Longwell lifts Packers to 10-7 win

Thank goodness for Ryan Longwell. The reliable Packers kicker made a 53-yard field goal attempt in the rain at Lambeau Field to lift the Packers to a 10-7 exhibition victory over the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night.

While Longwell was in mid-season form, so was Brett Favre, who threw the ball with precision. On the other hand Ahman Green and many of the Packers' reserves had trouble hanging onto the ball. The miscues allowed San Diego three chances to take the lead late in the game, but kicker Nate Kaeding missed three times on three straight series.

Green Bay reserve quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan took the Packers from Green Bay's 36 to San Diego's 35. Longwell, who won four games last season on last-second field goals, put the ball through the uprights in his only attempt of the evening.

"Obviously, the first credit goes to Rob (Davis), he snapped a bullet back there, and B.J. (Sander) got it down right where he needed it, right on the spot," Longwell said. "I played that thing four feet inside the left upright, and that's exactly where it started. That means the hold was perfect."

The Packers finished the game with six fumbles, losing three. The Chargers did not fumble the ball and were intercepted once.

"We've been practicing in great weather all camp, and then the first game is a torrential downpour," Green said with a chuckle. "The odds were against us. But we're pros. They are still mistakes. I just adjusted and did what I needed to do. I made a mistake but I'm going to fix it by running the ball and keeping my head in the game."

Packers coach Mike Sherman was concerned about the running backs' inability to hold onto the football.

"On Ahman Green's, I asked him about it immediately on the sidelines and he told me, 'Coach, I was squeezing that ball as hard as I could and it just squirted out of my arms,'" Sherman said. "We had three today that were on the ground. I don't believe they had any. So we really need to look at ourselves."

Running back Joey Harris' fumble late in the fourth quarter set up Kaeding's third try at a potential game-winning field goal, but his kick sailed wide right. The San Diego kicker missed from 45 and 44 yards on the Chargers' previous two possessions.

In between the sloppy play by the reserves in the second half, the Packers got an early look at an offense with a revamped line, their top draft pick, and a new defensive scheme that has many positions up for grabs.

"I think we can build from this," Sherman said. "We'll make the necessary improvements and get better."

The game was slowed by 21 penalties that were accepted. The Packers had nine for 63. San Diego finished with 12 for 88 yards.

"We had a typical preseason football game, ten penalties, false starts, things like that that are so typical of a preseason game, particularly the first preseason game," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "We had some success moving the ball, but obviously didn't get the thing done when we had the opportunity to."

Favre led the Packers to their only touchdown in the first half, completing a 23-yard strike to wide receiver Donald Driver midway through the second quarter.

The steady rain that fell throughout the game didn't seem to dampen Favre's play. The veteran quarterback completed 9 of 10 passes for 91 yards, including his touchdown pass to Driver that put Green Bay ahead 7-0. Favre's eight-yard pass to wide receiver Antonio Chatman to San Diego's on fourth and four keyed the 80-yard drive.

"That's the best start that he's had in the preseason that I can remember," Sherman said. "He was as good as I can remember this early in the preseason."

The Packers' first-team offense only mustered 37 yards of offense on their first two possessions. Their second series was cut short on the first play when Green fumbled the ball away on a run into the middle of the line of scrimmage. Green, who fumbled seven times during the 2004 season, also fumbled on the first play of the Packers' first series of the game.

The Packers had 127 yards of offense in the first half, but just 38 yards rushing.

"I'm disappointed that we didn't run the ball as effectively as I would have liked to," Sherman said. "I would have thought we would have run the ball a bit better, but I thought we functioned well within the offense, made some big plays, moved the chains when we had to and, obviously, the big play in the end zone."

Green Bay's defense, which played without a handful of injured regulars, shut down the Chargers' first- and second-team offenses in the first half.

The Packers held San Diego starting quarterback Drew Brees to 27 yards passing in the first quarter. Rookie safety Nick Collins got the Packers' first take-away of the game by camping under a pass about eight yards deep in the end zone that was nowhere near the intended receiver. Collins returned the interception 13 yards.

San Diego tied the game at 7-7 early in the third quarter on backup quarterback Philip Rivers' 35-yard pass to wide receiver Willie Quinnie. Quinne beat rookie cornerback Mike Hawkins on a post-pattern for the score.


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