowed to return in 2006) need to improve the talent at receiver or improve Favre's comfort level with the receivers he has. Favre knew he wanted WR Donald Driver to start back in 2001 when the Packers still insisted starting washed up WRs Antonio Freeman and Bill Schroeder. If the Packers aren't listening to Favre's opinion regarding his current receivers, then they should start.

How bad has Favre been this season? His QB rating of 70.5 puts him down with the likes of QBs Aaron Brooks and Gus Frerotte. However Favre's QB rating climbed each of the previous three seasons (2002-2004), which indicates that this season is a fluke. Why has his QB rating fallen so far in 2005? His completion percentage is almost identical to his career percentage and his yards/game is above his career average. Obviously his career record interceptions are largely to blame. Another big problem is that Favre is having trouble throwing TD passes when the Packers are inside the 20 yard line. Missing TE Bubba Franks is a big part of the problem. However, the biggest and usually overlooked reason is the season ending injury to RB Ahman Green. Despite the struggles Green had while he was playing this season, Favre had 14 TDs and 8 INTs in during the 6 games Green played, and has thrown 5 TDs and 20 INTs in the 9 games without Green. Has any defense really been concerned about stopping RB Samkon Gato? Teams would be concerned with Green, but all the attention must have switched to stopping Favre since Green's season ended.

GM Ted Thompson said the team wants Favre back, but he probably has to say that. It was one thing for him to force FS Darren Sharper out last offseason, but it seems unlikely that the first year GM has the clout to release Favre if Favre wants to return in 2006.

Thompson struck out in his first attempt to replace LG Mike Wahle and RG Marco Rivera this season. If the Packers can fix the interior of the offensive line and RB Ahman Green comes back to full strength in 2006 (unlikely) or Thompson can add a new running back in the draft (such as Minnesota RB Laurence Maroney), then the offense has no excuses in 2006. The return of WR Javon Walker and TE Bubba Franks can only help. If the offense recovers from all the ineffective play and injuries that plagued them in 2006 and Favre struggles continue, then it will be time for him to retire. If Favre wants the opportunity, then he deserves another chance.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Packers 17, Chicago 24. It was good to see the team rebound from the Baltimore disaster and play hard against Chicago. It was bad to watch the team lose in their usual 2005 manner; death by turnovers and poor special teams. Although the poor special team play was confined to K Ryan Longwell in this game.

First Half: QB Brett Favre threw 4 INT and had a QB rating of 44.3, but played his best half in weeks. He led the team down the length of the field on the first three drives and the Packers controlled time of possession. Favre hadn't been hitting his wide receivers in recent weeks, but completed passes to 4 different WRs and 8 different receivers overall in the first half. WR Andrae Thurman had 3 catches to increase his season total to 7 catches. New WR Rod Gardner had 2 catches. Favre was spreading the ball and moving the team despite the nonexistant running game. Unfortunately, the first drive ended on downs, the second scored a TD, and the third was Longwell's first missed field goal. The pass defense started out the game as badly as it played in Baltimore. WR Mushin Mohammad had 3 catches early and WR Bernard Berrian had two big catches that led to touchdowns. The big problem on offense was the injury to C Mike Flanagan. Flanagan hasn't looked great this season, but he was playing well in the game before a groin injury knocked him out. The Packers brought in LG Adrian Klemm to replace Flanagan and the offense never looked the same. Starting RG William Whitticker has struggled this season and was deactivated for the game, but he has to be better than Klemm. Favre had an interception late in the first half, but it was a great play by CB Charles Tillman. Packers 7, Chicago 14.

Second Half: The defense wakes up after slumbering for the previous six quarters. Chicago punts 4 times in the half and turns the ball over on downs once. Chicago is able to run for almost 100 yards in the half, but QB Rex Grossman only throws for 37 yards. Chicago is trying to run the ball more, but they only manage to score 3 points on offense. Longwell misses another field goal. Favre really falls apart in this half and all the good things he had going in the first half disappear. Part of the problem is the play calling. It appeared that the Packers were too concerned in protecting Favre. There was some justification; with Klemm in the game, LG Scott Wells shifted to right guard and RG Grey Ruegamer switched to center. The offensive line had never played with this lineup all season and they were using it against the best defense in the NFL. The interception Favre threw that LB Lance Briggs returned for a TD was an awful decision; it didn't look like Favre could see anything on that side of the field with the pass rush in his face and just threw to were he knew FB William Henderson should be. The biggest surprise in the game was the punt return for a TD by WR Antonio Chatman. CB Ahmad Carroll has been a big surprise as a kick returner the last couple of weeks, but Chatman hadn't gotten any blocking on punt returns all season. It was the second big play by the special teams in two weeks and it kept the team in the game after the terrible Favre interception and all the missed field goals. Even new P Ryan Flinn looked better than P B.J. Sander had looked the last few weeks, although that is a back handed compliment. Favre's third interception was a play Favre has been attempting over the last few weeks; throw the ball downfield and hope for the best. He did look better on the last drive when Longwell actually made a short field goal. The last Favre interception wasn't his fault; he was trying to make something happen on 4th down after sacks on the previous two plays. Packers 17, Chicago 24.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Does this mean I have to stop bashing P B.J. Sander? Sander got creamed on a block by S Ed Reed on a long punt return. MNF replayed the block from the over field camera and it showed Sander get completely spun around in mid-air. Sander had another bad punting game, but punted through the pain.

TE Bubba Franks was placed on injured reserve and it was about time. He had two scary hits in the last few weeks after playing most of the season hurt. With the season lost, it was best to let him heal for next season.

The Packers went the unknown route and signed P Ryan Flinn to replace Sander. Flinn had an awful 34.3 yards/punt for Dallas during the 2004 preseason, but obviously impressed in a workout this week. GM Ted Thompson seems to have left no stone unturned this season when injuries have struck.

Speaking of punters, ex-Packer P Josh Bidwell made the Pro Bowl. Quite an accomplishment for him considering the awful cancer scare that started his career. The Packers didn't make much of an effort to resign him two seasons ago, but he didn't sign for much in Tampa Bay either. Scanning the list of Pro Bowl players uncovers ex-Packers LG Mike Wahle and FS Darren Sharper too. In hindsight, it seemed that the Packers had the cap room and ability to keep all three players, but made poor personnel decisions. On the other hand, the Packers would probably still have a losing record with all three on the Packers 2005 roster and are probably better off in 2006 with the saved cap room instead of three aging players. looks ahead to the Packers potential free agents. There isn't anyone on the list that would be essential for the Packers to retain. DE Aaron Kampman would be the most important free agent. The market shouldn't be too aggressive for Kampman, who plays hard but isn't the most talented defensive end in the NFL. He would probably sign for a contract similar to Seattle's DE Bryce Fisher, who seems like a comparable player, and signed for 4 years and $10 million last March. K Ryan Longwell has been a very accurate kicker, but he was awful during the first half of 2005. Longwell has been automatic over the last few weeks, but he shouldn't be considered a must signing anymore. RB Ahman Green is coming off a major knee injury and will be 29 years old before the start of the 2006 season. The list of running backs over 30 years old who have run for over 1000 yards in a season is a short list. It seems unlikely that any of the other free agents would generate much interest this offseason.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Packers claimed WR Rod Gardner off waivers from Carolina. He probably is an improvement over WR Andrae Thurman for the number 3 wide receiver, but that isn't saying much. If Gardner was playing well at all, then Carolina would have probably kept him. Carolina has been desperate for a receiver to play alongside WR Steve Smith all season, and apparently Gardner hasn't done anything to prove himself in Carolina. It is hard to imagine Gardner having any impact for the Packers.
Packers 3, Baltimore 48. The game to balance the 52-3 blowout win against New Orleans earlier this season. It also ended any doubt that the Packers aren't awful this season and properly placed the Packers as one of the 5 worst teams in the NFL. As Aaron Schatz said "a good pass defense just up and quit on national television." CB Al Harris had been shutting down number 1 wide receivers all season, but WR Derrick Mason had 5 catches for 97 yards. TE Todd Heap continued the long line of tight ends this season who have abused the Packers. FS Nick Collins and SS Mark Roman both allowed Heap TD receptions.

The defensive line also contributed to the collapse of the pass defense. The Packers recorded zero sacks in the game. DE KGB and DE Aaron Kampman generated little pass rush and all the players rotated in at defensive tackle failed to generate any substantial push. The defensive line failed to stop Baltimore's mediocre running game and helped RB Jamal Lewis look like the 2000 yard rusher he was a couple of seasons ago. Baltimore's offensive line held the Packers defensive line in check for the entire game.

It didn't help that QB Kyle Boller looked great. His passes to Mason were sharp and his touchdown passes to Heap and WR Randy Hymes were perfectly thrown. If Boller played every game against the Packers, then he would have a long NFL career.

The only improvement for the Packers in this game was that CB Ahmad Carroll had an excellent kick return in the first half. It led the Packers lone field goal and it was probably the only special teams play this season that has set up a score.

It doesn't help that QB Brett Favre is getting worse as the season goes on. It isn't that his skills are slipping, but that his decision making is getting even worse. Some teams need to throw the ball deep more often to keep the safeties back, but the Packers are the opposite. Safeties seem to play deep waiting for Favre to force a meatball pass downfield. Every pass over 20 yards was thrown into double coverage. The Packers were able to run the ball, which is another indication that the safeties aren't helping out much in run support. Favre is not working with a great collection of receivers at this point, but he does need to try and take what the defense is giving instead of forcing the ball downfield.

Why were the Packers all smiles, except Mike Sherman, while getting their butt kicked on national TV?

Plus the Packers lost another running back to injury. The good news is that RB Samkon Gado should fully recover from this injury in a couple of months, but he won't be able to help out anymore this season.

Was anyone excited to see QB Aaron Rodgers play in the 4th quarter??? Rodgers played like a rookie. He had two fumbles and a lousy interception in one quarter of play. It didn't help him that the Packers gave awful LG Adrian Klemm another opportunity to play. Klemm can't pull on running plays (an essential technique needed for a guard) and he contributed to the missed block that led to the sack, fumble, and TD return. Klemm started to move outside to block LB Adalius Thomas but then stopped and LT Chad Clifton didn't know who to block. I still think Rodgers can be a good NFL quarterback; he made some good passes and moved the team down the field against Baltimore's starting defense.

There was no silver lining on this game.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Packers wounded group of linebackers took another loss when LB Brady Poppinga tore his ACL. The game vs. Detroit was Poppinga's first start of the season. The Packers said he could return in eight months, which would put it right at the beginning of next season's training camp. Poppinga has played well in his rookie season and his best ability is his solid tackling. He doesn't seem to have great speed, but he could be a potential full-time starter at strongside or maybe middle linebacker in the future. It would be surprising if the Packers consider him as anything other than a backup going into 2006, until he is fully recovered. The window may have just shut on his chance at starting full-time in the NFL.
Packers 16, Detroit 13. Detroit fell apart on Thanksgiving versus Atlanta and it cost Steve Marrucci his job. They shouldn't be expected to win a game the rest of the season. The problem was that I thought the same thing of Philadelphia, once they were forced to start QB Mike McMahon for the rest of the season, but the Packers still found a way to lose at Philadelphia. It was an ugly win and a lucky intentional grounding call saved the game, but it was the first bit of luck for the Packers all season.

First Quarter: It was an awful start to the game. The Packers forced a 3rd and 14, but S Mark Roman and LB Nick Barnett got confused in coverage and left WR Scottie Vines open for a 22 yard gain. RB Kevin Jones wouldn't have had a 40 yard run if FS Nick Collins had been a step quicker at the line of scrimmage, but he made up for it by running Jones down. Then a great goal line stand, especially from NT Grady Jackson, who has played a lot better since the Philadelphia game. QB Brett Favre almost immediately fumbles the ball and this game looks like many other Packer losses this season, but it is the only turnover during the game. Again the goal line stand is outstanding and Detroit settles for another field goal. The Packers respond with a scoring drive and WR Robert Ferguson catches one of his two receptions. I don't know how many times Favre attempted a pass towards Ferguson, but it seemed like most of Favre's incompletions were on passes at Ferguson. Few good plays happen when passes are thrown at Ferguson. The awful Packers special teams immediately follows up with awful kick coverage and CB R.W. McQuarters almost returns it for a TD. WR Roy Williams does make a great TD catch and it might have been the first TD reception allowed by CB Al Harris all season. With the touchdown, Detroit is done scoring for the game. They had three drives inside the Packers 10 yard line and only come away with 13 points. Packers 3, Detroit 13.

Second Quarter: Another good drive for the Packers ends with another special teams meltdown as K Ryan Longwell has his field goal attempt blocked. Detroit has a three-and-out and QB Jeff Garcia begins to melt down. Does he think his career is over with his bad play in Detroit this season? Any chance he ever had at starting full-time is probably over. He was yelling in frustration after almost every failed play in this game. RB Samkon Gado has a great TD run down the sidelines and he ran by at least two Detroit players. Gado is fast enough to be a great starting running back in the NFL. Another star on the play was FB Vonta Leach. Leach has been inconsistant this season, sometimes dropping passes and sometimes missing blocks. On Gado's TD run, Leach took out two Detroit defenders and single handingly opened the hole that Gado ran threw. Special teams let the Packers get pinned three times inside their 5 yard line during this game and P B.J. Sander was awful, averaging only 34.4 yards per kick. It was cold on Sunday night, but P Nick Harris was over 40 yards per kick and was outstanding at punting inside the Packers 20 yard line. Detroit's special teams outplayed the Packers special teams all night long. Fortunately, the defense stepped up and Detroit ran out of time with the last drive that started in Packers territory. Packers 10, Detroit 13.

Third Quarter: Both teams struggled on offense and there were four punts in the quarter. The Packers last drive led to an early 4th quarter, game-tying field goal. The big difference this week? Favre took a sack on 3rd down and settled for a field goal instead of throwing up the game-changing interception in Chicago. Packers 10, Detroit 13.

Fourth Quarter: Detroit has a great drive down to the goal line again, but this time they go for it and fail. If they kick the field goal, they probably win the game. They kicked two field goals in similar situations in the first quarter, but who knows what they were thinking. Gado's forward pass out of the end zone. John Madden mentioned on Monday Night Football how it was a loop hole in the rules that let Gado get away with his "pass". It looked like he was stretching out to get the ball out of the end zone, realized he wasn't going to make it, and flipped it out. He was outside the tackle box and he did get the ball past the line of scrimmage. It will be interesting to see this offseason how the competition committee tries to close this loop hole next season. The really lucky part of the play was that RT Mark Tauscher clearly held in the end zone but the officials thought he was out of it. Maybe the Packers luck has already changed. Another comment on the play; Leach made a great block on the long Gado TD run, but he completely missed his block and that was why he was standing at the 1 yard line by himself for Gado's "pass". If Leach hadn't missed the block, Gado would have ran out to at least the 1 yard line on the play. RG William Whitticker struggled in the game with a couple of penalties, and Favre chewed him out after one on 3rd down. It is rare to see Favre get in the face of a teammate. Packers 13, Detroit 13.

Overtime: They win the coin flip (once the refs find a coin to flip), DT Shaun Rogers helps out with a stupid 15 yard penalty, Ferguson makes a big reception, and the Packers kick their first game winning field goal of the season. The Packers made enough mistakes to lose the game, but luckily Detroit made more mistakes and the Packers get the win. Packers 16, Detroit 13.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Have the Packers been unlucky this season? Apparently the Packers have the worst luck of any team since the AFL-NFL merger. Scroll down until you read "Inside this week's rankings". Usually a team's ratio of points scored versus points allowed is a good indication of the team's win-loss record, but not with the 2005 Packers. Aaron Schatz removed the biggest blowout win for the historically unlucky teams, including the Packers 52-3 demolition of New Orleans, and found out that the Packers are still historically unlucky. The good news Aaron says is "well, teams with terrible "luck factors" are often much better the following year, as luck evens out." Better luck next season.

There has been another change on the offensive line and RG William Whitticker is back as the starting right guard. The Packers need to improve the run offense this offseason. They should be looking long at a running back, maybe even RB Reggie Bush if the losses continue to pile up, or maybe RB Laurence Maroney. But first they really have to improve the offensive line.

Football Outsiders says they are the 28th "best" at run blocking. As much as the loss of LG Mike Wahle and RG Marco Rivera has hurt, the poor play of C Mike Flanagan has been just as bad. The above linked JS Online article says that Flanagan is looking at retirement. It also mentions two rookies; G Junius Coston and C Chris White. Line coach Larry Beightol thinks both could start next season. Coston rarely played in the preseason, while White only had significant playing time in the last preseason game. Coston and White might battle OL Scott Wells for the starting spots at center and left guard next season. If the Packers want to add someone to the draft, they might think of spending a 2nd or 3rd round pick on C Greg Eslinger, who was named the best interior lineman and center in college football. The criticism of Eslinger, White and Wells is that they are all short and/or undersized for the NFL. The response is that undersized hasn't hurt the Denver offensive line (2nd best run blocking in the NFL) which has 4 starting offensive lineman under 300 lbs. They are so good that they can make RB Ron Dayne look like RB Reggie Bush. It would be great to add Bush or Maroney in the 1st round, but the Packers won't go anywhere until the O-Line is improved.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Packers have had three big problems this season; way too many turnovers, poor run offense, and awful special teams.

Fumbles and interceptions have both major problems. The two severe fumble offenders are QB Brett Favre and RB Samkon Gado. Gado might never have good hands while running, but that is something he can work on. Favre's problem is due in large part by his pass protection. Favre had a sack and fumble against Pittsburgh that was returned for a touchdown and it was the difference in the game. Pittsburgh blitzed their safety and cornerback from the left side and neither player was blocked. Against Chicago, Favre was sacked when the linebacker came off the left end unblocked because TE Donald Lee blew his blocking assignment. Favre always throws a lot of interceptions because he forces the ball into places that he shouldn't. But as the losses mount, Favre appears to be forcing the ball more and throwing it up for grabs more. Favre needs to stop the turnovers and stop beating himself.

C Mike Flanagan. I have been meaning to mention Flanagan's play the last few weeks, but I've skipped it since the arrival of Gado in the starting lineup. But Flanagan is the unsung problem on the offensive line this season. Most of the run offense problem drifts away from Flanagan and focuses on the loss of OG Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle in the offseason, plus all the injuries at running back. Football Outsiders says the Packers o-line is the 29th "best" in the NFL, right behind the metaphores of New England. The stats are broken down from left to right. For the most part, the Packers are just above or below average, except right up the middle, where the Packers rank dead last. Flanagan was injured for all of 2004 and I wondered back then if Flanagan should ever return to football. He was still struggling with the injury he suffered as a rookie back in the 1990s, which contributed to his lost 2004 season. At least once a game, Flanagan is shoved back 2 to 3 yards into the backfield immediately after the snap; the time it happened at Chicago it led to the quick handoff and fumble by Gado. LG Scott Wells and RG William Whitticker aren't headed to the Pro Bowl, but both appear to have a future and hopefully improve with experience. Whitticker was benched for the Chicago game, but did play at right guard later in the game. The Packers need to add two offensive linemen next offseason; one to replace Flanagan, the replacement can be a guard and Wells can move to center, and another in case Wells or Whitticker don't show improvement next training camp.

Special teams. Football Outsiders says it is the worst unit in the NFL. Ironically, 12-0 Indianapolis is next to worst in the NFL while awful Houston has the best special teams in the NFL. K Ryan Longwell has struggled with field goals and extra points, but has been solid the last few weeks, making his early season struggles to look like a fluke. Another irony, two the worst kickers are Minnesota's K Paul Edinger and Chicago's K Robbie Gould, who have been fantastic when kicking against the Packers. P B.J. Sander has been average to above average all season. The big problem is the kick and punt returns. Kick return is second to last in the NFL and punt return is one of the top 10 bad units. The blocking on these units can be awful at times and the many fumbles by the return men is another problem. This isn't a one player problem. Either GM Ted Thompson has to do a better job of building a roster with players who are good special teams performers too, or a new special teams coach needs to be hired. With Mike Sherman probably gone after this season, this unit will probably see a new coach in 2006.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Packers 7, Chicago 19. The Packers gain 358 to Chicago's 188 yards. Chicago is 0 for 10 on 3rd down. The Packers have the ball 35 minutes; Chicago only has the ball 25 minutes. Chicago commits 2 turnovers, but the Packers commit 4 turnovers. If QB Brett Favre takes a sack on both of his 2 interceptions, then the score is immediately turned around by 13 points and the Packers have the upset win. 3 turnovers happen in the 4th quarter and there could have been more. You could see Favre forcing passes and trying to make something happen. In some games this season, Favre had to force passes because the defense, special teams, and run offense were all struggling. But at Chicago, Favre could have done less and the Packers would have won. Turnovers have been the difference in almost every loss this season and Favre should try and show more patience; let the other team beat themselves.

It didn't help that the special teams were awful, as usual. P B.J. Sander's 14 yard punt, the late 1st quarter punt return to the Packers 35 yard line, and CB Jerron Wishom's inability to fall on fumbled punt return were the low points of the day.

A comment was made that the Packers haven't given up on the season and Mike Sherman hasn't given up on them. That was evident on the field as many Packers played hard. Rookie DE Mike Montgomery has stepped up lately and made some plays while filling in for DE Aaron Kampman or DE KGB. NT Grady Jackson had a poor game last week at Philadelphia, but was solid at Chicago. WR Donald Driver took some big hits but showed no fear and always held onto the ball. The Packers offensive line had one of their better games this season run blocking as RB Samkon Gado had some good holes and cutback lanes against one of the best run defenses in the NFL. FS Nick Collins continued his improvement as the season progresses and CB Al Harris gave QB Kyle Orton no chance at finding WR Mushin Muhammad open.

In the end, poor special teams creating poor field position for the Packers and good field position for Chicago plus the two huge interceptions were too much for the Packers.

First Quarter: TE Bubba Franks takes almost the exact same hit on a pass play that knocked him out last week in Philadelphia. Both hits happened as Franks was falling down and both hits snapped his head back with whiplash. Last week, it injured his neck/spine. This week it was an arm stinger. Franks has been playing hurt all season and the best thing might be to deactive him and let him get ready for next season. Chicago had great field position all quarter, but an interception and solid defense prevent them from scoring. The offense stalls because Favre is off with his passes, Tony Siragusa comments that Favre isn't setting his feet. Packers 0, Chicago 0.

Second Quarter: Both teams show some offense. The Packers move the ball well and Gado has another rushing TD. Orton completes one of his two good looking passes on the day to WR Bertram Berrian to set up a field goal. The Packers drive again, but on what appeared to be a busted play (busted shovel pass? busted pass blocking?) Favre throws an awful pass up for grabs, it is intercepted, RB Tony Fisher hustles down the field to stop the return for a touchdown, but there is just enough time to kick a field goal. The Packers had a sure field goal, but it was turned around. Should be Packers 10, Chicago 6, but Packers 7, Chicago 9.

Third Quarter: LB Paris Lenon is injured on a play. Although LB Robert Thomas returned for this game, LB Na'il Diggs couldn't play. With both Lenon and Diggs out, rookies LB Roy Manning and LB Brady Poppinga have more playing time, but Orton can't throw so this doesn't hurt the Packers in pass coverage. Neither team has much offense, Chicago doesn't pass midfield the entire quarter, and the Packers don't either until 2 minutes remain in the quarter. Packers 7, Chicago 9.

Fourth Quarter: Mike Sherman went for it on 4th and 1 in the 1st quarter from Chicago's 34 yard line, but he doesn't do it again on 4th and 5 in this quarter from Chicago's 38. The punt is a touchback (thanks Sander!) and Chicago drives for another field goal after the punt. The punt only netted 18 yards so why not go for it? The Packers run the ball once for 1 yard in the quarter and Chicago starts rushing hard against Favre. The pressure creates 2 fumbles and probably made Favre rush the pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. They couldn't run the ball because Chicago managed to hold the ball for over 6 minutes on their field goal drive and time was running out, but it could have helped reduce the pressure on Favre. The Packers are able to move the ball against Chicago's great defense, but the game killing turnovers decide the outcome. Packers 7, Chicago 19.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

It is a little surprising to see OG Grey Ruegamer will start in place of RG William Whitticker. Ruegamer has come into play a few series in each of the last two games, but it hadn't been reported whether that was due to injury or performance. Obviously it was due to performance. It is odd that the Packers took Whitticker out against Philadelphia because of his play, but then let him come back later in the game. What surprises me about the benching is that Whitticker has struggled at various times all season long, but the Packers seem most concerned about his play over the last couple of weeks. Apparently they expected him to improve as the season went on, but that hasn't happened.