Talk about a game with a split personality!
The Packers' heartbreaking loss to the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night was a tale of two halves. Once again, the story had a sour ending. In the second quarter the Packers made some big mistakes, and the Panthers cashed in with 16 unanswered points. Ahmad Carroll was flagged for a 26-yard pass interference penalty while drawing the difficult task of trying to cover Steve Smith man-to-man, leading to a field goal. An apparent miscommunication left Deshaun Foster all alone over the middle and led to a 47-yard gain. That set up a 19-yard touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme to Michael Gaines. Brett Favre threw a sharp pass to Robert Ferguson on the slant route, but Panther defensive back Ken Lucas snatch the ball away from Ferguson. A pick set up an 11-yard TD by Stephen Davis.
Sixteen unanswered points. The Packers dug themselves a hole so deep that even a four-touchdown passing performance by Brett Favre was not enough in the end. The Packers had plenty of momentum going at the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second quarter, especially after all of the injuries that occurred to the guys on the offensive line. Mike Flanagan. Chad Clifton. Bubba Franks. I thought replacements Scotty Wells, Grey Ruegamer and David Martin all did an admirable job, but mistakes, like penalties and the inability to convert a third and one in the second quarter, really hurt.
I know that a lot of Packer fans are pretty bummed out with the team's 0-4 start. I also know that most Packer fans haven't given up on the season, especially given the overall weakness of the NFC North division. Fault me if you will, but I saw a few emerging bright spots in the Panther game. The way the team battled back showed that these players have a lot of heart. David Martin was solid with five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. Donald Lee made an unbelievable touchdown catch. Donald Driver snagged six catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. Many of the replacements really stepped up and that's what it takes in this league when starters go down with injuries. The replacements need to step up and I think the way the guys battled back in the second half - and the guts they showed - gives Packer fans some hope.
Even though Green Bay has had more than its share of injuries, all of us who watch this team look for a victory on Sunday against New Orleans. This team needs to eliminate the turnovers while creating turnovers from their opponents. That's what happened late in the second half against Carolina when Kabeer Gbaja Biamilla forced Delhomme to fumble and we all saw how that fired up the defense for the rest of the game.
Of course, the Packers still have Brett Favre. As anxious as some of the so-called "experts" -- and some of my readers -- have been to say he's finished, Brett's performance should have been enough to quiet this kind of talk for now. I just can't say enough about the heart that he showed in bringing his team back again and again. Despite all the injuries to the offensive line and with only three wide receivers, he willed the ball and his teammates into the end zone four times. It just goes to show that if you give him a little time to throw, he'll make the plays.
Like a lot of fans, I really liked the way the Packers took to the no-huddle. It's been the most successful offense they've used. Sometimes, the opponent will drop into a prevent defense, but this gives Green Bay the opportunity to spread the defense out and maybe give Brett control over some of the tempo in the play calling. He's a proven veteran in no-huddle situations and he does it extremely well. Why not give Brett more opportunities to do what he does best? It will be difficult with only three wide receivers, but it certainly looked like they tired out Carolina's defensive line by using the no-huddle.
As the team prepares for its game with Saints on Sunday, I think the players realize that they are still only a few plays away. Fact is, Green Bay has lost its last three games by a total of just six points. As bad as Monday night's second quarter was, it's still something that both offensively and defensively they can improve on. They've got to continue to work hard to eliminate the mental errors. The harder you work, the luckier you get and maybe some of the unfortunate calls they've been getting will start going their way. They'll have to earn it and they know they've got plenty of room for improvement. At the same time, they know that the Saints are a team they can beat. If they can get closer to error-free football, they can still play with anybody in this league.
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. For more on Majik, please visit www.majiknetwork.net