Lombardi: The good news and bad news

Do you want the good news or the bad news? When faced with that question, I usually ask for the bad news first. I like to end things on a positive note.

If you saw the Packers-Patriots game last Friday, you already know the bad news. You saw it with your own two eyes. The Pack was outclassed and pushed around Lambeau Field by the defending Super Bowl Champions. Green Bay could not run nor pass the ball. The Packers allowed the Patriots to capitalize on four turnovers and superior field position to head back to Foxboro with a meaningless victory.

The Patriots averaged 4.6 yards per rush. The Green Bay special teams gave up a 43-yard kickoff return and a 25-yard punt return. Luckily for the Packers, a Patriots penalty cut the return by 19 yards. Brett Favre threw three interceptions, one of which was nullified by a Patriot's penalty. Aaron Rodgers threw another one and fumbled a snap that he recovered. Ahman Green fumbled once and the offense was unable to capitalize on a muffed punt when given the ball on the Patriots' eight yard line. They had to settle for a field goal.

There were times that the defensive backs looked lost on their pre-snap reads. They were talking and gesturing at each other and, at times, two guys initially ran with the motion receiver when he went in motion. Speaking of defensive backs, Ahmad Carroll acted like a male model after making routine plays. He was strutting and prancing around, drawing attention to himself for no apparent reason. It was ridiculous.

The Patriots out performed the Packers in almost every statistical category, but worst of all, Green Bay just looked flat. They did not seem to have any pop or energy. There was no urgency or vigor on their part. Maybe they were distracted by Coach Sherman's contract extension or the signing of Bubba Franks. Maybe they are just sick of the preseason. But for whatever reason, they looked lethargic and sluggish. That is the most disturbing aspect to the game. I can live with a defeat if the effort is there, but it was not there in this game.

The good news
First on the list is that the Packers lost to the best team and the best coach in football. The Pats are good, Belichick is good, and Tom Brady is the best in the game right now. Corey Dillon has reinvigorated his career in New England and he looked good against the Packers' patchwork D-line. Secondly, the Green and Gold ended last year's preseason with a 1-3 record and looked weak in a few of those games. Both the Seahawks and Titans made them look average last year. It is only the preseason.

The coverage teams have looked bad for a couple weeks now, but Ryan Longwell is clutch and B.J. Sander has quieted any doubts about his ability. He was voted the MVP of the game on Friday by the press box media. I voted for him. He needs to keep it up of course, but he has performed.

Many of the problems of this team can be fixed. If Grady Jackson can come back, the run-defense will improve. Maybe the Pack can sign the just-waived Corey Simon. It will cost them, but he is a talented player at a need position. Probably will not happen, but it is nice to hope. The running game should improve now that offensive line can take some time to jell. Rotating all those guys through the two guard positions can make it difficult to get a good picture of how good or bad that unit will be. They need to decide on the first team and let them get some reps together.

Bubba Franks will be back on the field soon and the first units on both offense and defense should be solidified soon giving them time to get in the groove.

The defense has been overwhelmed at times and many players have looked lost, but this is the third coordinator and the third scheme some of them have dealt with in as many years. There are a few rookies who will see significant playing time this year. In spite of their obvious talent, there is a big adjustment to the NFL and they will make some mistakes in the transition.

I will continue to reiterate my already stated belief that Jim Bates will make this defense better. Without Jackson in the middle and as much as I hate to admit this, Cletidus Hunt, they are in trouble. KGB and Aaron Kampman are struggling in Bates' new system. They were repeatedly walled off by Patriots tight ends and tackles in Friday's game. As I understand Bates system, he wants the defensive line to occupy the upfront blockers and allow the linebackers, who he sets deep away from all the junk, to make all the plays. If the interior lineman cannot occupy the guards and center, they can chip off and get to the next level and frustrate the scheme. Jackson and to a lesser degree Hunt will create havoc upfront and allow Nick Barnett, Ray Thompson and Na'il Diggs to clean up. The ends need to keep contain, because the corners are usually in man-to-man and need to play pass first. If the ends get walled, the running game can get outside and make it difficult to run down.

There are ample reasons to be worried about the performance in the third preseason game. There is also ample reason to relax and wait for this team to take shape and hope that the product on the field last Friday does not resemble the actual finished product that will take the field on Sept. 11 in Detroit.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. John resides with his family in Green Bay . His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. He will be contributing columns for PackerReport.com.

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