Although he had five passes picked in the Oct. 30 loss at Cincinnati, Sunday's outing by Brett Favre was easily his worst of the season. The telling statistics indicate as much: 45.5 completion percentage (15-for-33), 171 passing yards, 46.4 efficiency rating. All are low watermarks in 2005 for Favre, who also had two interceptions to bump his league-leading total to 19.
Favre was badly off the mark from the get-go (at least eight throws overthrown or underthrown) until an inexplicable second-down heave into triple coverage in the end zone that made for an easy interception by Roderick Hood in the final minute to seal the Eagles' 19-14 victory. Favre's only redeeming quality was a nicely executed hookup with TE David Martin for a 13-yard touchdown late in the first half. Martin led the team with just four catches. Top playmaker Donald Driver was held to three receptions. RB Samkon Gado exacerbated matters with a third-quarter fumble on a run after the catch. The line couldn't keep Eagles DE Jevon Kearse from disrupting a handful of throws with either pressure in the pocket or throwing his hands up to bat the ball away.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus
For a half, Gado was every bit as dynamic as he was in his smashing starting debut Nov. 13 at Atlanta, when he became the first Packers back to reach the century mark this season with 103 yards on 25 carries. The undrafted rookie piled up 101 yards on 18 attempts for a powerful per-carry average of 5.6 yards in the opening 30 minutes Sunday. A superb 33-yard touchdown run, featuring a deft spin from S Brian Dawkins past the line of scrimmage, is the Packers' longest ground gain of the season.
Following halftime, however, Gado lapsed into the overmatched newcomer. He churned out only 10 yards on eight second-half carries. The offensive line still wasn't in sync, as Grey Ruegamer rotated in for a few series in place of right guard Will Whitticker and one series in place of left guard Scott Wells.
PASS DEFENSE: B
No Donovan McNabb and no Terrell Owens meant a fairly easy time of it for the Packers to turn the Eagles into a one-dimensional offense. Andy Reid's conservative play calling with Mike McMahon at quarterback eased things as well. The scattershot McMahon was 12-of-28 for 91 yards in the face of minimal pressure. The Packers didn't allow Brian Westbrook to be the lethal threat out of the backfield he was in a blowout victory at Philadelphia last year, limiting him to a total of only 11 yards on four receptions. Green Bay, though, didn't have an interception, with S Mark Roman dropping one in the third quarter. The Packers also were able to get their hands on the elusive McMahon only two times for a sack, never mind they were up against a makeshift Philadelphia offensive line they should have handled better.
RUSH DEFENSE: F
What was that about preventing Westbrook from being a game changer? The back did his damage this time on the ground, piling up 117 yards on 21 carries for a gaudy per-rush average of 5.6 yards. The Packers left the backside vacated on a savvy cutback move by Westbrook downfield en route to a 27-yard touchdown in the first quarter. MLB Nick Barnett, the team's top tackler this season, was unbelievably lax in bringing down the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage, allowing Westbrook to scoot free for a 22-yard run on fourth-and-inches that led to a third-quarter field goal. Green Bay then gave up a 12-yard gain to Ryan Moats at the outset of a long drive in the fourth quarter that ended with another field goal. The Packers, ranked eighth in the league coming into game in yielding an average of only 3.8 yards per carry, were hit for 5.3 yards per rush as they gave up a season-high 180 yards. Even the mobile McMahon found running room with four carries for 29 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
The kickoff return unit has been a sore spot all season, and it got only worse Sunday. ReShard Lee and Andrae Thurman each committed costly fumbles on runbacks, which the Eagles turned into 10 points. Lee, a running back, made the cardinal sin of carrying the football in his right hand on a return up the left side, which left him vulnerable for an easy strip midway through the first quarter. Thurman replaced him for the rest of the game but probably cost himself future return duties by turning the ball over right after the Eagles went ahead 16-14 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Consequently, Favre and the offense had to wait nearly three more minutes before getting back on the field and were forced to try to score a touchdown, not a field goal, to win the game.
PR Antonio Chatman had one of his better games, averaging 7.8 yards on five returns, highlighted by a 24-yard runback that started the offense on the Eagles side of the field for a touchdown march right before halftime. P B.J. Sander struggled for the second straight game, managing just a 36.0 gross average on seven kicks. K Ryan Longwell didn't attempt a field goal for only the third time this season.
The early-season magic of first-year defensive coordinator Jim Bates is wearing off. Or, perhaps it's his adequate collection of players has worn down. For the second straight game, the Packers weren't able to come up with any key defensive stops in the fourth quarter and squandered a halftime lead. Shoddy tackling, especially by the unit's leader (Barnett), shouldn't be happening in the fundamentally sound system endorsed by Bates. Inexcusable mistakes continue to haunt the offense. The latest rash of fumbles brings into question how much of practice is actually devoted to preventing those. Similarly, someone on the coaching staff, specifically head coach Mike Sherman, probably would do well to finally have a long chat with Favre and spell it out that he's doing the injury-depleted team more harm than good when he insists on making careless throws into double and triple coverage. The coaches, though, didn't help Favre much for continuity's sake by changing up the offensive line with periodic substitutions at the guard spots throughout the game.