Gray: How details matter

Packers Hall of Fame safety Johnnie Gray explains in his column today how focusing on fundamentals and the little things in an NFL game can add up to a victory, and whether or not the Green Bay Packers are turning the corner in those areas.

I'm hoping that many if not all of the players and coaches had a chance to watch NFL games last weekend, including the Monday nighter between the Cardinals and Da Bears. Many games were won on last-minute drives, or the inability to make a big play, whether it was on offense or defense even though the correct play was called.

The Bills-Lions game had a wide-open receiver running downfield with his arms outstretched for the last 10 yards. If he would have ran in a normal fashion he would have easily caught up with the ball for an easy touchdown. The Saints had perfect cornerback coverage on an Eagles receiver, but he never looked back for the ball resulting in a pass interference call, which led to a touchdown. In the closing minutes of the Bears game, Cardinals running back Edgerrin James fumbles the ball, which was picked up and returned for a touchdown. He knew they would be trying to pull the ball out and all he had to do was go down. There was no need to get extra yardage.

My point is that all these games, and many more, were lost because of the inability to execute a play at the much-needed time. Fundamentals.

On several occasions I have heard young players and even Brett Favre say how tough it is to go out and win. It's not rocket science, but it does take a tremendous amount of discipline to do everything the correct way, play after play. Against the Rams, cornerback Patrick Dendy aligns on the inside shoulder of the outside receiver. He has inside help from safety Nick Collins, but he stills plays the receiver to the inside. You guessed it, the ball was thrown to the outside, Dendy made the play, but it was way too close for comfort. Maybe next time he's not so lucky. Why make it harder than it really is? Play the coverage the way it was designed, which was to the outside and maybe the quarterback has to double clutch and you get a sack. Dendy could have made it looked like he had no inside help, crossed the receivers face on the snap of the ball and baited the quarterback into throwing that route for an easy interception.

A player can't be content on being in on a play when it was designed for him to make the play. It could have kept the Rams from kicking a field goal. See how small the margin of victory really is, and the importance of execution on every play?

The 1-4 Packers have not been beaten by players that are more talented, and they haven't lost games because of injuries. It's been fundamentals and execution. Every phase of the team seemed to have come together somewhat against the Rams. So with the experience that has been learned and having seen what happened in last weekend's games, the Pack should come back with the attitude of paying attention to the littlest of details and believing that to win at this level, one must play one play at a time, or play each play like it was your last.

Johnnie Gray

Editor's note: Former safety Johnnie Gray played for the Packers from 1975-84. He was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame in 1994. E-mail him at

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