Fast Start, Solid Defense Carries Pack Past Fins

The Green Bay Packers' first-team offense is not quite ready for prime time, but it's getting there.

The Packers scored their first touchdown of the preseason early on Saturday in the 52nd Midwest Shrine Game, then got a boost from their defense and De'Mond Parker in the end as the Packers won 17-12 at rainy Lambeau Field.

In between the Packers were as crisp as an autumn day in some areas, then as soggy as the jerseys they were playing in against the Dolphins.

Like the first two games, the Packers continued to haunt themselves by committing eight penalties, but there were bright spots amid the rain drops as well.

Veteran defensive linemen Gilbert Brown and Russell Maryland, and cornerback Tyrone Williams played for the first time this season because of injuries that they were nursing early in training camp. All three came out physically OK and the defense gained confidence holding the Dolphins (1-3) out of the end zone.

Offensively, the Packers bolted to a 10-0 first quarter lead on Corey Bradford's 16-yard touchdown catch from Brett Favre. But the offense regressed from that point, and so did Favre, completing just 2 of 10 passes for 20 yards after the first two scoring drives.

All three of Green Bay's drives with the first-team offense ended in punts in the second quarter. Favre finished the night 7 of 19 for 92 yards and a touchdown, but he also was victim of at least three dropped passes.

The Packers (2-1) finish their exhibition schedule Friday at Oakland. But the team's starters are not expected to play more than a quarter. Coach/general manager Mike Sherman went with his first-string offense and defense into the third quarter before plugging in reserves. The results were mixed.

"We played mistake-free football for the most part in the first quarter," said Sherman. "I was very pleased with that. We proceeded to do some very unacceptable things in the second quarter and we made mental mistakes on our routes, dropped a couple of balls, we had penalties. Senseless penalties, to say the least. The personal fouls were ridiculous.

"As disappointed as I am about some of the stupid things we're doing, I'm very pleased with a lot of other things," said Sherman.

The Packers first-team offense played without running backs Ahman Green (groin) and Dorsey Levens (broken hand), and wide receiver Antonio Freeman, who suffered a concussion in the Packers' win over Denver on Aug. 20.

Linebackers Chris Gizzi and K.D. Williams started for the second straight game in place of Nate Wayne (knee) and Na'il Diggs (groin). Wayne and Diggs are expected to return to the starting lineup in time for the season opener at home against Detroit.

"The main thing now is to stay healthy," said Wayne, who suffered a sprained knee Aug. 11 at Cleveland.

Despite a downpour at the start of the game, Favre came out smoking, connecting with wide receiver Bill Schroeder for a 23-yard gain to Miami's 48-yard line. The drive stalled at Miami's 13 and Ryan Longwell booted a 29-yard field goal to give the Packers a 3-0 lead.

Miami, which had seven of its eight total penalties in the first half, was flagged twice on its opening drive and forced to punt. The Dolphins' secondary gave up a couple of big plays on Green Bay's first touchdown drive of the game, and preseason, late in the first quarter.

Defensive back Ben Kelly played too far off of wide receiver Donald Driver, slipped on the slick turf and had no time to recover, allowing Driver to catch an 18-yard pass from Favre on third-and-10. The Packers got another break in the drive when cornerback Terry Cousin was flagged for 16-yard pass interference penalty on Schroeder, which put the Packers on the 23. Three plays later, wide receiver Corey Bradford got inside of cornerback Sam Madison, caught the ball at the 10 and streaked into the end zone as the Packers took a 10-0 lead.

"We called a slant play," Bradford said. "I went in and when he first threw it, it kind of bounced off my chest and the linebacker spun me around right into it. I just caught it, looked at the goal line and was determined to get across it."

It was Bradford's only catch of the game. Rookie tight end David Martin led the Packers with 2 catches for 26 yards. Tight end Bubba Franks dropped two catchable passes within three series in the second quarter.

Darren Sharper kept the Dolphins out of sync by intercepting a pass thrown by starter Jay Fiedler late in the first quarter. But Favre threw behind Driver in the next series and was intercepted by Cousin at Miami's 32.

Olindo Mare made four of five field goal attempts for the Dolphins, including a 22-yarder with 1:09 left in the third quarter to give the Dolphins a 12-10 lead. Mare also made field goals from 29, 44, and 25 yards out, and missed from 37 yards wide left.

Backup quarterback Doug Pederson fumbled a snap from Frank Winters and the Dolphins recovered at their own 41 early in the fourth quarter.

The Packers got the ball back on their own 5 with 9:34 left in the game. After Pederson completed an 11-yard pass to Martin to the Packers' 38, Parker, in a heated battle for the third running back spot, burst through the right side of the line and upfield for a 54-yard gain to the Dolphins' 8. Two plays later, he scooted around the right end from four yards out for the game-winning touchdown.

"The line did a great job; my fullback did a great job, too, and I just made a sprint to the front pylon," said Parker, who finished with 80 yards rushing on 9 carries.

Packer Report Top Stories