Driver Plays Well, But Packers Still Miss Deep Threat


In the Packers' first game without Javon Walker, many observers questioned who would fill the No. 1 wide receiver role.

Donald Driver answered those queries on the game's first drive, catching a Brett Favre pass and outracing the Cleveland Browns' secondary down the sideline for a 42-yard touchdown.

"People are gonna say I'm not the number one guy," Driver said. "But I feel I've been the number one guy ever since I became a starter."

Driver finished with six catches for 105 yards, but the next two leading receivers were running backs, and their receptions came on short dump-offs.

Ahman Green had five catches for 45 yards and William Henderson had five for 27. Other than the Driver play, the Packers had few deep plays -- a specialty of Walker.

The Packers inability to stretch the field occurred because the Browns' defense did not allow it. The Browns lined up in a double zone scheme. That defense prevents the big plays but leaves the middle of the field wide open.

"When they're playing your vertical routes, it gets tough," head coach Mike Sherman said. "You can't force balls."

The Packers did amass 336 passing yards, but the passing game had a very slow start with only 77 yards coming in the first half. Driver said they could inflict greater damage if the offense faced man-to-man coverage.

"No one wants to play us man-to-man. Maybe we'll get the challenge one day when they think their corners are good enough to cover us one-on-one." Driver said. "We want to go deep -- some 80, 90-yarders if we can, but whatever we can take, we're gonna take."

Walkers' jumping ability and body control allowed him to outleap defenders and average 15.8 yards-per-catch in the first three years of his career.

"It's hard to replace a Pro Bowl receiver," said Ferguson, who caught four balls for 47 yards. "Brett had a tremendous amount of confidence in him."

With 2:49 left in the third quarter, Favre threw the kind of jump ball, which Walker routinely caught at the highest point. Browns cornerback Gary Baxter intercepted the 20-yard heave into the end zone.

"Any time the ball's in the air, I feel I've got a make a play." Ferguson said. "I feel I've got to at least break that up."

Without Walker, Ferguson became the No. 2 receiver. Antonio Chatman and rookie Terrence Murphy became the No. 3 and No. 4.

"We're asking a lot from our young receivers," quarterback Brett Favre said.

Murphy was the youngest and most inexperienced. He had not played in an NFL preseason or regular season game. The second round draft pick caught three passes for 23 yards. He caught a six-yard pass on the Packers' final scoring drive of the game. His offensive pass interference nullified what would have been his first career touchdown.

"I've got a lot to improve on as far as getting used to the game, as far as getting used to Brett," he said. "I'm just a rookie."

Murphy was critical of himself, but the Browns thought a lot of him. They barked out his name whenever he entered the game.

He focused on the painful loss in the Packers' regular season home opener more than his personal achievements. His first catch came during the 13-play, 96-yard scoring drive, which ended with a 19-yard Ferguson touchdown reception. He did not even know what happened to the first football he caught during an NFL game.

"I didn't even think about it," Murphy said. "I still have that college mindset of not being able to keep the ball."

Driver's mindset seems to be that of the player drafted in the seventh round of the 1999 draft. He still carries a chip on his shoulder for people who do not consider him a No. 1 receiver despite surpassing 1,000 yards in two of the last three years.

"I'm going to let people write what they want to write and say what they're going to say," he said. "I love criticism. You guys keep writing bad stuff, and I'll keep showing you I'm the guy."

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