Report card vs. Bills

Grades are low for Packers coaches in wake of 24-10 loss to Buffalo

The signature quick, inside slant did more harm than good because the Bills undoubtedly were expecting it. Linebacker London Fletcher-Baker had the play read and undercut Donald Driver's break from the right side for an interception and 17-yard return for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Although Brett Favre was able to thread a one-yard TD pass to Driver on a slant from the left in the third quarter, a similar call on first-and-goal at the Bills' one with a tie score to be had late in the game was doomed before the snap. Buffalo shaded twin coverage to Driver's side, and the Packers paid the price with cornerback Nate Clements' tip into the hands of safety Ko Simpson for an end-zone pick and long return. Those two critical mistakes bracketed a pair of fumbles that resulted from bad exchanges between center Scott Wells and Favre.

The passing game was otherwise productive, as Favre threw 47 times for 287 yards. Driver had nine catches for 96 yards, and rookie Greg Jennings played as long as he could on a badly sprained ankle to contribute five receptions, including a 25-yard catch-and-run.

While Bubba Franks continued to stay in hiding with another zero-catch game and two drops, David Martin advanced his cause as the top tight end on the team with four more catches for 51 yards.

It was a tale of two halves. The Bills came in with the right game plan to stop Green Bay's emerging ground game, cutting off the stretch plays by rushing the defensive ends up the field. Consequently, the Packers were limited to a meager average of 3.4 yards in 16 carries.

The adjustment made at halftime was evident on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, as Ahman Green knifed through the middle for a 20-yard gain. Green Bay, when it chose to do, had its way running the ball in the final 30 minutes, finishing with 147 yards and a per-carry average of 4.9 yards.

Green reached the 100-yard plateau for the third straight game with a season-high 122 in 23 carries. Not having an injured Vernand Morency curtailed the frequency of the runs in the play calling, but Noah Herron responded when called upon with a 10-yard burst down to the Buffalo 1 before the ill-fated pass from Favre to Driver.

As often has been the case this season, a breakdown in the secondary was instrumental in a loss and overshadowed a tremendous game by the pass rush.

Cornerback Al Harris won't win any favors -- and a desired pay raise -- from management if he has a few more lapses like he did with the game on the line. A miscommunication notwithstanding on whether there should have been safety help over the top, Harris shouldn't have allowed Lee Evans to get 10 yards behind him on an out-and-up sideline route for an easy 43-yard touchdown to snap a 10-10 tie. Take away the Bills' one and only explosive play, and J.P. Losman would have had a sickly 59-yard passing day.

Most of the credit goes to the defensive line, which frequently had a push against Buffalo's reworked line and accounted for the team's season-high five sacks. Tackle Corey Williams distinguished himself with a career-high three sacks. End Aaron Kampman overwhelmed first-time rookie starter Terrance Pennington off the left edge, producing four quarterback hits and a sack, bumping his league-leading total to 9 1/2.

The Packers still haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher, but they surprisingly put up little resistance after the Bills lost standout Willis McGahee to a broken rib in the game-opening series. Tackle Colin Cole's bust through the line and stuff of McGahee for a 3-yard loss on the play in which the back was injured stood as the best stop.

Anthony Thomas, an old foe from his days in Chicago, gashed he defense for 95 yards in 20 carries. The Bills purposely ran to the left side, where end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila was routinely exploited by tackle Jason Peters. Thomas put the game out of reach with three straight assertive runs following the big interception by Simpson, capped by a 14-yard dash off left tackle to the end zone.

Head coach Mike McCarthy wasn't convinced going into the game that the kickoff-coverage unit was living up to its No. 1 league ranking. McCarthy's uneasiness was justified when Terrence McGee returned the opening kickoff 61 yards. Jason Hunter, among others, was lax in getting off blocks and bringing McGee down with minimal damage done. With that, the tone was set for a lousy day by the special-teams units.

Rookie receiver Shaun Bodiford wasn't the answer in a dual return role -- averaging just 15.5 yards in four kickoff returns and a minuscule 1.8 yards in five runbacks on punts as the replacement for Charles Woodson, who was limited to defense because of a knee injury.

Punter Jon Ryan averaged an uncharacteristic 38.8 gross yards in six attempts, and the net average was an abysmal 31.7. A line-drive kick gave Roscoe Parrish ample time and space to rip off a 17-yard return into Packers territory that set up the game-winning pass from Losman to Evans.

Dave Rayner was immune to the rash of deficiencies and nailed his only field-goal attempt, from 49 yards, to tie the score at 10-10 early in the fourth quarter.

McCarthy doesn't fancy himself as a gambler, but he lost his shirt with the calculated, foolhardy play call he made with the game clock inside of five minutes in the fourth quarter and the Packers down 17-10, only a yard away from pulling even.

On three of the previous four plays, Green ran for 9 and 16 yards, and Herron had the 10-yard rush to set up first-and-goal at the doorstep of the end zone. Another run against a gasping Bills run defense was the only call to be made, but McCarthy thought otherwise and the Packers lost another winnable game because of Favre's throw into tight coverage.

As much as Favre's checking out of the call would have been prudent at that time, not calling for a timeout a few minutes earlier was all the more critical to the outcome of the game. The defense was out of sorts right after safety Marquand Manuel had the wind knocked out of him and had to leave the game. Woodson was moved to safety for the ensuing second-and-20 play, but no one was sure what pass coverage they should have been in, allowing Evans to get free for the long touchdown.

The right adjustment was made at halftime to get the running game on track. On the flip side, not recognizing that Gbaja-Biamila was overmatched when the Bills ran the football his way was fatal.

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