One step ahead, two steps back for the Packers. If there was ever a way to summarize Green Bay's first half of the season, it was in Sunday's 24-10 loss to the Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Packers dominated the Bills for most of the game. But Green Bay also surrendered head-scratching, back-breaking plays that eventually cost them a chance to win its third straight.
All too often Packers fans have seen these kind of plays this season, and they saw them again Sunday. They win the battle but lose the war. To say it is disappointing is an understatement. Without bonehead turnovers that the Packers have made through most of the first half of the season, they could and should easily be at the .500 mark, and probably better, like 5-3 or 6-2.
The Packers have played one game this season without turning the ball over. That was in last Sunday's 31-14 whipping of the Arizona Cardinals. A week before that, Green Bay only committed one turnover in a win over Miami. In the Packers' 1-4 start, they had at least two turnovers a game, including three in losses against the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.
The difference between Green Bay's 3-5 record and a winning record obviously has been turnovers. But you also can add a few questionable coaching decisions. The Packers were running ball down Buffalo's throat only to attempt a pass on first and goal from the 1. I realize it's easy to look back, but why not put the ball in Ahman Green's hands rather than hope Brett Favre threads the needle with a bullet pass to Donald Driver?
Can these mistakes be prevented? Are they fixable? Yes and yes. These are some of the hiccups that a young team under a first-year coach will encounter. The turnovers that Green Bay has committed doesn't necessarily mean the Packers are a bad team, but they are a team that needs to focus and communicate much better. They are improving in many areas, like pass rush and coverage. The running game has been outstanding. The offense is piling up yards. Special teams need work, but the kicking and punting are solid. Turnovers continue to kill the Packers, and with that miscommunication.
Against the Bills, the Packers lost the ball at the end of the first half when center Scott Wells prematurely snapped the ball to Brett Favre, who wasn't expecting it. Favre said he wanted to go with a silent count, but opted for the audible count, and it backfired.
As the Packers prepare to play next Sunday against the Vikings in the Metrodome, they had better practice the silent count because it will be difficult to hear themselves think, much less hear the quarterback. In fact, why not use a silent count all the time when playing on the road?
Favre's first interception of the game resulted in a Bills touchdown and a 10-0 lead. Linebacker London Fletcher-Baker took advantage of a poor pass and ran it back 17 yards for his first-ever touchdown. Favre's second interception of the game cost the Packers the game.
That interception is particularly perplexing because the Packers were running the ball so well against the Bills. Noah Herron had just pounded 10 yards to the 1 for a first down. While the Packers were successful earlier in the game on a quick slant pass to Driver for a touchdown, the Bills' Nate Clements saw it coming, proceeded to break up the pass, which was caught and returned by safety Ko Simpson.
No doubt Mike McCarthy is still kicking himself with that call. Run the ball in, and the game is tied. The Packers not only keep the momentum, but have a great chance of winning. But trying to squeeze it into Driver? Is that play really necessary, or safe, at that point of the game? No. Put that one on McCarthy.
The Packers simply cannot afford to commit turnovers and expect to win. They are playing good enough to win, but mistakes have to be eliminated, or at least cut down. On Sunday, the Packers once again only have themselves to blame for being 3-5 instead of 4-4, or better.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.