Report card vs. Bears

Favre one interception shy of team record

Brett Favre has been stuck on 19 touchdown passes for a month now, and he couldn't end the streak despite having one of his more prolific games of the season. Problem was Favre's gaudy numbers of 30-of-51 passing for 317 yards were offset by four interceptions. That makes nine miscues in the last four TD-less games and 28 for the season, one short of Lynn Dickey's franchise record, set in 1983.

Favre's questionable decision-making wasn't the primary culprit this time, rather shoddy blocking that had him under duress with little time to react on a number of plays. None was more critical than a toss into the flat intended for FB William Henderson that LB Lance Briggs easily intercepted and returned for a 10-yard touchdown in the third quarter to give Chicago breathing room with a 24-7 lead. The loss of C Mike Flanagan in the first half proved to be the undoing for the shuffled interior of the line. WR Donald Driver and RB Tony Fisher were an asset to Favre in fighting for extra yardage after a handful of catches.

The Packers discovered what running the football is like without, ahem, Samkon Gado. The rookie sensation missed his first game because of a torn knee ligament, and the lackluster results against the Bears' stout defense weren't surprising. Rookie Noah Herron, who didn't start but became the team's sixth featured back of the season, averaged only 2.4 yards on 14 carries, though he did score on a 1-yard plunge in the second quarter. Fisher was slightly better on his six carries, averaging 3.7 yards. WR Antonio Chatman had the longest gain on the ground with a 10-yard burst on an end-around.

True, Green Bay's second-rated pass defense actually lowered its season average of 169.7 yards allowed per game by giving up only 166 to Rex Grossman on Sunday. However, Grossman, in his first start of an injury-marred season, was the difference-maker for the Bears' revitalized offense against a secondary that continues to be the Packers defense's weakest link. CB Al Harris, the Pro Bowl wannabe, was exploited for the second straight week. Grossman picked on Harris early and often, and succeeded with throws to Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian. The speedy Berrian made the biggest play of the game by blowing past CB Ahmad Carroll for a 54-yard pickup that led to a go-ahead touchdown late in the first half. In the next Chicago possession, it took LB Paris Lenon to show the defensive backs how a deep pass is to be properly covered, as he made an exceptional breakup on the run in downfield coverage of Muhammad. S Mark Roman had the only takeaway by the defense three plays later with an easy interception on a badly underthrown deep ball by Grossman.

By spotting the Bears a double-digit lead in the third quarter, the Packers played right into the hands of the run-oriented Chicago offense. The Bears featured a heavy diet of Thomas Jones and Adrian Peterson in the final 30 minutes, during which the tandem combined for 94 yards on 24 carries. Jones finished with 105 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per pop, his second strong effort against the Packers' fading run defense in the past three weeks. DT Cullen Jenkins, though, did come to life to drop Jones for a 4-yard loss on a third-and-4 play at midfield to get the football back for the offense for a last-gasp drive to try to send the game to overtime.

Too bad special teams coordinator John Bonamego didn't impress upon Chatman that every game this season should have been treated as if it were played on Christmas Day. Chatman fulfilled Bonamego's holiday wish of returning a punt return for a touchdown. However, the electric 85-yard dash into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter was a long time in the making for both Chatman and the underachieving special teams units. Allen Rossum had the team's last punt return for a touchdown four years ago.

Still to be sorted out is the inept kicking game, which featured two more missed field-goal attempts by Ryan Longwell, who wisely refrained from making new holder Ryan Flinn the scapegoat. Flinn didn't flinch in his NFL debut, averaging an acceptable 40 yards on three punts.

While there's no denying there was a decidedly spirited effort on the part of the players on the heels of their 48-3 meltdown at Baltimore six days earlier, a loss remains a loss. Some of the same silly mistakes that should have been rectified long before the final weeks of the season continued to haunt the Packers, particularly a number of drive-killing penalties and another batch of interceptions from Favre. Despite his contention that he was going to call a timeout at that moment anyway, coach Mike Sherman erred by challenging the spot of a second-quarter run by Herron, who clearly was tackled short of the goal line. Sure enough, Sherman lost another challenge later in the first half and left himself with none for the remainder of the game.

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