Putting things in perspective

The play of Brett Favre, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings impressed PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence, but there were some uneven results by A.J. Hawk, and some downright horrible performances from the special teams.

Because of the compacted schedule, the NFL is the toughest league to figure out. Nobody in their right mind would watch the first two Major League Baseball games of the season, then extrapolate the results for the 162-game season.

Yet, Packer Nation was filled with doom and gloom after the preseason debacle at San Diego a week ago. And now, Packer Nation is feeling a lot more optimistic after dismantling Atlanta on Saturday night at Lambeau Field.

To be sure, the Packers played infinitely better in nearly every phase of the game, and that's reason for optimism.

For those national pundits who don't know any better and say Brett Favre is over the hill, then they should be forced to watch the first half of Saturday's game. Favre threw the ball with his vintage zip and amazing accuracy against a quality secondary.

The defense intercepted three passes. During the regular season last year, the Packers picked off 10 passes.

But for every good, there was some bad, or at least a word of caution. After wearing out the rewind button on the DVR, here are some first-blush thoughts.

Good: The Packers won 38-10.

Word of caution: Lady Luck was on the Packers' side. Just look at the scoring summary. Favre's first touchdown pass went through the hands of David Martin and right to Bubba Franks. Jason Horton's interception and return for a touchdown should have been a catch and a first down for the Falcons. Greg Jennings' 85-yard touchdown catch and run happened in part because two Falcons defenders ran into each other.

Another word of caution: The Packers' starters played into the early third quarter. Falcons quarterback Michael Vick played two series. Standouts Warrick Dunn, Alge Crumpler and Keith Brooking didn't play. The Falcons were removing their starters by early in the second quarter.

Good: After a slow start, Favre completed seven straight first-quarter passes, including the touchdown to Franks. Beyond that fluky play, no circus catches were needed. It looked like Favre was throwing darts, and the bull's-eye was the size of Grady Jackson's gut.

Good: Donald Driver must be the league's most underappreciated wide receiver. He finished with seven catches for 91 yards. Outside of Favre, he was the most dominant player on the field. He's quick, tough and determined, and that's an unstoppable combination.

Good: Jennings, and not because of his big touchdown. It's because he got clobbered and dropped a pass during the first quarter, but came back moments later and caught a pass over the middle.

Bad: Favre and the passing game were special, but the special teams were horrible. Punter Jon Ryan, who the Packers are so excited about because of his huge leg, dropped a snap in the end zone, which could have been a disaster. Sure, B.J. Sander looks like he's kicking a bag of sand, but how can the Packers keep Ryan if he can't catch a simple snap? The Packers don't have a punt or kickoff returner, and even if they did, he wouldn't find any room to run because of horrendous blocking.

The good: Dave Rayner didn't kill an innocent bystander during his first game as the Packers' kicker. Four of his six kickoffs reached the end zone with great hang time.

The bad: Former Packer Allen Rossum returned one of those kickoffs 43 yards. It wasn't Rayner's fault; the coverage unit melted down.

The good: First-round pick A.J. Hawk, who hadn't done much of anything during training camp or at San Diego, finally made an appearance. He made some big hits, showed some coverage skills by breaking up a deep pass to the tight end and showed he could be a force chasing down plays from the back side.

The bad: Hawk was a big-time pass rusher in college, but he's got a lot of work to do to become an effective NFL blitzer. I saw him blitz twice. The first time, he got picked up by the running back without making so much as a move or a bull-rush maneuver. He seemed resigned to the fact that he wasn't going to get to the quarterback. The second time, he was overwhelmed by the Falcons' right tackle.

The good: The new offensive line played surprisingly well, even if the Falcons' starting defensive line didn't play long. They were a major reason why Favre had such a big night. On an early running play, Jason Spitz showed a nice little nasty streak by tossing his man to the ground at the whistle.

The bad: Tony Moll whiffed and wound up on the ground on one passing play, forcing Favre to unload the ball for an incompletion. Starting running back Najeh Davenport averaged a mere 2.6 yards per rush. Some of that's because Davenport has no burst and looks like he's 37 instead of 27, but a lot of it was because Davenport had nowhere to run.

The good: Rookie safety Tyrone Culver intercepted a pass and for the second straight week led the team in tackles.

The bad: Twice on the Falcons' opening scoring drive, Culver allowed big gainers. On T.J. Duckett's 23-yard run, Culver showed no awareness by charging forward from the defensive backfield and running squarely into a wide receiver's block. Later, he got lost in coverage and was at least partly to blame for Dwayne Blakley's 22-yard catch-and-roll touchdown.

The good: The Packers won. Yeah, it's the preseason, but thoroughly beating one of the better teams in the NFC, no matter the circumstances, certainly won't hurt the confidence level of a young and talented team.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.

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