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Patriots 27 Packers 3: Much Worse Than the Score Would Indicate

by Jerry Gilbert
Fridays third of four, hopefully meaningless, preseason games opened with all the bad elements of game two. The Green Bay kickoff coverage unit allowed a huge runback as the game began. Then the defense permitted a virtually unopposed touchdown for the defending world champion New England Patriots. A penalty on Al Harris nullified the good play that started the series when Cullen Jenkins broke through to bring down Corey Dillon. After that, the touchdown seemed inevitable.

That ended most of the similarity to game two. Unlike the first quarter against Buffalo, the Packer offense combined penalties and poor play by the first team offense as Brett Favre was harassed, sacked, knocked down and intercepted by the Patriot defense. The first offense could not establish a running game nor a passing attack. When something good happened, there was usually a penalty to undo the progress. Favre was at his worstmissing receivers and connecting with opposing safeties (3 times--one interception was nullified by a Patriot penalty.

Actually the defense played fairly well after the opening series. Short fields for the opposing offense due to turnovers created too much of a challenge for the still undermanned defenders. Arguably the top three defensive tackles, Grady Jackson, Cletidus Hunt and Corey Williams, remain on the injured list. Linebacker Nail Diggs is still injured, and cornerback Joey Thomas, though back with the team, is not at full speed. Nevertheless, the defense was effective much of the time. KGB, who, more than once, was victimized on runs around his end, also had two consecutive stops that forced a punt, a tackle of Corey Dillon in the backfield and a sack of Tom Brady. There were also instances of excellent coverage by the defensive backs and good tackling by linebackers. Two players, who seemed to show less than in other games, were Ray Thompson and Aaron Kampman. Mike Montgomery and Cullen Jenkins continued to be impressive. James Lee and Donnell Washington showed nothing to justify a spot on the roster.

The offense never got going. Favre was not effective and there was no running game. On the first play for Aaron Rogers, Ahman Green fumbled and by the next time Rodgers took the field, he was behind by another touchdown. He responded to adversity by throwing an interception, which led to another New England score. Rodgers has shown nothing in games to put him ahead of Craig Nall for the back up quarterback position this season. To be fair to all the quarterbacks, the receivers did not make a difficult catch in the entire game. No one stepped up on offense to make a memorable play. Such plays are essential in order to beat a team like the Patriots.

A small glimmer of hope was provided by the special teams whose coverage units were better after the initial disaster. To their credit, excellent punt coverage by Chris Johnson permitted the Packers to recover a muffed punt and set up the offense at the Patriot eight yard line. The offense responded with no yards in three tries and a short field goalthe only Green Bay score in a wretched offensive performance. The special teams did not produce a long runback, but their frequent punt coverage opportunities showed improvement, despite some decent returns by Tim Dwight of the Patriots.

One major point of concern is that the New England offensive line, which frequently outplayed the Green Bay defenders, featured two rookies from second tier college programsNick Kaczur and Logan Mankins. It raises issues about the possibility of superior coaching in New England. On the other hand, the several of the Green Bay defensive tackles who played in the game will not be with the team when the regular season begins.

Every year, the Green Bay Packers seem to give away one preseason game. From a standpoint of pride, choosing to do so against the defending champions may not have been a great idea. Though it is s till preseason, this team is not showing the mental toughness of a contender. It could be a long season.

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