Packers have no room for error

PackerReport.com's Doug Ritchay was in the press box and Packers locker room following Green Bay's 34-27 setback to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Ritchay presents his perspective on the game in his column:

The NFL season is two weeks old, but we already know this about the Green Bay Packers – they have little room, if any, for error.

That was never more evident than during Sunday's 34-27 loss at Lambeau Field to the New Orleans Saints.

The Packers scored the first 13 points of the game off Saints' turnovers, but it was the errors on the Packers' side which did them in. And the frustrating part about this is it's not just one area.

During the Packers' 13-point run, they failed to score a touchdown when taking over on the Saints' 15-yard line off a turnover. If an offense can't get 15 yards …

"We need more points," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said.

Then later in the game, the Packers drove inside the Saints' 20-yard line when Brett Favre rolled right and just as he threw his pass, he was hit, the ball fluttered like a punt and New Orleans' Omar Stoutmire out-jumped Packers fullback William Henderson for an interception in the end zone.

If the blocking holds up a second longer, Favre's is able to direct his pass out of bounds, as he said after the game he was throwing the pass away. With new life, perhaps the Packers score seven points or at least three.

Offensively, it didn't stop there. Running back Ahman Green and tight end Bubba Franks were dropping passes like they were "Edward Scissorhands." Furthermore, Green fumbled in the fourth quarter, which led to New Orleans' game-clinching touchdown.

"That didn't help," said Jagodzinski. "You have to take care of the football. Turnovers get you and you can't do that."

Although Favre threw for 340 yards (his most since Week 2 in 2005) and three touchdowns, the Packers' offense left points on the field, and this team has showed in two games any chance it gets offensively, it has to make he most of. Back in the Super Bowl seasons of 1996 and 1997, the offense always took advantage of opportunities, but as we have seen this isn't a Super Bowl team.

Favre played a solid game, scoring 27 points. Nonetheless, it wasn't enough. This team has no margin for error, right now. If the Packers can't beat the Saints at home, what's going to happen in their road games?

One thing that better happen is the defense needs to improve. Call safety Marquand Manuel the "matador," because he sure tackles like one.

Ole!

Also, he's brutal on pass coverage.

Manuel isn't alone in making mistakes.

Linebacker Brady Poppinga dropped a would-be interception and he was roasted on a pass play to Joe Horn.

To be fair, why is Poppinga lined up against Horn? A linebacker on a receiver sends a "red flag" to any quarterback. Horn cut across the field after catching the pass and gained 57 yards on the play as Poppinga was left in the dust.

"Everything was right from the setup," said Poppinga, when asked if he was responsible for Horn. "It was bad technique on my part."

Still, why is he on Horn?

Most of the game, the Packers' defense was slow in changing personnel after the Saints' offense would. Cornerback Ahmad Carroll countless times was running on the field late, sometimes on third-and-long situations. Third and long, hmm, seems like I would want my third cornerback in the game. And then on a play Carroll needed to be seen running onto the field late, he wasn't.

Additionally, safety Nick Collins needs to work on his technique when a pass is headed his direction. Collins was beaten for big plays twice when he was in position, but couldn't adjust to the ball in flight.

One of those miscues was a touchdown pass to Marques Colston.

"We have to be more consistent in getting off the field and making more stops," said linebacker A.J. Hawk.

Despite these mistakes, the Packers had a chance at the end of the game to potentially send the game into overtime. On their final drive, the last two pass plays Donald Driver was the initial read, according to Jagodzinski, but each time he was covered, forcing Favre to look elsewhere. Both times he misfired at rookie Greg Jennings, ending any chance of winning the game. Driver caught over 150 yards in passes, but when the Packers need him most they can't shake him free?

Many things went wrong Sunday. The offense, despite accumulating points and yards, didn't take full advantage of each chance. The defense failed to make plays, which led to big plays by the Saints.

And the coaching, at times, didn't put the team in position to win the game or put players in positions to make plays.

Two games into the season, the Packers are making too many mistakes. If this keeps up, Hawk is going to get sick of a question asked to him Sunday. It was: "How does this loss compare to last week's?"

"They all hurt," Hawk said. "We started off well … we just kind of let it go."


Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.


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