Special teams in need of overhaul

Ryan Longwell's game-winning field goal the only bright spot

Aside from Ryan Longwell's game-winning field goal, Green Bay's special teams again continued to hurt the Green Bay Packers. Pick any unit, and it probably screwed up in one way or the other Sunday night against the toothless Detroit Lions.

-- The kickoff return coverage team allowed R.W. McQuarters to break free for a 73-yard return, just seconds after Longwell got the Packers on the board with a 36-yard field goal. McQuarter's return, as good as a turnover, to the Packers' 16 yard line set up Jeff Garcia's four-yard touchdown pass to Roy Williams as Detroit jumped to a 13-3 lead.

The Packers kickoff return unit entered the game as one of the worst in the league and it didn't improve any against the Lions. The Packers tried Ahmad Carroll as the lead kickoff retuner, but he only averaged 15.0 yards on three runbacks. Antonio Chatman gave the Packers a spark with a 33-yard return in overtime, but that was it.

-- Punter B.J. Sander was clearly out-played by dome punter Nick Harris. Sander, who struggled last week in the cold against the Chicago Bears, averaged 31.8 yards on five punts. He had one punt of 25 yards. Harris averaged 40.7 on six punts and dropped a few inside Green Bay's 10-yard line.

-- The Lions' second-quarter field goal block by Jared DeVries marked the first time a Packers opponent has blocked a field goal attempt since Marc Colombo of the Chicago Bears on Oct. 7, 2002, in Champaign, Ill. DeVries was able to sky high over guard Will Whitticker and get a hand on Longwell's 38-yard attempt, taking the air out of a 47-yard drive that consummed the first half of the second quarter.

-- Chatman averaged just 3.5 yards on two punt returns and made a fair catch on two others. McQuarters wasn't much better, averaging 4.3 yards on three punt returns but, nonetheless, he was better.

To make matters worse, the Packers lost their best special teams player, Brady Poppinga, possibly for the remaining three games. The linebacker injured his left knee early in the fourth quarter while covering a kickoff. He entered the game as the team's leading tackler on special teams, but he appeared to have sprained his knee.

It seems very obvious that the Packers need to find a new special teams coordinator for 2006, whether Mike Sherman is retained or not. The Packers have struggled in recent seasons under John Bonamego and his assistants and are headed nowhere fast. New schemes need to be implemented and the Packers will have to find some new personnel in the off-season to revamp a horrid area of the team.

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

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