Head Coach Mike McCarthy wasn't about to sugarcoat his team's 26-0 loss to the Chicago Bears, but there were two legitimate positives that the Packers can build from as the 2006 season continues.
One was the team's red-zone defense, which kept the Bears out of the end zone in four trips inside the Green Bay 20-yard line.
After hitting on the long touchdown pass to open the game, the Bears' offense did not get into the end zone again. In four red-zone possessions, the Packers got an interception by linebacker Nick Barnett and forced three field goals. A fourth field goal came from just outside the red zone, and Chicago's only other touchdown came on special teams with the fourth-quarter punt return.
"Once we got through the first quarter, the defense played some good, sound football," McCarthy said in his Monday news conference. "I think they converted their first three third downs, and after that they were 1 for 11. I think that speaks volumes about the way they played."
Perhaps the strongest defensive performance was turned in by end Aaron Kampman, who recorded seven tackles (four solo), including a sack and four hits on the quarterback.
It was Kampman's pressure that led to Rex Grossman's bad throw that was picked off by Barnett, and his sack forced the Bears to settle for their first field goal early in the second quarter.
"I thought he played well, played very well," McCarthy said. "He was very active in the run game, (he) pressured.
"He brings his lunch box to work every day. He's a true pro."
The other building block was the modest success of the running game, and particularly the play of Ahman Green. Coming back from a torn quadriceps tendon that cut his 2005 season short, Green rushed for 110 yards on 20 carries, surpassing the 100-yard mark for the first time since Nov. 14, 2004, against Minnesota.
Granted, 48 of those yards came in the fourth quarter when the game was somewhat out of reach. But after limited work in the preseason, the fact that Green was able to handle the workload for a full game and still appear strong in the fourth quarter was an important sign for the offense.
"He said he felt good," McCarthy said. "There's a fine line there. You want to push him as far as he can go because he is a play-maker. He's one of our key play-makers, and we do want to run the football.
"The only negative I had with the running game is we only ran it 20 times. If you want to have a big day you need to get up into the 30s. If that's 20-25 for him and 10 for the other guys, that's great."
With the ground game as a whole, the Packers seemed to execute the new zone-blocking scheme better than they had during the preseason, though it still needs to be more crisp, particularly in short-yardage situations.
"We had good looks," McCarthy said. "We felt (with) the game plan we had good angles."
That said, McCarthy pointed out the pass protection was erratic, and the breakdowns in other areas were scrutinized in film study with each of the different units. The focus is on learning from the mistakes rather than dwelling on them.
"Our direction and the leadership Coach McCarthy is giving us and trickling down to us as veterans is, hey, let's not overreact, let's not under-react as well," Kampman said. "But realize there's a lot out in front of us. Let's clean up what we can clean up."
Rookie left guard Jason Spitz sustained a thigh contusion in Sunday's game. McCarthy said he would be listed on this week's injury report, but he didn't know the severity of the injury or whether it would keep him from practicing this week.
Green's 110 yards rushing marked the fourth-highest individual rushing total in NFL history for a team that got shut out. The top three on that list are Leonard Russell for New England (147 yards on Nov. 28, 1993), Corey Dillon for Cincinnati (127 yards on Dec. 23, 2001) and Indianapolis' Eric Dickerson (117 yards on Dec. 1, 1991).
The shutout was the first in Brett Favre's 222 regular-season starts. That had been the most starts in NFL history by a quarterback who had never been shut out, a distinction that belongs once again to Steve DeBerg with 140.
The 26-0 score equaled the second-largest shutout score by a visiting team at Lambeau Field. The Bears shut out the Packers by the same score in 1977, and the Lions did so by a score of 40-0 in 1970.