Looking for a silver lining

The silver lining in the Packers' sub-par showing Saturday night isn't easy to uncover. The 27-7 exhibition loss at Buffalo introduced more question marks and injuries into an already cloudy preseason picture. Look beyond the porous defense and penalties, however, and a few bright spots are revealed.

1. The opening drive was picture perfect. The Packers went 75 yards in 13 plays, consuming almost half of the first quarter. A sharp Brett Favre was 4-of-6, including a 12-yard TD pass to Ahman Green. Seeing Green Bay's first team offense cut through Buffalo's highly-regarded defense wasn't surprising, but certainly was reassuring giving the rest of the story.

2. Punter B.J. Sander got a workout. He averaged 44.3 yards on six punts and placed two inside the 20. His busy night didn't include a clunker, which may be a first for him in his rocky NFL run. More good news on Sander: Not only did the much-maligned second-year man redeem himself as a punter, he also proved that he can make a hit. Sander was called upon to make two touchdown-saving tackles on returns. Likewise, kicker Ryan Longwell had to make a stop. That's good news for the last line of defense on special teams, and equally terrible report on the coverage in front of them.

3. Sticking with special teams, returnman Andrae Thurman performed admirably despite his broken thumb. The injury limited Thurman to kickoff returns, but he made his limited action worth watching. Thurman averaged 26.7 yards on three returns and had a long of 38 yards.

4. Maybe it's out of line to offer any compliments to a defense that yielded 27 unanswered points including scores on Buffalo's first three possessions. However two new safeties showed small sparks in the Packers' effort to reignite last year's burned out defense. Earl Little had four tackles and broke up a pass, while Nick Collins also chipped in a highlight-worthy pass defense. The moments that pleased new defensive coordinator Jim Bates were obviously way too few and far between. The Packers showed no signs of improvement against the run, and the Bills' comparatively low passing numbers can be attributed to their greenness of starting QB J.P. Losman.

5. As for Green Bay's young backup QB, Aaron Rodgers didn't prove much in the way of passing, but he sure can scramble. Rodgers ran for 31 yards on three carries, including a 23-yard scamper on his second play. Rodgers was just three yards shy of Najeh Davenport's impressive performance.

6. The momentum of the game could have swung Green Bay's way early. The Packers appeared to sack Losman in the end zone for a safety early in the Bills' first possession, but the play was negated by an illegal contact penalty that was not apparent on instant replay. That would have given the Packers a 9-0 lead and the ball. In the regular season, the reversal of the safety would be aggravating, but in August it's meaningless save for the fun of watching it happen.

7. The best news of the game was the safe and early exit for Favre. To worrisome (okay, paranoid) observers like myself, the preseason is one long opportunity for total disaster. The fewer plays the better, until the kickoff really counts.


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