Failure to launch

When Brett Favre's passer rating is worse than that of a Bears running back who completes a pass that loses 4 yards, and when Rex Grossman looks like an in-his-prime Favre, you know it was a bad day.

Hmm, where do you start?

It wasn't all bad at Lambeau Field on Sunday. It just seemed that way.

The Chicago Bears pasted the Green Bay Packers 26-0, and exactly nobody should be surprised about the big picture.

Three stats tell a lot of the story:

Brett Favre had the fourth-best quarterback rating on the field. Not a good thing, considering the No. 1 ranking belonged the Packers' punter, the No. 2 ranking belonged to the Bears' beleaguered starting quarterback and the No. 3 ranking belonged to Chicago's starting running back, who completed his only pass for minus-4 yards.

— The Packers never moved the ball beyond Chicago's 35-yard line.

— Thanks in large part to the Packers going 0 for 5 on third downs, the Bears owned the ball for a staggering 18 minutes and 30 seconds of the first half. Not surprisingly, Chicago led 16-0 at halftime.

The defense can correctly say it allowed only 16 points on Sunday; the other 10 came on a punt returned for a touchdown and a field goal after the Packers fumbled away a kickoff return.

Still, the play of the defense — what this team was supposed to hang its hat on while a young offense grew up — left a lot to be desired against one of the league's laughingstock offenses.

Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman, who led the Bears' starting offense to all of one touchdown in four preseason games, completed 18 of 26 passes for 262 yards, with one touchdown and one Grossman-like interception. An incredible 163 of his passing yards came in the first quarter.

That would be embarrassing enough if that figure came against Joe Bob and Jimbo from Jethro's Corner Tap. That all those yards came against a pass defense anchored by Al Harris, Charles Woodson and free agent Marquand Manuel is downright embarrassing. Harris, stunningly, at a horrible day.

Chicago's No. 1 receiver, Mushin Muhammad, did nothing against the Packers' Al Harris last season. On Sunday, he caught six passes for 102 yards against Harris and Woodson.

The Packers can't cover a tight end. Desmond Clark caught five passes for 77 yards, just continuing a trend that was apparent throughout the preseason. A.J. Hawk was the main culprit during the preseason. On Sunday, it was Brady Poppinga, who was taken to school and failed to cover Clark's fourth-grade variety of moves.

Outside of Aaron Kampman, who spent a lot of the first half in the Bears' backfield, the Packers can't rush the passer.

Placing all the blame on the defense, of course, is silly when the offense is shut out for the first time since 1991 — a 15-year stretch that was the fourth-longest in NFL history.

Favre was fine in the first half — completing all five passes — but he got too few opportunities (recall the time-of-possession disparity) and too little time (three sacks). The second half was a different story, and hopefully not a harbinger of things to come. With the offense clearly outmanned, Favre began forcing throws. The result was two interceptions.

The running game was deceivingly good, with Ahman Green rushing for 110 emphatic and promising yards, but he rushed 10 times for 39 yards in the first half, when the outcome was still (in theory) in doubt. During that first half, through no fault of his own, he was stuffed on two third-and-1s.

The same line that couldn't get any movement on those key plays also got stoned when Favre couldn't find a speck of daylight on a fourth-and-1 sneak. If you can't gain a yard when you need it, you don't deserve to win. If you fail three straight times, you deserve to lose 26-0.

Two of the Packers' biggest Achilles' heels this season will be its youth and lack of depth. Both were apparent on special teams. The punt-coverage unit did a fine job on four of the five returns by electric Bears rookie Devin Hester. That fifth one? Returned 84 yards for a crushing touchdown. Young players and subpar players are equally adept at making mistakes. Young, subpar players? Well, you know the result.

The challenge now is where the Packers go from here. There were a lot of things working in the Packers' favor, from the celebration of the Super Bowl XXXI team to the Reggie White ceremony to the fact the Green Bay was at home facing the hated Bears, to the fact that, in essence, the coaching staff had about eight months to prepare for this moment.

All of that burst like a balloon flittering into a wall of needles.

So what now? That's for Mike McCarthy to determine, and this time, he's got days, not months, to find some answers.

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


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