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Butler: Packers Need This Bye Week


This week, the Green Bay Packers will get to enjoy their bye week.

At least enjoy it as much as any 3-4 team can.

After a frustrating 34-24 loss to the St. Louis Rams, in which quarterback Brett Favre suffered a hairline crack in his thumb, there could be no better time for a bye.

Recent events no doubt have Packers coaches, players and fans feeling very frustrated, but we all need to take a step back.

As rough as things may appear, there's still plenty of time to resurrect this season and make a charge at the playoffs.

The next opponent on the schedule is still-undefeated Minnesota, the team that beat the Packers 30-25 in the season-opener. But before we look ahead to that game, let's review what happened against the Rams.

Up until now, the Packers offensive line has been the strongest unit on the team. But they didn't have a great performance over the weekend.

Matched up against an athletic defensive line, the Packers line actually looked slow at times. They failed to consistently make holes for Ahman Green, and too often allowed a Rams player to chase the play down from behind.

Based on the Packers' outstanding success running the ball in recent games, you know Green Bay wanted to establish the ground game, but they never got it going.

Part of the problem was defensive end Leonard Little, who showed enough speed to chase down plays from behind, and also demonstrated a knack for reading screens by making an interception near the line of scrimmage.

Playing in the Edward Jones Dome, Brett Favre was sharp for the most part, even with his injury.

But Favre's teammates sometimes had trouble holding on to the ball, either on running plays or crucial passes. And late in the game, the Rams dropped back to protect their lead and Favre didn't have many openings to throw.

For the second weekend in a row, turnovers killed the Packers. Three of their four turnovers led to 17 of the Rams' 34 points.

Green fumbled for the second straight game and Najeh Davenport's fumble was costly because it took away any Packers momentum and gave it right back to the Rams.

The Rams crowd was into it all game long, and that's part of the reason the Packers had a turnover on special teams.

After the defense forced a three-and-out in the first quarter, Sean Landeta's punt was short. Antonio Chatman couldn't field it and Al Harris couldn't hear him calling 'Peter,' which is what you yell when the kick it short to get the blockers out of the way.

It's certainly not Harris' fault that the punt touched him, because he was busy doing his job as a jammer. I'm sure Chatman tried yelling at him, but with all that crowd noise there was no way Harris was going to hear him.

That's why it's so tough to play on the road.

The muffed punt set up St. Louis' first touchdown.

Marc Bulger went downfield to Torry Holt for a 39-yard score. Holt ran what we call a 'Dino' route, where one receiver goes down the field to occupy the safety, while the other runs out and then back in.

Harris was the covering corner on the play and expected help on the inside from Antuan Edwards. But the help wasn't there and Holt was open and the Rams had a touchdown.

Give Holt credit for running a great route, but the Packers should have had that covered.

Holt got another touchdown in the second quarter, but really it was Isaac Bruce that had a big day against the Packers, making nine receptions for 129 yards. I said going in that Bruce was one of the best play-action receivers in the game, but considering that Lamar Gordon left with an injury, the Packers shouldn't have been too worried about the run.

Arlen Harris had a few key runs, but stopping the run wasn't the Packers' problem last Sunday.

For all of the turnovers and miscues, I was impressed with the way the Packers fought until the very end, as evidenced by Davenport's outstanding 76-yard touchdown run.

If the Packers continue to play with that kind of emotion for the rest of the season, things will eventually turn around. They just have to.

In the hours since the loss, I've heard fans criticize everything from the play-calling to the personnel. And although those things do play a role, if you just take a moment and look at the game objectively, it's all about making plays.

Actually, the Packers' schemes have been pretty good. Think about the way they moved the ball on offense against Chicago, Seattle and Kansas City, and, at times, St. Louis. Think about all the third-downs the Packers defense has forced this season.

But what's happening is the Packers aren't always making the plays when they have opportunities. And they've had opportunities!

Coaching has nothing to do with turnovers or dropped passes. And the players the Packers have are good enough to make some game-breaking plays, but for whatever reason they just aren't happening right now.

Games are won and lost as a team, but each individual has to be responsible for himself.

The Packers have two weeks to think about their next opponent, and they need every day they can get, because the November 2 game against Minnesota is a must-win.

Right now, the Packers' goal isn't to win the division, but to climb back into the Wild Card race.

Believe it or not, they aren't that far out of it. The only problem is that they have four very tough games coming up, and they don't have much room for error.

This is a time of the season when leaders need to step up. They need to look at themselves in the mirror and look each of their teammates in the eye and remind one another of what's expected.

Most of all, the Packers have to stick together.

I promise you that no one feels worse about these losses than those guys in that locker room. And no one else can help them climb out of this situation.

Three-and-four is a rough way to start the season. But believe it or not, it ain't over yet.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is providing exclusive analysis to with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays and a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,*

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