The only winless team in the league, the Packers are not as bad as their record. They also have not played well enough to win one game. The Packers have played hard, the effort is there, but they are sitting in the cellar of the worst division in the National Football League.
Green Bay certainly has proved that it belongs in last place. What we witnessed Monday night in Green Bay's 32-29 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte was a replay of that we've seen at Lambeau Field and Ford Field this season. The Packers committed a number of penalties early on (six in the first half), gave up 14 points on turnovers and were quickly in a deep hole, 23-7 at halftime.
Credit the Carolina Panthers for forcing Brett Favre to fumble the ball away early in the game. Also give cornerback Ken Lucas kudos for ripping the ball away from wide receiver Robert Ferguson for an interception as Green Bay was knocking on the door of the red zone late in the second quarter. Lucas competed for the ball, Ferguson didn't, and Carolina literally took a scoring opportunity away from the Packers.
Without those two turnovers, the Packers played well enough to win. Without two starting offensive linemen, their Pro Bowl running back, reserve wide receiver and return specialist, and starting linebacker for most of the game, the Packers played well enough to win. But they also played poorly enough to lose.
Watching safety Earl Little get dragged 29 yards downfield by running back DeShaun Foster was embarrassing for the Packers and their fans. Giving up a 60-yard kickoff return to Carolina, topped with a 5-yard offsides penalty, after pulling to within 12 points late in the third quarter was another punch in the stomach for the Packers. Carolina went on to score touchdowns in both cases, just like it scored a field goal in the second quarter when cornerback Ahmad Carroll committed a needless, 26-yard pass interference penalty on wide receiver Steve Smith.
Again, the Packers could have won the game, should have won the game, but didn't. It was great to see Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila finally get to quarterback Jake Delhomme early in the fourth quarter and force a fumble that led to a touchdown and two-point conversion to ignite Green Bay's rally. It was exciting to watch Brett Favre lead the comeback and pass for four touchdowns and two, 2-point conversions. But the hole was too deep for the rebuilding Packers to escape.
"Moral victories are garbage," said tackle Mark Tauscher. "You're 0-4. In reality that's where we're at. We're not playing consistently well. Until we do that, we're not going to win anything."
For a young team that got younger Monday because of the injuries to starters, expect Green Bay to play these kind of games throughout the season. The difference between winning and losing in the final three quarters of the season for Green Bay will come down to mistakes. The team hasn't given up on Mike Sherman. It is hustling on every play, but it is awfully frustrated because of its screw-ups on the field. Once again, the Packers were their own worst enemy Monday night.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.