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Packers Fumble Away Opportunities


Although fueled by an effective running game not present in their previous losses, the Green Bay Packers lost three fumbles and the game to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Perhaps the most critical Packers fumble in their 19-14 loss occurred with 4:31 remaining. Down 16 to 14, the Packers missed out on an excellent chance for Brett Favre to add to his 34 fourth-quarter comebacks. Eagles linebacker Mark Simoneau forced kickoff returner Andrae Thurman to fumble, and Ryan Moats recovered on the Packers' 25-yard-line. With a short field, the Eagles only needed to drive 10 yards, and kicker David Akers nailed a 33-yard field goal for the game's final score.

Turnovers overshadowed a strong performance from rookie running back Samkon Gado. With 26 carries for 111 yards, he surpassed 100 yards for the second time in the last three games. His best play occurred in the first quarter. He ran 33 yards for a touchdown, eluding Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins with a spin move. That score narrowed the margin to 10-7 and served as the longest Packers rush of the season.

But Gado fell victim to the turnover problems, which stifled the Packers all game long. With 4:47 left in the third quarter, Gado hauled in an 11-yd reception, but Jeremiah Trotter drilled him, and Dawkins recovered the fumble at the 50-yard-line.

A frustrated Gado threw his helmet on the ground. He spent the week of practice focusing on holding the football securely. The Packers, however, would not have remained in the game without Gado's efforts. Three Gado runs and a reception set up Favre's 13-yd touchdown pass to tight end David Martin with 40 seconds left in the first half. That play gave the Packers a 14-10 lead -- a lead they held until Akers kicked his fourth field goal with 4:45 left in the game.

Martin responded with a strong game, catching that second quarter touchdown and four passes for 41 yards on the day. He had to step up when a scary incident occurred 39 seconds into the second quarter. As tight end Bubba Franks tried to haul in a Favre pass, Dawkins' shoulder hit Franks in the head. Franks lay on the turf with a neck injury -- the severity of which had not been determined as of press time. After the play Dawkins and other Eagles players prayed for him. As a stretcher removed him from the field, Franks raised two fingers to the crowd, showing he could move his extremities. He spent Sunday night in a Philadelphia hospital as a precautionary measure.

Another Packers fumble set up the Eagles' lone touchdown of the game. Head Coach Mike Sherman had stressed the need for better kickoff returns, but ReShard Lee fumbled during Green Bay's second return. Dedrick Roper knocked the ball loose, and Matt Ware recovered it at the Green Bay 32-yard line. Two players later, Brian Westbrook, who rushed for 117 yards on 21 carries, bounced an inside run outside for a 27-yard touchdown.

Thurman replaced Lee, who injured his rib, on kickoff returns for the rest of the day. After Gado's fumble, Tony Fisher, who started the game, received some of the repetitions from the running back position. He finished with two rushes for nine yards and three catches for 33 yards. As effective as Gado was on the ground, he managed only 10 yards in the second half. The Packers went scoreless during that period.

The Eagles passing offense, which entered the game as the No.1-ranked passing offense, never scored either. After the first quarter, the Packers defense held the Eagles to three field goals the rest of the way. They also limited the Eagles to 264 total yards.

Eagles quarterback Mike McMahon, making his second start of the year in place of the injured Donovan McNabb, completed only 12-of-28 passes for 91 yards and no touchdowns. McMahon, however, did lead them to the game-winning fourth quarter score with a 12-play, 60-yard drive, resulting in an Akers 37-yard field goal. That gave the Eagles a 16-14 lead with 4:31 remaining in the game.

Akers tacked on another field goal following Thurman's fumble on the kickoff return. Down 19-14 Favre and the Packers had one last shot with 1:49 left. A personal foul for rookie linebacker/defensive end Trent Cole's hit on Favre kept the drive alive. Favre completed two more passes to Fisher and Robert Ferguson. With 59 seconds left and the ball at the 50-yard-line, Favre went for broke and the end zone. But Roderick Hood intercepted the pass intended for Ferguson as the Packers' fifth turnover of the day sealed their fate.

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