Defense bends, doesn't break

Despite turnovers, Packers keep Chargers from winning game

Defense takes big first step Despite the number of injuries that the Green Bay Packers defense has sustained in training camp, the unit performed well in its first exhibition under new defensive coordinator Jim Bates. The Packers only gave up one touchdown – Philip Rivers' 34-yard pass to Willie Quinnie in the third quarter – and prevented the Chargers from sneaking away with a potential game-winning field goal late in the game.

The Packers played without starting linebacker Na'il Diggs, who sustained a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee earlier in the week. Cornerback Joey Thomas, defensive tackles Cletidus Hunt and Grady Jackson, and rookie linebacker Brady Poppinga also have been bothered by nagging injuries.

"There wasn't nobody running around scott-free," safety Mark Roman said. "For the most part, everybody took care of their responsibilities. Everybody got lined up, and we were able to play fast."

The Chargers finished with 317 yards of offense. They took advantage of three fumble recoveries. San Diego drove inside Green Bay's 30 three times in the fourth quarter, but did not score. The Chargers moved the ball to Green Bay's 34 on their first series of the game, but the drive was thwarted by rookie Nick Collins' interception in the end zone.

"I thought our starting defense did some pretty good things in difficult situations at times," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "We did give up some yardage initially in that first drive in particular. But they kept them out of the end zone, which was ultimately what we wanted to do."

Looking good
Punter B.J. Sander, who struggled during the preseason last year, got off to a solid start against the Chargers. Sander punted seven times for an average of 46.0 yards per punt.

Sander's first punt of the night may have been his best. The second-year pro hit his first punt of the evening high into the air that was downed at the Chargers' 3 for a 42-yard net. His longest punt of the night was a 53-yarder.

Coach Mike Sherman and kicker Ryan Longwell both said afterward that they were impressed by Sander's ability to "keep an even keel" throughout the game.

"There's a maturity level in him now that he didn't have last year," Sherman said. "He'd get really high after a real good punt and really down after a bad punt. We just take them one punt at a time."

Starting nod
Two of Green Bay's selections from April's NFL draft started against the Chargers. Will Whitticker was inserted at right guard and Nick Collins at free safety against the Chargers.

Whitticker, the second of Green Bay's two seventh round selections, played opposite veteran guard Adrian Klemm, a free agent acquisition in the off-season. Whitticker and Klemm are battling for starting spots at guard vacated by the departures of Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle in free agency. Other top candidates for the guard spots include Grey Ruegamer, Matt O'Dwyer, Atlas Herrion and and Junius Coston.

Collins started with Mark Roman in the Packers' secondary. On San Diego's fifth play from scrimmage, Collins made an easy interception about eight yards deep in the end zone of a pass by Chargers' quarterback Drew Brees. Collins returned the interception to the 13.

Other candidates battling for the starting safety spot opposite Roman include Arturo Freeman, Earl Little, Marviel Underwood, and Todd Franz.

Did not play
The following Packers did not suit up against the Chargers because of injuries: defensive linemen Grady Jackson (knee), Cletidus Hunt (knee/shoulder), R-Kal Truluck (hamstring), and Kenny Peterson (elbow); linebackers Brady Poppinga (hamstring), Na'il Diggs (knee), and Kurt Campbell (calf); defensive backs Joey Thomas (calf) and Chris Johnson (shin); wide receiver Terrence Murphy (groin); and offensive lineman Brad Bedell (hamstring).

Extra points
– Former Packers safety Bhawoh Jue was penalized for illegal touching on a punt by Mike Scifres in the second quarter. Jue downed the punt inside the Packers' 5-yard line, but he was the first to touch the ball after stepping out of bounds on his way downfield.

Walter Williams and Andrae Thurman were the kickoff returners in the second half. Thurman was impressive, with returns of 34 and 32 yards.

– The paid attendance for the game was 69,611.

– DE Michael Montgomery registered the only Green Bay sack of the night when he took down Cleo Lemon for a 10-yard loss in the fourth quarter.

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