Gray: Packers' worst game of season

Former Packers safety Johnnie Gray assesses Green Bay's loss to the New England Patriots and provides an interesting perspective on the play of safeties Marquand Manuel and Nick Collins:

That was indeed a reality check on Sunday or was it? Just about everyone I talked to were saying that the Packers were brought back to earth with that loss against the former World Champions, and I beg to differ.

Granted the Patriots played extremely well, but the Packers also played very bad. The Patriots are a good football team, but they suffered a disappointing loss to the Jets the week before and, like many of us thought, with the Packers playing so well of late that they could pull off a victory. This by far was the worst game the Packers have played all year.

I know that Packers fans get a little more excited about these games and we the former players do, too. Having an opportunity to play against Super Bowl Champion athletes is a big challenge, but controlling your emotions is even greater. With offensive line not being able to block like they did against the Vikings just a week earlier was disappointing. It was even more disappointing to see Brett Favre not able to hit a receiver, a reminder of his earlier years when his adrenaline would get the best of him and passes would be flying all over the field.

The good news is Sunday's game did not produce multiple interceptions and Favre is healthy enough to play next week, but already the questions are being asked about Favre, Ahman Green (whose was traded because of fumbling) and Coach McCarthy (quarterbacks coach) about playing against Mike Holmgren. After last week's loss I'm sure everyone understands the importance of keeping each week - whether it's a win, loss, big-name team or not, as just another game. So many times you'll hear players say that they prepare each week as if it were the big game because they don't want to go through that emotional roller coaster ride the whole season.

Safeties not on same page
This week's bashing has been on safety Marquand Manuel and his abilities. Manuel was brought over in the off-season to bring a physical presence that Mark Roman lacked. Being a veteran, he was asked to be a leader in the secondary and help nurture second-year safety Nick Collins. Last year the secondary may have given up a handful of big plays, but this year, they have been atrocious, and Sunday was no different.

There's nothing wrong with the defenses that are being called, but there is a problem with the players playing the defense. There seems to be a lack of trust and here's why: Manuel was beaten down the middle to the opposite side of the zone he was covering. It appeared they were in a two-deep zone, which would have Collins in that zone, but he was watching quarterback Tom Brady's eyes as the receiver was racing up the sideline, which pulled him out of the middle. If you get a chance, watch the replay as Brady keeps his eyes on the fade route long enough to get Collins to commit and then turns to hit his receiver Reche Caldwell running away from Manuel into the zone vacated by Collins for the touchdown. It appeared Manuel was the victim, which he was not. As long as the corners continue to release their receivers outside with little or no hold up, it will always stretch the safety, but Collins should know that the throw down the middle is easier than the throw between two defenders.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Packer Report Top Stories