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Packers Look To Tackle Inconsistency


Three never looked like such a big number.

Trying to advance to the playoffs for the ninth time in the last 11 years, the Green Bay Packers can almost assure themselves a spot in the post-season if they can win their two remaining regular-season games against the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos.

If that were to happen, the only likely scenario that could keep the Packers from at least grabbing one of the NFC Wild Card berths would be a three-way tie with the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks.

The 2003 Packers have proven already that they can win two games in a row, having done so three times.

But not yet have the Packers been able to win three straight. And with the team currently riding a two-game winning streak heading into the Monday night match-up with the Raiders, it's going to have to happen in order to win out.

"We're working on that," guard Marco Rivera said. "I'm not sure (what the problem has been), but we've got to get it answered because we need to win on Monday night. Whatever it takes, we've got to do it."

From game to game, or quarter to quarter and sometimes even possession to possession, the Packers have often volleyed between looking like heavyweight champs and heavyweight chumps this season.

Of course no team can be successful all the time, especially in the present-day NFL where parity reigns supreme, but the yo-yo effect has been unmistakable.

"God, have we had our ups and downs," center Mike Flanagan exclaimed. "I think that the glaring problem on this team has been our inconsistency ...

"What are we, 8-6? That sucks. We haven't lost what, four games last year, four games the year before? We have such high expectations that it hurts to be where we are. But, hey, this is what we've done and we're the ones who have got to right it."

Since the disheartening loss to the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day, there have been signs of the Packers turning things around. On offense, turnovers are down. On defense, takeaways are up.

Sure, there was the first quarter against the Chicago Bears when the Packers fell into a 14-0 hole. And there was the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers when the Packers lost hold of a 14-point lead.

But in both of those cases the Packers responded with some of their sharpest play of the season. And those two lackluster quarters aside, the Packers have looked like a team that's continuing to improve, even at points when they're not at their best.

According to Flanagan, if the Packers want to make the playoffs, lessening the gravity of mistakes is just as important as increasing the height of successes.

Because after all, winning ugly and winning pretty count the same.

"This is the NFL; the guys across from you, they're getting paid, too," Flanagan said. "It's unrealistic to say that week in and week out you're going to have that game that's at an A-plus-plus-plus level. Granted, we've had some games when we did that, but when you come back down you don't want to come back down to a D. You want to still play at a high level.

"Our bad games aren't as bad as they used to be."

About to face a 4-10 Raiders team that's decimated by injuries, one might expect that the Packers wouldn't need their best effort anyway to pick up that elusive third straight win Monday night.

But that's not the way the Packers are looking at it. Because until they can prove otherwise, the hills of triumph seem to be followed by pits of disaster.

"This team is still trying to find that confidence," said quarterback Brett Favre. "We had it at Tampa. We had it at Minnesota. For whatever reason, we didn't in Detroit.

"I feel good about this team if each guy individually can say, 'Hey, we're pretty good, but we have to do what it takes to win.' Also, understand that anyone can beat you at any particular time.

"If we just play at a high level of confidence, we're capable of doing anything."

But before the Packers can do anything, they must win their third game in a row.

A something that so far has yet to be attained.

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