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TURNOVERS

by Jerry Gilbert
Even though John Madden made the same point on ABC, it did not deter me from summing up the Packers 32-29 loss to the Carolina Panthers with this observation: KGBs forced fumble recovered by Cullen Jenkins completely turned the game around and gave the Green Bay Packers a real chance to win. Before that play, the injury battered Packers were headed for a shameful drubbing. After that play, the offense ignited, the defense stiffened, and a team to be proud of briefly emerged. Even though the final drive sputtered to a halt, the Packers were in the game to the final minutethe last quarter was really exciting.

Lest we forget, however, the first 3 quarters were abysmal. It was the sorriest spectacle since Lindy Infante strode the sidelines of Lambeau Field. And do not blame the horrible play on injuries. Long before left tackle Chad Clifton limped off the field with an injury, he whiffed on Defensive End Mike Rucker who crushed Brett Favre. Mike Flanagan also contributed very little before his departure. On defense, the theme of the day was penalties and giving up big plays. Special teams were also way short of special.

Nevertheless, the post sack come-back occurred with an offensive line consisting of Mark Tauscher and four nobodies, and the line gave Favre all the protection he needed to mount the comeback. Adrian Klemm, Grey Ruegamer, Scott Wells, William Whitticker and the rock solid Tauscher played the best football we have seen from this years offensive line. Favre had time to find receivers and he responded. The offense was also down to three wide receivers and missing Ahman Green and Bubba Franks. Actually the injury to rookie wide-out Terrence Murphy may have been the most significant loss for the offense. As Robert Ferguson increasingly demonstrates that he is not a dependable playmaker, Brett Favre was beginning to look to the talented Mr. Murphy. Once Murphy was gone, Donald Driver and his two tired cohorts did not have enough fire power to pull off the comeback.

Jim Bates is as good as advertised. With a starting eleven that includes no candidates for the pro bowl, Bates has produced a respectable defense. It is not a group that can stuff an offense that starts a drive in the Green Bay Red Zone. But it is a defense that for two straight weeks has produced a second half turnover that gave the offense a chance to get back in the game, and unlike last week, they also shut down the Panthers in the final quarter,and gave Brett Favre and company a legitimate chance to pull out the victory.

Nick Collins, Ahmad Carroll, Nick Barnett and the rest are still young and prone to mistakes, but they are athletic and resilient. Actually, some of the best defensive plays on Monday were produced by lower paid free agents, Paris Lenon and Cullen Jenkins. Lenon made first down stopping tackles. Jenkins, with a big assist from Grady Jackson, stuffed the Panther rushers. Lenon had to step up because starter Nail Diggs once again left the contest due to an injury. Diggs had played pretty well before he was hurt. However, the defenders were losing some steam in the second half, but after Kabeers forced fumble, the defensive play was nearly flawless.

I cannot explain the effect of turnovers. Favres fumble on the opening drive did not seem to have much impact. The offense responded with a touchdown drive of their own and the defense played fairly well too. Perhaps it was because of the time in the game that Robert Fergusons muffed reception that turned into an interception seemed to have a very negative effect on both sides of the ball. Then came the Packer fumble recovery and ensuing touchdown which was the true tipping point of the gamechanging it from a one sided debacle to a contest worthy of a Monday Night.

KGB and Cul len Jenkins turned a game around with one outstanding play. A few more of those, and this team might win a few games.

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