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Notebook: Usually Reliable Shovel Pass Goes Awry


A game-changing play occurred 24 seconds before halftime of Sunday's game.

Ahead 7-6, the Packers had the ball at the Chicago Bears' seven-yard line. Then Mike Brown blitzed Brett Favre, and Charles Tillman picked off the pass and returned it 95 yards. The interception led to a Robbie Gould 25-yard field goal and a 9-7 Packers deficit.

The Bears rarely blitz on red zone plays, but Brown's pressure disrupted the play.

"They guessed right," Head Coach Mike Sherman said. "They made the play of the game."

They Packers called for a shovel pass to Tony Fisher. That play has gone for touchdowns during practices and games. The offensive linemen block like it's a draw play, but the safeties and linebackers drop back as if it was a passing play.

"Once they see the ball not handed off, you get greater displacement from the defense," Sherman said. "When they pressure and blitz, it changes that to a degree."

Brown reached Favre so quickly that he did not have time to complete the shovel pass. He attempted to throw the ball out of the end zone but could not put the ball far enough out of Tillman's grasp. Robert Ferguson, expecting a shovel pass, did not react quickly enough to break up the pass.

Favre has thrown six interceptions in his last three games, but Sherman and the Packers remain committed to Favre.

"He gives you everything he has on every play to win the football game," Sherman said. "He's always been the guy that's going to lead his team to victory."

Sherman also maintained that backup Aaron Rodgers will not see action unless the Packers are way ahead or way behind in a game.

"Brett Favre is our quarterback," Sherman said. "And he gives us our best chance to win."


Carroll Throws Hat Into Kick Returning Ring

The Packers used three different players, most notably Ahmad Carroll, on Sunday in an attempt to upgrade the kickoff returns.

Antonio Chatman, the punt returner and No. 3 wide receiver, began the game as the kickoff returner because of his familiarity with returning balls in difficult conditions like those at Soldier Field.

"Because of the wind and the uncertainty of where the ball was going to end up, we needed someone who has some experience back there tracking footballs," Sherman said. "Chatman gave us our best chances for that."

Chatman return three kickoffs for 36 yards. Sherman turned to Carroll in the fourth quarter. Carroll showed promise, returning two kickoffs for 43 yards.

"It wasn't anything earth-shattering, but I thought he hit it pretty hard and got us decent field position," Sherman said. "He showed some explosiveness and burst."

Andrae Thurman also returned one kickoff for 23 yards.

Sherman, however, has not declared who will return kicks against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.


The Windy City

Sherman remains confident in second-year punter B.J. Sander despite his uneven first half performance on Sunday.

"Up until the last couple of weeks he's been fairly consistent," Sherman said. "He has to get better in windy conditions and not trying to overkick and relaxing a little bit."

In the first half Sander did overkick his punts, trying to compensate for the blustery conditions at Soldier Field.

"You have to accept the fact you're not going to kick the ball quite as far in the wind like that," Sherman said. "You can't change your swing."

Sander had punts travel 14 yards in the first quarter and 21 yards in the second quarter, but he rebounded with two 50-yard punts in the second half. On the day he punted seven times for 250 yards (a 35.7 average).

When grading the film, Sherman also noticed that Sander raised his head too quickly during the first half.

The cold, windy conditions, however, played as great a role as any technique problems. Bears punter Brad Maynard posted an impressive 48.7 statistical average, but his punts benefited from good bounces rather than a strong hangtime.

"Their punter also struggled and drove some balls," Sherman said.

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