"We made a lot of mistakes tonight but we've got to get them cleaned up," said a disappointed Mike Sherman after the loss to the Jaguars. "We can't win football games this way."
Although Green Bay entered the Jacksonville game tied for being the 14th most penalized club in the league, the last three weeks have seen a marked increase in calls against the green and gold. In the blowout loss to Philadelphia, the Packers gave the Eagles six first downs by penalty and committed 12 penalties for 99 yards. Against Detroit, Green Bay gave the Lions four first downs by penalty and suffered nine infractions for 94 more yards. Finally, against Jacksonville, the Packers had 12 penalties for 101 yards and gave the Jaguars five free first downs. As a result, Green Bay lost to the Jaguars and the Eagles, while narrowly beating a Lions team they should have had little trouble defeating.
Green Bay's defensive players acknowledge the problem and their frustration is growing. "We're just making penalties—we're doing stupid things out there," said middle linebacker Nick Barnett. "We practiced all week with refs. We should have gone out there and gotten a lot better in that area. You can't do that in a game like this."
Too many of the defensive penalties have been pass interference calls or illegal contact calls. The combination of the Packers tendency to play press coverage and the presence of inexperienced players in the secondary have been contributing factors to the problem. Al Harris is the Packers' best and most experienced cornerback. According to most scouts, Harris is not a very fast defensive back put he plays a smart, physical style and specializes in bump and run coverage. The other starter is rookie Ahmad Carroll who lacks experience and lacks size. Joey Thomas, another rookie who plays in the Packers nickel and dime packages has also had difficulties with flags. Whatever the cause, the Packers defenders can't seem to correct the problem.
"It's a physical game," said a frustrated Hannibal Navies who was flagged for pass interference against the Jaguars. "You're not going to always have your hands off the receiver. That's how it goes."
"We're doing things that are not right," said defensive end Aaron Kampman. "We're just not playing very smart."
"The players have been talked to and scolded during the course of the week in relationship to what we can and can't do and that was frustrating to me and a disappointment," Sherman added.
The Packers have only two games left to prepare for the post-season including Friday's showdown against Minnesota which will likely determine the winner of the NFC North. They won't win the game against Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss and the explosive Vikings offense by giving Minnesota free yards and first downs.
"We have to stay focused on the Vikings," said nose tackle Grady Jackson. "That's all we have to worry about now. Win our division, that's the main thing."
"Our mission, our goal, is to win the division," Sherman said. "That's still out there. But there's things we have to get fixed or we're just kidding ourselves."