Errors make victory too difficult

The Packers avoid a repeat of their turnover-marred loss to Chicago, but they must eliminate the stupid mistakes that prevent them from putting a chokehold on games,'s Steve Lawrence says.

You'd think with Monday night's officiating crew down a man after back judge Jim Howey threw a block to help spring James Jones' first-quarter touchdown, there would be fewer penalties. Instead, flags were falling on the Packers like autumn leaves.

Maybe the zebras were getting paid by the flag, but more likely, the Packers were flat-out sloppy during their "Monday Night Football" clash with the Denver Broncos.

Usually in the NFL, where the difference between winning and losing for the 28 teams not located in Indianapolis, Foxborough, Miami or St. Louis is razor thin, those mistakes would prove deadly. Luckily for the Packers, though, the Broncos made just as many mistakes, and Green Bay managed to not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

As was the case against Chicago, the Packers blew a golden opportunity to take control in the first half. At Chicago, it was a couple drive-killing turnovers that kept the Bears in the game. At Denver, it was a bunch of stupid penalties and poor execution that let the Broncos hang around.

In the second quarter, with the scored tied at 7, the Packers had a first-and-goal at the Broncos' 6-yard line but managed only a field goal despite moving the ball 98 yards in 14 plays.

Worse was the next drive, when Ryan Grant almost scored on a first-and-goal run. On second down, offensive tackle Tony Moll, playing as an extra tight end in a formation the Packers haven't used this season, was flagged for a false start. After a short run moved the ball to the 3, normally reliable left tackle Chad Clifton was flagged for a false start. With the ball at the 8, Brett Favre uncorked one of the few poor passes of a strong night by throwing too hard and too high to an open Donald Driver at the goal line.

Second-and-goal from a foot away should result in a touchdown nine times out of 10, maybe even 19 times out of 20. Instead, a couple of horrible penalties led to a field goal, and the Packers took a 13-7 lead into halftime when they should have been leading 17-7 or 21-7.

The fumbles against Chicago cost the Packers the game. The boneheaded penalties against Denver would have cost the Packers the game had they been playing a more formidable or healthy opponent.

When Favre is having one of those turn-back-the-clock games, when the passing game produces touchdowns of 79 and 82 yards, when the Packers mount an honest-to-goodness NFL-caliber running game, when the Packers don't turn the ball over, when the Packers' defense withstands Denver's best shot and limits them to 191 yards over the final three quarters, when the Packers face a team minus its two top offensive weapons, Green Bay should win going away, not need an overtime lightning bolt.

With six wins in seven games, the Packers have proven they are good enough to hang in there against practically every team in the NFL. To get to where they want to go — and that's the Super Bowl — the Packers are going to have to start winning games, not count on their opponent to lose them.

With the Detroit Lions looking like a legit challenger in the NFC North, the Packers aren't going to be handed the division title. They're going to have to earn it, and that means seizing opportunities rather than frittering them away.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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