The Packers missed out on a good opportunity to take advantage of a team in transition, and even up their record in the process on Sunday. The stars were perfectly aligned. The Packers were at home before 70,400 loyal Lambeau Field fans. They got an emotional boost with the retirement of Reggie White's number. But it was all like a check that Green Bay failed to cash, and now they find themselves on the wrong end of a 0-2 record with the red hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming to town.
So what happened? First of all, Sunday's opponent, the Cleveland Browns, did an outstanding job of limiting their penalties and turnovers. Going into this game, I felt that the team that played with the most discipline and had the least turnovers probably would win. That was clearly the case. The Browns played within their system and quarterback Trent Dilfer had an outstanding game. Dilfer managed the offense very well, didn't make any mistakes and completed some short passes. The Browns beat the Packers at their own offense with the tight end running short six to seven-yard out routes that turned into some big plays. Cleveland also committed to the running game, and Rueben Droughns forced the Packers to respect the play-action-pass. The Browns killed the Packers with misdirection bootlegs, naked bootlegs and a balanced attack. Although they didn't throw the bomb, the Browns hurt the Packers with short passes and great runs after the catch like Braylon Edwards' six-yard slant route that mushroomed into an 80-yard touchdown.
On defense Cleveland took advantage of Javon Walker's absence by mixing up their pass coverage. They gave their cornerbacks plenty of over-the-top help with the two safeties playing cover-2. The Browns also played some two-man coverage, but the Packers were able to exploit that early in the first half by running a lot of short crossing pass routes. One -- to Donald Driver -- resulted in the Packers' first touchdown. Cleveland was caught off guard there but made some good adjustments in the second half.
I liked the way the Packers committed to the run. Coach Sherman did a good job with that, but when it came down to crunch time, there were some errors that cost Green Bay dearly. I'm sure there are a few passes that Brett Favre would love to have back. One happened in the third quarter when the Packers were in the red zone, and he threw a corner route to Robert Ferguson against zone coverage. Unfortunately the pass was intercepted in the end zone. The play was actually designed to beat man coverage, but it didn't look like Brett read the defense properly.
Coming into this game especially with the tribute to Reggie White, you would think that the Packers would have been motivated to have a great game. I know that Coach Mike Sherman and a lot of the veterans like Brett Favre, Ryan Longwell and William Henderson emphasized to the younger players how important this game was. It was really neat to see the Packer fans even in the fourth quarter when the Packers were down, urging the team on with the "Reggie, Reggie" chant. That gave me goose bumps because it showed the loyalty and appreciation of the Packers fans. Unfortunately the Packers couldn't step up and deliver a victory. You have to give a lot of credit to the Browns. They corrected their mistakes, played within themselves and seized the moment.
The Packers cannot afford to dwell on this defeat. They need to continue to improve, work to eliminate the mistakes and focus on the next game. Jon Gruden has his undefeated Buccaneers off and rolling with a revamped defense and a new offensive weapon in running back Cadillac Williams. Gruden is a smart coach, and he knows Brett Favre and the Packers attack as well as anybody. There's no time like right now for Green Bay to turn things around. They'll just have to do it against a very tough opponent.
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 & 1440 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.