I know it's a very tall order, but that's the kind of performance the Packers will probably need to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field. They can't afford to keep making the mistakes -- the penalties and mental errors that cost them the first two games of this young regular season.
As coach Mike Sherman has emphasized throughout training camp and into the regular season, Green Bay needs to eliminate its own turnovers, and the defense needs to start forcing opponents to cough up the football. If the Packers can win the turnover ratio, they've got a real chance to win this game. It's an old cliché in the NFL that when you lose the turnover battle you usually lose the game. In my experience that cliché holds up.
On offense the Packers need to continue to work hard and improve their pass protection for Brett Favre. The Buccaneers present a very big challenge in this area. Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is very creative in trying to confuse offenses, and I'm sure he will create a defensive scheme, including different blitz packages and defensive line stunts, that will put a lot of pressure on our two new guards. The Bucs have a solid defense and they totally confused the Vikings' Daunte Culpepper in Minnesota in game one. They also were very successful in creating a great game plan against J.P. Losman and the Buffalo Bills last week.
Green Bay's offensive line, in particular guards William Whitticker and Adrian Klemm, will improve as the guys work together and get more comfortable with each other week after week. How soon that happens will be the key. I'm hoping they can eliminate some of the false start penalties and do a better job of sustaining their run blocks so Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher can break a few long gainers. Tampa Bay has a very stout defensive line that includes former Viking Chris Hovan. Hovan was a nemesis for Green Bay when he was with Minnesota and now he's playing extremely well for the Bucs. He seems to have a new serious attitude with less showmanship. His play is creating a lot of defensive havoc for opponents. Tampa's best defensive player is defensive end Simeon Rice. At 6-5 and 268 pounds Rice is a guy who can cause a lot of problems for an offensive tackle. Weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks and cornerback Ronde Barber are two more guys that figure to give the Packers headaches. The Bucs use Barber much in same way the Packers used to use LeRoy Butler, occasionally blitzing him to keep the quarterback honest.
Look for another chess match in this game between coaches Mike Sherman and Jon Gruden and many players from both teams. They both know the West Coast offense as well as each other's audibles, hand signals, different tendencies, pass protection schemes and play calling.
On defense the Packers will be up against Gruden who designs and calls all of the plays and the offensive schemes. The Packers need to be ready for an offense that uses a ton of different personnel groupings, a lot of shifting, formation changing and motion that can really create confusion for a defense especially a defense with so many younger players. Having an experienced player like linebacker Na'il Diggs back in the lineup should help. Guys like Nick Collins will have to be on top of their calls and be very disciplined because the shifting causes confusion and mismatches. Miscommunication and defensive breakdowns could allow the Bucs to have guys wide open.
The Bucs have a good-looking rookie running back in Carnell "Cadillac" Williams who has gained 270 yards in two games. He's just what the Bucs needed, an explosive back that is very difficult to bring down. He runs with speed and reckless abandon. At quarterback Brian Griese is similar in some ways to Trent Dilfer of the Browns. He won't beat you throwing the ball 40 to 45 times. Griese is conservative, plays within himself and is very intelligent. Gruden has done a great job coaching him, telling him to do the things necessary to move the chains and not to try to win games all alone.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will present the biggest challenge of this young Packers season. I would like to see Green Bay play a game with as few mistakes as possible. Don't turn the ball over and let's see how the final score reads. If they execute their game pland and don't beat themselves with stalled drives and silly penalties, they can emerge with a victory.
Don "Majik" Majkowski was inducted into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame earlier this year. His career for the Packers spanned six seasons (1987-92), including being named to the Pro Bowl in 1989 when he led the NFL in passing yards. In addition to his duties with Packers.com, Majik provides football analysis for WSSP-AM, SportsRadio 1250 in Milwaukee, WDUZ SportsRadio 107.5 & 1400 The Fan in Green Bay, WTSO - ESPN 1070 in Madison, WDEZ in Wausau, and WIZD in Stevens Point. Visit Majik's Web site, www.majiknetwork.net, for more information.