Had the officials not blown the call, the Packers would have created a drive-killing turnover a few plays later. Tight end Justine Peelle was stood up by Navies and drilled by Mark Roman, causing a fumble. The play was ruled incomplete, however.
As good as Roman looked on that play, however, he looked even worse a couple of snaps later. On third-and-4, Drew Brees hit rookie running back Darren Sproles at the first-down marker. Sproles turned up field and left Roman grasping at air. Roman's missed tackle cost the Packers another 20 yards. It was the same "vintage" Roman we saw too often last season.
San Diego's next drive began at its 2-yard line. This was prime time for the Packers' defense to make a big play. Instead, Cole was manhandled by Toniu Fonoti, and Turner picked up 8 yards. On third-and-2, Parker toasted Al Harris, and if Brees was in midseason form, the Chargers would have posted a 90-yard touchdown. Instead, Brees' pass was thrown about a foot too far, and Harris applauded himself as if he had just solved world hunger.
On the Chargers' next drive, Turner ripped off an 11-yard run. Cole and Gbaja-Biamila again were collapsed by the Chargers' offensive line. Linebacker Ray Thompson was stuck by Pinnock, and middle linebacker Nick Barnett was too slow to close the gap and wound up being a nonfactor on the play. Later, on third-and-5, a dumpoff to Turner turned into an 8-yard gain when Barnett tried to make a diving tackle but whiffed.
The first quarter would end a play later with the score tied 0-0. While the scoreboard hinted of a stalemate, the statistics showed otherwise. The Chargers outgained the Packers 81-37 and recorded five first downs to the Packers' two. Had Parker not caused an interception and had Brees hooked up with Parker on the third-down play, the Chargers might have scored 14 points in the opening quarter.
Yes, the Packers were without Jackson and linebacker Na'il Diggs, but the Chargers were without Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates and former Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal.
Favre completed 9-of-10 passes for 91 yards and touchdown. Two passes stood out. First was the 23-yard pass to David Martin, in which Favre read the blitz, sidestepped it, and floated a pass over the linebackers but in front of the safeties. The second was his 23-yard touchdown to Donald Driver. This was perfect on both ends, with Favre underthrowing the ball — a technique that's in vogue these days — and Driver running full speed and then stopping on a dime to catch the ball before the defensive back knew what was coming. For the sake of accuracy, however, after several rewinds of the VCR, it appeared the Chargers had eight reserves and three starters on the field for the Packers' touchdown drive.
As for Green, never mind the fact he had nowhere to run. The Packers' line continues to be a mess, but it's far too early to be pressing the panic button.
What is reason to worry, however, is the fact Green fumbled twice. Why is it that my dog knows enough to keep her bone dangling on the side furthest from my hands, but Green continues to carry the ball in his left arm, no matter which way he runs? If my dog can grasp the concept that I can't take her toy if she keeps her head between me and the bone, why can't Green figure out he's more prone to fumbling if he leaves the ball exposed to oncoming tacklers? With his combinations of speed and power and running ability and receiving ability, only Green is keeping himself from being considered an elite back.
Compared to last week's scrimmage against the Buffalo Bills, the Packers showed vast improvement in many areas. Up next are the Bills, in Buffalo. Priority No. 1 for coach Mike Sherman and Co. is to continue improving on defense and find some semblance of a running game. The Packers took a step forward on Thursday. They can't afford a step backward on Saturday.
Lawrence is a regular contributor to Packerreport.com. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org