Report card vs. Lions

Sherman reins in mistake-prone Favre

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus
Despite his postgame contention that a lacerated right hand didn't have an adverse effect on his performance, QB Brett Favre clearly wasn't his playmaking self. He lost the football out of his throwing hand as he set up on the first pass play of the night, the turnover leading to a Detroit field goal. Favre was painfully short on a couple deep passes to Robert Ferguson, then overshot an open Antonio Chatman deep in Lions territory late in the fourth quarter that may have prevented overtime. Favre, who completed 21 of 31 passes, finished with a season-low 170 passing yards, with his longest pickup just 19 yards.

Although he was saddled with his league-leading 22nd interception on a Hail Mary heave to end regulation and didn't have a touchdown pass for the second straight game, Favre coolly engineered his first late-game comeback victory of the season in the first series of overtime. A checkdown to FB William Henderson to convert a long third-down play was the catalyst in the 10-play drive. Henderson also had a key catch-and-run of 15 yards that set up Ryan Longwell's score-tying field goal early in the fourth quarter.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A
Samkon Gado can now be taken seriously as a young running back whose potential is scary good for the Packers. The self-deprecating rookie was the first to acknowledge that he didn't have a perfect game, contrary to what his staggering 171-yard output would suggest. Take away his electric 64-yard touchdown run, and Gado averaged just 3.8 yards in his other 28 carries. The handful of plays on which Gado started between the tackles yielded next to nothing, though the Lions' hefty interior line with Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson played a part in that. The speedy Gado, as he has done more often than not the past few weeks, excelled on runs he was able to bounce to the outside or cut back in, and he exercised more patience in letting the holes develop. The blocking was top-notch for most of the night, particularly when FB Vonta Leach sealed off the inside to spring Gado for a touchdown dash on a stretch play in the second quarter.

PASS DEFENSE: C
The Packers' unlikely position as the top-ranked pass defense in the league is safe for a second week. Once again, they benefited more from facing a maligned quarterback, Jeff Garcia, than actually shutting down the Lions' once-formidable receiving corps. Garcia threw 24 passes for all of 112 yards, marking the fifth time in the past six games the opposing quarterback hasn't reached the 200-yard plateau. The Packers, though, didn't force the issue as they were left without a sack or an interception.

Al Harris' growing reputation as perhaps the best shutdown corner in the league took a big hit. Harris gave up his first touchdown of the season, when Roy Williams got behind him on a short fade pass into the end zone and made an acrobatic grab. Harris also was no match for a leaping Williams on a 40-yard deep strike from Garcia. And, if Williams hadn't dropped a slant pass ahead of nickel back Mike Hawkins in the vacated middle of the field late in the fourth quarter, the Lions probably would have gone on to win the game.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus
An elbow injury sustained by Kevin Jones on the sixth play of the game was arguably the biggest of many breaks of the night that went the Packers' way for a change. Jones had ripped off a 40-yard run two plays earlier, caught his breath for a few seconds and promptly barreled forward for back-to-back gains of 5 and 4 yards down to the Green Bay 1-yard line, where he was felled by the injury. LBs Roy Manning and Paris Lenon stuffed backup Artose Pinner on third down, the first of three gritty goal-line stands by the Packers in which they didn't surrender a touchdown. Blitzing LB Nick Barnett easily dropped Shawn Bryson for a loss on third-and-goal from the 3 on the next series, again forcing the Lions to kick a field goal. The greatest stand came midway through the fourth quarter, as Pinner couldn't break the goal line twice from the 1, and a fourth-down sneak by Garcia behind center was snuffed out by LB Na'il Diggs. The Packers still were hit for 129 yards on the ground, the sixth straight game in which they've yielded at least that many yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D-minus
While it's only two games, first-year P B.J. Sander doesn't seem up to the mighty challenge of kicking in oppressively cold, windy conditions. A week after shanks were an issue on the Chicago lakefront, Sander failed his first December test at frigid Lambeau Field. His first three punts traveled 30, 31 and 25 yards. A 50-yard boot in the fourth quarter built up his final gross average to 34.4 yards, just a fraction better than his season-worst output of 34.3 in Week 2. Sander's net average of 31.8 yards was just as miserable.

Meanwhile, with the exception of a 33-yard return by Antonio Chatman at the outset of overtime that ignited the game-winning drive, the kickoff units were downright pathetic. R.W. McQuarters, not to be mistaken for Eddie Drummond, exploited the Packers' shoddy coverage for a 73-yard return late in the first quarter that positioned the Lions for their only touchdown. CB Ahmad Carroll, entrusted with trying to resuscitate Green Bay's lifeless return unit, averaged only 15 yards before succumbing to a hip pointer on his last of three runbacks in the first quarter. Longwell, who connected on three field goals after not having an attempt in the last two games, had a 38-yard try blocked in the second quarter.

COACHING: B
Whether he's easily influenced by those know-it-all armchair quarterbacks, head coach/offensive play caller Mike Sherman finally did something about reining in mistake-prone Favre. There was an unmitigated commitment to the run, as evidenced by Favre not having to throw the ball 58 times as he did the week before and the season-high numbers of 35 carries for 181 yards. Even the U-71 package for power runs, featuring lineman Kevin Barry as an extra blocker, was brought back into circulation with frequency. Given the long-awaited success of the running game, spearheaded by Gado, it was puzzling that Sherman went with the pass on three straight plays in a three-and-out series to start the second half.

A rare victory provides some dose of relief and satisfaction for a beleaguered team playing out the string. Yet, the Packers were lucky to beat one of the few teams in the league more inferior than they are, and they have referee Mike Carey's crew to thank for not upholding the go-ahead safety in the fourth quarter for the Lions that clearly should have been since RT Mark Tauscher was guilty of holding in the end zone. The inexcusable troubles for the special teams units persist, while Sherman will be mulling another change on the offensive line after rookie RG Will Whitticker drew the ire of Favre with two false-start penalties in the fourth quarter.


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