Lombardi: Not as bad as it seems

Plenty of reasons to believe Packers will turn it around

A lot of fans are despondent over the Packers 0-3 start and there is little to be positive about. Losing like they have makes it hard to hope that they can resurrect this season and make any kind of move toward respectability. But I actually saw some things on Sunday that are encouraging.

If anyone who knows anything about football had said that the Packers had any chance to beat anyone when they had a minus-3 turnover margin, a missed field goal and an extra point, and when they were out-rushed dramatically, they are a liar. The Packers cannot beat anyone when they do not eliminate turnovers and when they get out rushed. Given those facts, Green Bay played well enough on defense to win the game and they had enough going for them on offense to win, but only if they eliminate the mistakes and turnovers.

The Packers had 11 drives on offense - four ended in a turnover, two ended in touchdowns, one in a field goal, one in a missed field goal, one at the end of the half and two in punts. The Bucs also had 11 drives. They scored a TD on two of them, and a field goal on one. The Bucs threw a pick on another and had the ball when the game ended. The Packers defense forced a punt on the remaining six drives. The Bucs did not score in the second half. Two of the drives that resulted in a score were started off a turnover. Tampa Bay scored 10 points off Packers turnovers.

I am not making excuses for the Packers. They played poorly in weeks 1 and 2 and did not really deserve any praise, but this game was different. I watched it and was pleased with many of the things they were doing. They ran Ahman Green, even when he was being stopped. The defense played with effort and zeal. Ahmad Carroll actually made some plays and had the team's only interception. It looks like they may have found a kick returner in Terrence Murphy. Robert Ferguson and Antonio Chatman caught a touchdown. They both need to step up to replace Javon Walker, but they made plays.

They were still problems that need to be addressed. The Bucs were 8 for 16 on third down conversions and at one point in the first half, they were 6 of 8. The Packers were 3 for 10. I look at third down as a chance for players to make plays. Either the defense steps up and prevents a new set of downs or the offense converts and lives for four more downs. The Bucs made plays on both offense and defense. The Packers did not.

Cadillac Williams ran for 158 yards, but it took him 37 carries. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry. That needs to be fixed, but he has slashed the Vikes and the Bills, two teams that experts expected to have good defenses.

If you had asked me on Sunday morning that Brett Favre, William Henderson, Ryan Longwell and Rob Davis would have big mistakes that contributed to a one point loss, I would have been skeptical. These guys are veterans and were counted on to lead the younger guys. They took the blame like men and that is a good sign. I just worry that all this losing will create an atmosphere that will contribute to finger pointing and dissension in the locker room. This team could split the next two games and still be in the same position as last year. No one wants that, but this season is not done yet. Beat the Panthers and Saints, which is doable and then Minnesota after the bye and this is a new season.

The Lions, Bears and Vikings each have only one victory. The Lions will probably not be favored in any of their next three games (Tampa, Ravens, Carolina), leaving them at 1-4. The Vikings play the Falcons (loss) and the Bears (win) before their game with the Packers making them 2-3 heading into the Green Bay game. The Bears have the Browns and Vikings after a bye week, so they could split those two games and be 2-3. The Packers are not out of this at all. They need to begin to play fundamental football and cut down on the mistakes. If they can do that, then they will challenge for the NFC North title and things will be fine. If they continue to make stupid plays and commit foolish penalties and commit a gang of turnovers, then they deserve everything they get, which will be a bunch of losses.

I do not want to dismiss the depth of the hole the Packers are in, but there were enough good things that came out of the Tampa game to give me some hope.


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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