No Pain Gives Packers Lots to Gain Despite Loss

So many questions, so few clues. If the Packers got anything out of their final preseason game it was the fact that no one was seriously injured. Other than that, the final dress rehearsal was more of a pickup game, complete with cheap shots, penalties and generous substitution.

When it ended the Oakland Raiders prevailed with a 24-13 win over the Packers before a half-full (38,783 fans) Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland.

Packers coach/general manager Mike Sherman took a brief look at his first-team offense and defense, then began plugging in reserves midway through the first quarter.

The Packers did not dress a number of regulars on offense and defense. Running backs Ahman Green (groin) and Dorsey Levens (broken hand), wide receiver Antonio Freeman (concussion) and tight end David Martin (shoulder) sat out. The defense was without linebacker Na'il Diggs (groin), defensive end Jamal Reynolds (knee), and tackle Santana Dotson (thigh). And kick return specialist Allen Rossum sat out with a slight hamstring pull.

All of the above are expected to return for the season opener this Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Detroit Lions.

"I pulled our guys fairly quick in the game," said Sherman. "I really want our focus to be on next week and I want to make sure we have a healthy group so I put the hook out there pretty quick. You had to look at what you're working with at times."

At this point, the Packers have to wonder if their offense will get in sync. Brett Favre's 87-yard bomb to Corey Bradford early in the game was great for the game highlights, but the Packers first team, whether it was behind Favre or Doug Pederson, was forced to punt on two of its three possessions. It gained a total of 44 yards in 9 plays, excluding the big play to Bradford.

The Packers completed just 1 of 12 third-down conversions in the game, and that came with 3 seconds remaining. Green Bay finished 13 of 48 (27%) in third-down efficiency for the preseason.

Green Bay also had a tough time stopping the Raiders on the ground. The Raiders, a favorite by some to win the Super Bowl this year, finished with 203 yards rushing to Green Bay's 37.

"I thought their defensive front controlled our second group very well," said Sherman. "They had some negative yardage plays."

How effective Green and Levens will be when the bell rings on Sept. 9 remains a question. Same with Freeman, Diggs and the defensive line, which will be missing Cletidus Hunt. The tackle/end will miss the first four games because he violated the league's substance abuse policy in July.

"We had a very strong preseason," Sherman said. "We had a fair amount of injuries. We need to get some people back. Our starting tailbacks in Dorsey Levens and Ahman Green, our starting flanker in Antonio Freeman, we need to get him back. Our defense needs to play together as a group, which hasn't really happened until just recently."

Sherman did get a good look at third string quarterback Henry Burris, who played the entire second half. For the first time in the preseason, he took an extensive look at wide receiver Robert Ferguson before the rookie was knocked out of the game on a cheap shot by rookie safety Raymond Perryman with about eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Ferguson suffered a mild concussion but is expected to be ready for the opener, according to Sherman.

"It's unfortunate because I thought Robert was really stepping out to make something happen," Sherman said. "He had a great play on a double move when we were backed up on the seven yard line. He made some nice catches. I would have loved to see him finish the game."

Burris completed 13 of 24 passes for 170 yards and led the Packers on one scoring drive in six possessions. Ryan Longwell, who booted a 24-yard field goal late in the second quarter, made a 43 yarder with 11:24 left in the game to cut Oaklands lead to 24-13.

Burris scrambled before getting sacked by safety Derrick Gibson for an 8-yard loss on his second play of the night.

"The speed is 100 miles faster. ... You want to get comfortable with reads and be comfortable in the pocket," said Burris. "In practice it's a totally different feeling because you kind of know you're not going to get hit. In the game the bullets flying at you and you have to go through your progression very fast."

Bradford had three catches for 96 yards, his best output of the preseason. The fourth-year pro bounced back after a shaky outing against Miami on Aug. 25 when he dropped two passes.

After Favre threw deep and incomplete to wide receiver Donald Driver, he heaved another bomb toward Bradford, who cut in front of cornerback Eric Allen, caught the ball at the 40 yard line and dashed into the end zone.

"I adjusted to the ball. (Allen) was going to tackle me, so it was a natural instinct to stiff-arm him," said Bradford. "Once I got him out of the way. I thought the safety was going to get me, but once I got a few steps on him, I knew I was going to score."

De'Mond Parker, battling with Herbert "Whisper" Goodman had 16 yards on seven carries. Goodman finished with 15 yards on six attempts. Parker also caught five passes for 50 yards.

Rookie cornerback Bhawoh Jue led the defense with seven tackles.

Raiders running back Tyrone Wheatley gave Oakland a 7-0 lead by bouncing off an attempted tackle by cornerback Tyrone Williams, then racing down the left sideline 49 yards for a touchdown with 6:41 left in the first quarter.

The Packers bounced back with Favre's bomb to Bradford, but Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski put the Raiders back on top with a 37-yard field goal.

Oakland's Terry Kirby scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard plunge midway through the second quarter to cap a 13-play, 82-yard drive. Oakland stayed with its first-team offense in the drive while the Packers were using their second-teamers.

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