It happened again. Once more the Packers had a very winnable game right in front of them, and they let it slip away. This time it was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who rode off in a brand new "Cadillac," leaving the Packers choking on fumes. Rookie Carnell "Cadillac" Williams rushed for 158 yards on 37 carries and wore down Green Bay's defense. After three games the Packers are still searching for their first victory. It shouldn't be this way.
In my last column I talked about what the Packers needed to do to beat the Bucs. They needed to improve in the turnover battle. They needed to limit penalties and silly mistakes. Unfortunately none of these things happened. You can't give up four turnovers and expect to beat very many teams. You can't rack up eight penalties. Frankly, the margin of defeat might have been worse if Tampa Bay didn't get flagged for eight penalties themselves.
In the past, the running game and misdirection passing plays were the strength of the Packers offense, but that's certainly not the case right now. Several times Brett rolled out of the pocket and threw passes that should have been caught -- a couple by Robert Ferguson in particular. This is where the Packers really miss Javon Walker because he has that great leaping ability and finds a way to get the ball even in heavy traffic. Also, without the threat of a really dominant running game like Green Bay has had in the past, the Packers are having a hard time making the rest of their offense click. The play action pass isn't as effective and right now we're relying on a lot of three-and five-step drops, trying to beat man-to-man coverage. Other teams are playing Cover-2 against the Packers because it leaves seven men in the box. Until you have proven that your running game can beat seven men in the box and can force that eighth man, the strong safety, to come down and support the run, it will be very difficult to get the vertical passing game going.
Even with all of the mistakes and penalties, I thought the Packers played the Bucs fairly well. Green Bay still had an opportunity to win the game. Unfortunately, Ryan Longwell uncharacteristically missed both an extra point and a 42-yard field goal. Ahmad Carroll made a great, athletic interception, but couldn't keep his balance and run it in for the potential winning touchdown. To top it off the Packers received an unfortunate ruling when Brian Griese clearly fumbled deep in Tampa Bay territory and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamilla recovered it.
In the first quarter choosing to go for it on fourth-and-four was a spectacular call. You would've thought the Packers would have gone for a shorter, mid-range pass pattern. Instead, they got single coverage on Ferguson on the outside. He had a great take-off route and Brett made the throw. It takes a quarterback with extreme confidence in his own ability on fourth-and-four to throw a 37-yard touchdown pass. It was a well-executed play, and just what we should expect from Fergy when he uses his speed and athletic ability.
Another positive sign has been the play of Antonio Chatman. He continues to impress me week in and week out. He's a smaller guy, but fearless. His route across the middle for a catch-and-run touchdown on second and 20 was a key play. It clearly illustrates what Chatman can do. He's a bright spot as a third slot receiver.
So, now what? In trying times like these -- and Green Bay went through a similar situation last year by starting off at 1-4 -- with all of the negative comments sure to come from fans and members of the media, the Packers need to tighten up the ranks, believe in themselves and continue to work as hard as they possibly can to eliminate the mistakes that are hurting them so badly. The positive thing they can take from this game is that they played a Tampa Bay team that came in with the No. 1 defense in the NFL and, at times, Green Bay moved the ball fairly well. The Packers also came up with their first defensive turnover. To lose to a Tampa Bay team that was 2-0 and had beaten two pretty good opponents is a positive for the Packers. They can build on that.
Looking ahead, Green Bay's schedule doesn't get any easier with teams like Carolina, New Orleans, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh coming up. Still, the Packers need to block out everything that's going on outside the locker room and practice field and work harder to be the best they can as a team.
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 & 14o0 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.