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Critical Breakdowns Doom Packers


The Green Bay Packers' struggles continued Sunday as they dropped their home opener to the Cleveland Browns, 26-24.The loss puts the Packers in an 0-2 hole and at the bottom of the NFC North Division with the Minnesota Vikings, who also remain winless.

Fresh off a 17-3 setback versus the Detroit Lions last week, the Packers looked to regain some momentum at home on a day in which the late Reggie White had his number 92 retired during a halftime ceremony.

The Green and Gold certainly looked impressive on their opening drive with a 10-play, 80-yard drive capped off with a 42-yard Brett Favre touchdown pass to wide receiver Donald Driver. Unfortunately for the Packers, they failed to get into the end zone again until the fourth quarter.

It's not as if the Packers didn't produce any offense between the first and fourth quarters, but they had trouble producing the touchdowns they so desperately needed. In fact, the team put together three drives in the second and third quarters in which they advanced inside the Browns' 40-yard line.

Two of those drives stalled with Favre interceptions and the other ended when Favre got taken down for a sack on third down, forcing a B.J. Sander punt.

"We can make it as good as we want it or as bad as we want it. If that is as good as we can play, then so be it," Favre admitted. "But I think we can play better than that, so we have to find a way to get back on track.

"Between the 20's is important but it's not as important as getting in the end zone," Favre acknowledged. "We can drive the ball on anyone. That opening drive is what we are capable of doing. It's what we expect of ourselves."

Favre conceded that the offense needs to pay attention to the details.

"We're making mistakes," he said. "You've got to stay in manageable down and distances...It's the little things that will win ballgames for you and it's the little things that will lose ballgames for you.

"Having 9, 10, 15 and 17 play drives and not getting anything out of it, you can look at it as a positive. It's better than going three and out. But we've got to finish the deal and how do we do that? We have to do the little things correctly."

Head Coach Mike Sherman agreed with Favre and stated his disappointment in the team's inability to put up touchdowns more consistently.

"We don't have a problem moving the football, it's just finishing off drives in the red zone, getting the necessary points, not kicking field goals and getting touchdowns," Sherman explained. "It's something that we have been pretty proficient at in the past and right now we are struggling a little bit at that."

Certainly the season ending loss of standout wide receiver Javon Walker doesn't help the team's situation. With Walker out, players such as Robert Ferguson, Antonio Chatman and even rookie Terrence Murphy are being counted on to contribute more than ever.

All three of the aforementioned players certainly showed flashes of what they're capable of. Ferguson moved into the starting lineup and had four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown.

Chatman finished the day with four catches for 71 yards and Terrence Murphy got his first taste of NFL life with 3 receptions. Driver put up the most impressive stats among the unit as he had six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Favre spread the ball around, completing 12 passes to his running backs on the day. Still, that effort was overshadowed by the team's ineffectiveness to get the ball across the goal line.

On the other side of the football, Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer had a huge day passing for 336 yards and three touchdowns, including an 80-yard touchdown to rookie Braylon Edwards and a 62-yard strike to tight end Steve Heiden.

In the end, it was those types of plays that were the defense's worst enemy.

"That's something we definitely can't afford to do at this level of football," linebacker Paris Lenon said. "You give up big plays; people are going to capitalize on that. We've got to clean those things up.

"We just have to continue to work and continue to improve. We have to get it fixed."

For the second consecutive game, the Packers failed to get a takeaway from the opposition, which is something that concerns standout defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.

"We have to get those turnovers," he said. "I know we are trying to create them because we practice it. We're just not getting them."

When asked about the two big plays to Edwards and Heiden, Gbaja-Biamila admitted that it was just a breakdown on the defense's part.

"It was a breakdown in communication half the time," Gbaja-Biamila explained. "One person is doing this and another person is doing that. We didn't do a good job of communicating during those times.

"It's something that's fixable; it's not something that we cannot do. We just have to hone in on it and make it an importance to make sure that everybody knows what they are doing."

On the bright side, the Packers continued to hold the opposing rushing attack in check. After doing a solid job against Kevin Jones last week, the defense again was up to the task this week limiting Reuben Droughns to only 50 yards on 20 carries.

The Packers will face another challenge next week as they take on Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau Field. The good news is that all four NFC North teams have at least one loss. With the Bucs coming to town, the Packers will try to cut down on the critical errors and notch their first victory of a still very young season.

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