Packers Look To Limit Mistakes

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When Head Coach Mike McCarthy terms an occasional practice "sloppy," that's normally a result of two contributing factors - pre-snap penalties and turnovers.

At times during the first two weeks of training camp, practices were bogged down with those types of mistakes - players jumping offside or poor throws being intercepted.

But if there's one positive to come out of last Saturday's struggles in the preseason opener at San Diego, it's that the Packers reduced those elements of their sloppy play. As a result, they somewhat stayed in a game that could have been much worse than 17-3 considering all the difficulties, particularly on offense.

No one in the locker room is particularly proud of how the team played, but it is worth noting that the Packers had just two pre-snap penalties and one turnover, a vast improvement over some of their training camp workouts.

The pre-snap penalties were both on defense - an offsides and a flag for 12 men on the field - and the turnover was a fourth-quarter interception by quarterback Aaron Rodgers that may have been overturned by replay had the officiating crew had access to Green Bay's television broadcast. San Diego's TV angles didn't show Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie touching the sideline boundary before he had complete control of the ball, so McCarthy's replay challenge was denied.

But regardless, the offense didn't commit the type of game-changing turnover that plagued the team last year by giving opponents short fields for scores.

"That's a big reason we struggled last year was we couldn't take care of the ball and we couldn't execute in the red zone," Rodgers said.

"As a quarterback, what you're thinking in the red zone is touchdown-checkdown. When you've got a guy open you hit him, but you have to be smart with the ball. You take what the defense gives you and don't try to force anything. Last year in the preseason I was forcing stuff, I was out of control, this year I'm letting the game come to me a little bit more. I think we're in good shape on offense, we just need to be smart with the ball."

Rodgers was frustrated he couldn't get the team in the end zone. One goal-to-go possession ended in a field goal, and the offense had almost reached the red zone with a chance to pull within 17-10 when Cromartie picked off the fade pass intended for Marc Boerigter at the 2-yard line.

Both of the pre-snap penalties came on the same third-quarter San Diego drive, which ended with a field goal. The offsides was particularly costly, coming on third-and-2 to give the Chargers a first down.

But overall those types of mistakes were limited, perhaps a result of McCarthy's practice of pulling players from team drills for an immediate substitute for a pre-snap penalty. The magnitude of the effect is debatable, because similar methods have been used in the past to little or no avail, but it does send a message the mistakes aren't taken lightly.

"It's something all coaches want to eliminate, and everybody is trying to come up with a way of doing it," offensive tackle Mark Tauscher said. "It's got some credence I'd say, but when it comes down to it, it's concentration on the field."

Though there's no official count, the pre-snap penalties seem to have been reduced in practice this week as well. Wednesday afternoon, the second consecutive full-pads practice after one the previous evening, was a sloppy day by McCarthy's standards, but other workouts during the week have been more crisp.

"I think the most important thing is keeping conditioned," Tauscher said. "With the tempo of practice that Coach has implemented here, that's hopefully going to be a major reason we can eliminate those."

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