Defense still in doubt

GREEEN BAY - Looking for a reason to believe in the defense? The performance of the starters in the first quarter of the Packers' 27-3 loss to Tennessee at Lambeau Field Thursday night didn't do much to alleviate concerns. <p>

Titans backup QB Neil O'Donnell relieved starter Steve McNair after four plays and sliced through the starting D.

Most disconcerting was the wide berth the secondary gave the Titans' air attack. Both safety Marques Anderson and cornerback Al Harris were notably absent on long gainers on the Titan's second possession. O'Donnell hit wide receiver Drew Bennett for 17 yards, then followed immediately with a 24-yard strike to Derrick Mason. Both receivers were wide open in the middle of the field. Bhawoh Jue redeemed the secondary by breaking up a long pass intended for McCareins. Hannibal Navies also provided a few bright spots, but was no match for receiver Erron Kinney on a long pass play to third and long to end the first quarter.

Past the midway mark of the first quarter, it was difficult to tell if breakdowns were caused by the coverage or the conditions.

The D rode a rollercoaster the rest of the way. The unit picked up a little momentum when Chukie Nwokorie came up with two big stops to keep the Titans pinned inside the 20. The charge didn't last. On the first play of Tennessee's next possession, Billy Volek avoided a blitzing Antuan Edwards and hit running back John Simon on a screen pass which went for 68 yards before the speedy Anderson caught up with him. Two plays later, Anderson picked off O'Donnell.

"I just have to keep pushing, keep fighting," Anderson said. "I had some good plays, a big hit and an interception. We know what we have to do."

Jockeying for position: The best of the battles were doused by the bad weather. The running game sputtered, but Lamar Smith found a way to make himself heard with a 21-yard catch-and-run from Pederson early in the second quarter. Tony Fisher is probably one of the only players truly happy about the delay. Before the break he had two carries for zero yards in the first and hurt his chances with a fumble inside the Packers' 10-yard-line late in the second quarter, which was recovered by guard Greg Ruegamer. When play resumed, he opened with back-to-back 14- and 15-yard receptions from Pederson. He added a 16-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter. Fisher further redeemed himself when he recovered a Craig Nall fumble.

Although returning after the delay undoubtedly helped Fisher, he was surprised nonetheless.

"I was shocked. Everyone was shocked," Fisher said. "We basically just sat around, trying to stay loose.

Playing it safe: For the first time since his thumb injury kept him out of the preseason finale in 1999, QB Brett Favre was on the inactive list. Despite the monsoon-like conditions which rolled in during the first quarter, Favre sat with his teammates on the sidelines protected by a fishing hat. Ahman Green was also a late addition to list of sidelined players, and Gilbert Brown was also held as a precaution after testing his torn biceps muscle in the Panthers' game last week.

Inactive due to injury were: WR Jorg Heckenbach, RB Adam Tate, S Bobby Jackson, CB Chris Johnson, S Darren Sharper, RB Najeh Davenport, DE Jermaine Petty, LB Na'il Diggs and G Marco Rivera.

Thursday night's injuries: WR Carl Ford twisted his right knee in the 1st quarter and did not return. After the weather delay, LB Paris Lenon suffered a neck strain. For Tennessee, RB Robert Holcombe suffered a neck strain and linebacker Keith Bulluck sprained his knee.

The game was suspended by lightning with 2:05 remaining in the second quarter.


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