Out of weapons

With Driver well covered, offense suffocates against Vikings

All Javon Walker, Terrence Murphy, Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport could do was look on Monday night as Brett Favre and the Packers offense tried to move the ball against the Minnesota Vikings defense.

Donald Driver broke loose for two big touchdowns totaling 68 yards in the first half as the Packers took a 14-7 lead. But the Vikings adjusted in the second half and covered Driver like a blanket, preventing him from reaching the end zone.

"You can't catch balls with three or four guys on you," Driver said. "They wouldn't let me get any big plays."

In the past, all Favre had to do was look for another receiver like Walker or Robert Ferguson to get the offense in gear. Murphy also was coming along as a potential play-maker this season. But Walker and Murphy were on the sideline with season-ending injuries and Ferguson was still a little gimpy playing for the first time since injuring his knee about a month ago.

That left Andrae Thurman and Antonio Chatman as Favre's top targets down the stretch in Green Bay's 20-17 loss to the Vikings at Lambeau Field. Under normal circumstances, Thurman and Chatman may not even be on the field, or roster. But because of the injuries that plagued Green Bay's receivers, it was up to Thurman and Chatman to "step up," as coaches and players always like to say. But that didn't happen.

Under the spotlight of Monday Night Football, Thurman let a very catchable pass slip through his fingers on third down deep in Vikings territory. Catch the ball and it would have been a first down. Instead, the Packers settled for Ryan Longwell's 46-yard field goal to tie the game at 17-17 with 3:03 remaining.

Earlier in the game, it appeared that Thurman may not have come back strong enough to the ball on two Favre passes that were intercepted. The bottom line is neither Thurman nor Chatman nor Ferguson were able to get open against the Vikings, like Driver did in the first half, to make big plays.

Driver was held to three catches for 16 yards in the second half. He was double-covered most of the time, sometimes triple covered. Somebody had to be open! He did draw a 37-yard pass interference penalty on safety Corey Chavous. Driver wasn't perfect. He also dropped a pass that stalled a drive, but it was clear that with Driver taken out of the picture, Favre had no go-to guy available.

Green Bay's rushing attack also felt the effects of playing without Green, Davenport and a gimpy Fisher. Samkon Gado, a free agent pickup a month ago, was a breath of fresh air against the Falcons a week earlier. Gado rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Monday night, however, he was stopped dead in his tracks by a Vikings defensive line that overpowered Green Bay's line.

Gado's fumble on his first carry of the second half resulted in a benching. Fisher, normally a third-down back during good times, stepped in on first downs but that didn't make any difference. Fisher was held to 14 yards rushing and Gado only had 7. What about ReShard Lee? The back that the Packers signed a few weeks ahead of Gado in early October never got a carry against Minnesota.

With no threats to run the ball and none to catch it, all the Packers could muster was three points while Minnesota's offense wore down Green Bay's defense with long drives.

Because the Packers are ultra thin in talent at two critical positions on offense, there will be more lows than highs the rest of this season. It will be up to the younger players like Thurman, Chatman, and Gado to make plays. They are getting a rare regular-season audition to show they belong on the team in 2006. On Monday night, they didn't make it happen and the Packers lost another heart-breaker.

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


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