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Packers Look To Improve In Bye Week


It may be more blessed to give than to receive but, as far as Mike Sherman is concerned, enough is enough.

It, in essence, was the central message which emerged Monday from his weekly appraisal of the Packers for the media, this one coming in the wake of a 34-24 loss to the St. Louis Rams, a misadventure punctuated by four Green Bay "giveaways" that were major contributors (17 points) to the unhappy result.

"We're losing the turnover rate at too high a frequency right now," Sherman acknowledged, then added in succinct summation, "We're not getting enough and we're giving too many away.

"And that doesn't work, no matter how talented your team is. We can fix everything, but as long as we continue to turn over and not get 'em back, it doesn't matter what kind of team you put on the field...or who's on the field...whether you're rushing the quarterback or not...whether your running game works or it doesn't work.

"When you turn the ball over, you don't win football games. And so we have to fix that first. There are a lot of areas and some of them more critical than others, but that's a critical variable that definitely equates to winning.

"That," Sherman continued, "and explosive plays on offense and defense. We're giving up too much explosion - too many explosive plays on offense and defense. So when you turn the ball over, you don't win that margin, and you don't win the explosive game margin, more than likely you're not going to win, regardless of what quality of team you have."

As he spoke, the Packers were beginning their annual bye week and Sherman and his coaching staff were launching their customary in-season assessment of the team prior to resuming their regular-season agenda Sunday night, Nov. 2, when they invade the Minneapolis Metrodome for a nationally televised (ESPN) rematch with the Minnesota Vikings, undefeated leaders of the NFC North Division.

The Green and Gold find themselves with a 3-4 record and 3-1/2 games behind the Vikings at the moment, a status which prompted one member of the media to ask if Sherman sees the Packers' hopes of a third consecutive playoff berth "fading."

"No, I don't, " the Packers coach rejoined, with alacrity, "because we're not even halfway through the season just yet and things do happen in the course of a season. My focus now is more on the Vikings in this upcoming ball game more than anything else. And that's the only thing I'm worried about. Whether they're three-and-a-half, two-and-a-half or 10-and-a-half doesn't really matter to me at this present point, as much as we just have to get ready to play the Vikings in two weeks.

"Along the same lines, I have to think futuristically in regard to the team and how we can get better. And I'm confident that we can. There are things that happened in the ball game that are correctable...things that we can do better."

Roster changes, Sherman noted, are not likely in the effort to improve performance.

"Personnel-wise, it's difficult, obviously, as we have said before with the way things are in this league right now," he noted. "And to change personnel necessarily on your team - I would hope we would be smart enough to have the right guys in the right spots already. So it's not a matter of just finding some great pass-rusher that we're not using just yet. But I do believe that we can look at ourselves and improve some things. And, as I said, if we were just more proficient in not turning the ball over, it would be interesting to see what we could have accomplished. But it's hard to say you accomplish anything when you're not hanging on to the football.

"I think there are some things we can look at and decide what we're doing well, and emphasize some of those things And what we're not doing well...there were some fundamental errors in the game the other day - technique errors that we can correct.

"I thought we were hesitant at times - not trusting our teammates or our technique," Sherman added. "And we didn't react to plays with the speed that I think we should have. I think playing with confidence is a big thing and, obviously, when you're not used to being 3-and-4, you've been jolted a little bit. So somehow, some way, you try to get that back.

"But the only way to get that back," he said, "is to win football games and be successful."

Sherman also addressed these questions during his press conference:

On improving the defense: "I think you have to look at everything - personnel, scheme...and that's what this (bye) week is all about. We'll do some work on the field, obviously, but I think most of the work will be done in the meetings with the coaches, as we look at ourselves - as we do at every bye week - whether our record is 6-and-1 at the bye or 3-and-4 at the bye, it doesn't matter. You're going to look at yourself under a microscope regardless and find out 'What can we do better? How can we create turnovers? How can we create more pressure? How can we hang onto the football better than we are at this time?' "

On whether there is a way to correct a fumbling problem?: "Yes, there is. It's a technique - holding the football and emphasizing how we hold it. Also, in practice, a continuance of going after the football. Unfortunately, you don't have the contact hits in practice that you have in the games that have caused some fumbles in the past - or the fact that a guy's diving as it was the other day - putting a hand on the ground, trying to get that extra yardage. It's hard to mimic that, necessarily, in a game week practice.

"But, you know, we have the 'blaster' - we go through the 'blaster,' a piece of machinery that constantly tries to attack the football and force you to hold onto it. So there are things we will address. We've addressed them in the past and been successful, and we'll continue to do that."

On whether, with respect to the Packers' problems in domed stadiums, he is 'wondering why you have to go through this every year?': "Yeah, I do...I do wonder why. But it is what it is. And it's something we have to get fixed, because you can't go into a stadium like that, play a team like that and turn the ball over like that - to that degree...and expect to win.

"You couldn't do that against a poor football team, never mind a good football team. And we had opportunities. As I tell our defensive players, 'It's easy to be critical of the turnovers but you're just as responsible for takeaways.' And we had opportunities in that ball game - we forced a couple fumbles. They forced three, they got three; we forced, I think three...we got none. We should have had a couple interceptions that we didn't get. So we're not getting the ball the way we need to get the ball either. So, yes, we are guilty as charged - of turning the ball over, there's no question about that. The defense - they're guilty for not recovering fumbles, of being more proactive in that area...getting he interceptions that we need to get...So it's a two-way street."

On whether William Henderson has exceeded expectations?: "No, I think William Henderson is playing kind of like he's played. I think he's playing better than he played last year. He's playing kind of like he did two years ago. He has really stepped up as far as a special teams player - he made a great tackle on kickoff coverage on special teams - and he did it now two weeks in a row. So he's exceeding expectations as being a leader on our special teams. But as a fullback on our William is William. I don't know if there's a more professional-type football player on our team. I mean he is the consummate professional. He takes his job seriously, he's always in shape, he's always at practice, he plays with injuries. You know, he doesn't do everything perfect but he certainly gives 'perfect' effort every time. So that's William - that doesn't surprise me."

On whether the bye has come at a good time?: "I would say so...because we had some injuries in the ball game and we're a little bit banged up. It is at the midway point - not the exact midway - we've been fortunate that our byes have occurred more toward the middle than the end or the beginning, which I think is very important."

THE INJURY REPORT: Sherman reported that quarterback Brett Favre incurred a "hairline crack in the thumb" on his right (throwing) hand in Sunday's game at St. Louis but indicated Favre expects to start against the Vikings in the Packers' next game Nov. 2.

"I asked him how it compared to '99 (when Favre also suffered a thumb injury)," Sherman said, "and he said, 'It's not even close.' He said, 'I couldn't grip a ball. It's nothing like that - it's (also) nothing like the tendinitis.' He's confident he can throw the ball the way it is right now."

Sherman said the injury occurred "early in the game when he hit one of our guys on the shoulder pad, I believe, as he followed through on his throw."

The Packers coach also reported that nose tackle Rod Walker suffered a "meniscus tear that we need to look at" and linebacker Paris Lenon "a medial ankle sprain."

THE FAVRE FILE: Brett Favre now owns three of the four longest touchdown-pass streaks in Packers history. The 34-year-old field general threw a touchdown pass in a 16th consecutive game, collaborating with running back Ahman Green on a 21-yard score late in the first quarter of Sunday's game at St. Louis. (He also later fired a one-yard TD strike to fullback William Henderson).

For Favre, the first of these broke a tie with Don Majkowksi, who had a 15-game string, for the fourth-longest such skein; Favre already owned the second and third-longest such streaks, 18 consecutive games (recorded over the 1997 and 1998 seasons) and 17 consecutive games (posted over the 1994 and 1995 seasons).

Cecil Isbell (1938-42) holds the club record, having thrown a scoring pass in 22 straight games over the 1941 and 1942 seasons.

In Sunday's process, Favre posted a pair of scoring passes, thus swelling his season total to 13 and his career total to 327. He ranks third on the NFL's career list, behind Dan Marino (420) and Fran Tarkenton (342).

Favre also reached another milestone Sunday, making his 180th consecutive start, thus extending his NFL record for quarterbacks. It also remains the league's longest current starting steak at any position and is the 10th longest starting streak on record.

Additionally, Favre played in his 182nd consecutive game, leaving him only 5 short of the club record, 187, held by Forrest Gregg (1956, '58-70).

THE (NFL) STATISTICAL UPDATE: Although held to his lowest rushing production of the season by the St Louis Rams, Packers running back Ahman Green continues to lead the National Football Conference in four major offensive categories, according to the latest official NFL statistics released by the Elias Sports Bureau.

Green paces the NFC in rushing (734 yards in 151 attempts, a 4.9-yard average); in total yards from scrimmage, 963 (734 rushing and 229 receiving); in non-kicker scoring with 60 points on 10 touchdowns (8 rushing, 2 receiving); and in the production of first downs with 58 (46 rushing, 12 receiving).

Green also ranks 13th among NFC receivers with 30 catches and is tied for first place in third-and-one success with a 100 percent conversion mark (5-for-5).

Quarterback Brett Favre, third a week ago, stands fifth among NFC passers with an 89.3 rating, based upon 151 completions in 224 attempts for 1,529 yards and 13 touchdowns, with 9 interceptions.

Favre also ranks seventh in third-down passing with a 76.8 rating, based upon 34 completions in 57 attempts for 342 yards and 5 touchdowns, with 4 interceptions.

Running back Najeh Davenport became a conference leader over the weekend, his 76-yard touchdown excursion against the Rams having become the longest in the conference this season.

On the other side of the football, cornerback Al Harris and linebackers Nick Barnett and Na'il Diggs are among 17 tied for seventh place in interceptions with two apiece.

Teammate Antonio Chatman ranks eighth in the conference in both return categories, with a 22.7-yard average for 29 kickoff runbacks and an 8.7-yard average for 12 punt returns.

From the team perspective, the Packers have moved up from last week's eighth-place ranking to fifth place on offense in the NFL as a whole (sixth in rushing and tied for 13th in passing). They are 29th on defense (18th against the run, 28th against the pass).

The Packers also are second in the NFC in red zone offense (inside-the-20), having scored touchdowns on 78.3 percent of such possessions (18 TDs off 23 possessions).


-The Packers now are 1-1 in regular season action against the Rams in St. Louis. They posted a 24-9 victory in their first visit to the Rams in 1996, en route to Super Bowl XXXI.

-Quarterback Brett Favre Sunday distributed his 23 pass completions among 10 receivers, a season high.

-In scoring his 10th touchdown of the season, via a 21-yard pass-run maneuver, Ahman Green became only the third player in Packers history to post double-digit TDs that soon. The fabled Don Hutson did so in six games in 1942 and Jim Taylor recorded his 10th TD in the seventh game of his 1960 season.

-Free safety Darren Sharper was a defensive standout in the losing effort, posting a team-leading 9 solo tackles, forcing 2 fumbles and being credited with 2 passes defensed.

-Fellow safety Antuan Edwards returned to the starting lineup, after missing last week's game against Kansas City and weighed in with 7 tackles, 6 of them unassisted.

-Defensive end Aaron Kampman also returned to active duty, seeing the field for the first time since being injured on the first play of the Detroit game Sept. 14.

-Kampman took advantage of the opportunity, playing a role in Marques Anderson's first interception of the season, Anderson's "pick" came off a tip at the line of scrimmage by Kampman and led to the first points of the game, a 33-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell.

-The latter success was the eighth in as many attempts for Longwell, who remains "perfect" in the season to date, having also made all 24 extra points he has attempted.

-It was the 167th field goal of Longwell's career, leaving him only 6 short of the Packers' career record (173), held by Chris Jacke.

-Rod Walker made his first start of the season - the sixth of his 5-year career Sunday - stepping in at nose tackle for Gilbert Brown, sitting out the on-turf contest because of a knee problem.

-Packers captains Sunday were quarterback Brett Favre and wide receiver Javon Walker (offense), cornerback Mike McKenzie and end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (defense) and kick returner Antonio Chatman (special teams).

-Packers inactives Sunday included offensive linemen Marcus Spriggs and Brennan Curtin, running back Tony Fisher, linebacker Marcus Wilkins, defensive linemen Gilbert Brown and Terdell Sands, defensive back Curtis Fuller and Designated Third Quarterback Craig Nall.

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