Painful lessons

Packers have lots to learn from last Sunday night's loss to Bears

The Green Bay Packers have a chance to go 5-1 into their bye week in 2007. Before the season, almost everyone associated with the Packers would have been thrilled with that scenario. But the defeat Sunday night to the Chicago Bears exposed some blemishes on the 2007 Packer team. Hopefully the Packers can work on the areas the were brought to light. Things like ...

1) The Packers are the youngest team in the NFL. Sometimes younger players will make mistakes, both physically and mentally. When a team is as young as Green Bay, these things will eventually bear out. Examples are the two fumbled receptions by rookie WR James Jones. Or the coverage problems that plagued Nick Collins and Brady Poppinga.

2) Brett Favre is still a great quarterback. He still has the live arm and he has good enough mobility. He can also still make fine throws and he is working on limiting his gambling nature. But the interception to Brian Urlacher was definitely a bad decision. It helped turn the game and Favre knows he never should have thrown that pass.

3) The Packers running game is still evolving. Although the run game was definitely improved against the Bears, it still has a long way to go. Rookie HB DeShawn Wynn has shown he has some nice talent and Vernand Morency has the speed to change the pace. Rookie FB Korey Hall has improved his run blocking and the offensive line is getting better in their run blocking as well.

4) The Packers still have a ways to go to become a team that can lay it's foot on an opponent's throat. Yes, the team fought some hard fought battles in its close wins over the Eagles, Chargers and Vikings. But the Bears were a team that was ready to be taken out of the NFC North race and the Packers let them back in the game. It was a painful lesson, but the team needs to look back on its closely fought victories.

5) Head coach Mike McCarthy has to keep the team loose. Yes, it was a painful defeat against the Bears, but the Packers can still have a great season. And a 5-1 record going into the bye week will help make that happen. Some have second-guessed McCarthy's play calling, both early in the season when the Packers threw a lot and also the Bear game when some say the Packers ran too much. But McCarthy is a 4-1 head coach and also 8-1 in his last 9 games. He deserves less scrutiny because he has to be doing something right. But McCarthy has to keep the Packers on an even keel. That is hard to do with such a young football team, but between McCarthy's communication skills and a veteran presence by players like Favre, Donald Driver, Charles Woodson and Al Harris, the team is developing very nicely.

So Packers now get a chance to square off against a pretty good NFC opponent in the Washington Redskins this Sunday. The Redskins have a young QB in Jason Campbell, plus have two nice running backs in Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts.

Washington also has pass threats in WRs Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El, although Randle El may not play due to an injury. The Skins also have a big TE threat in Chris Cooley. Brady Poppinga and Nick Collins better stay alert with Cooley.

The Redskins defense has some very hard hitters led by safeties Sean Taylor and LaRon Landry. The Packer offense has to be very aware of securing the football both in the running and passing game. The Redskins are 3-1 and are a good team. This game won't be an easy one that's for sure.

But the Packers faced similar odds when they played their first four opponents. Their first three wins against the Eagles, Giants and Chargers were against 2006 playoff teams. Their fourth victory came on the road in Minnesota. The defeat by the Bears can't linger. Green Bay has a chance to go 3-0 vs. the NFC East division in 2007. That and be 5-1 going into the bye week.

That will certainly ease the pain of the loss to the Bears. Plus, the Packers will have another shot at the Bears much later this year in Chicago on Dec. 23. It will probably turn out to be a huge game. Brett Favre is 12-2 at Soldier Field in his career. But the Green Bay Packers must only worry about one week at a time. One opponent at a time. The rest will take care of itself.

Bob Fox is a frequent contributor to E-mail him at

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