Notebook: Injuries ruin defensive plan

Al Harris unable to return after blood is found in his urine, offense misfires in red zone, much more from Sunday night.

In the days leading to Sunday night's Packers-Cowboys showdown, there was plenty of talk about Al Harris facing Terrell Owens.

At practice, however, Tramon Williams shadowed a scout-team player wearing Owens' No. 81 jersey. With Williams subbing for an injured Charles Woodson at practice, it was clear defensive coordinator Bob Sanders' plan was to match Woodson against Owens.

That worked well, with Owens managing a mere two receptions facing primarily Woodson but sometimes Williams in three-receiver sets.

The rest of Sanders' plan, however, fell apart when Al Harris departed with cramps early in the second quarter. While being treated in the locker room, blood was found in Harris' urine. That ended Harris' night.

Further complicating matters was a bruised back sustained by starting safety Nick Collins. He tried to return but aggravated it when dragging down Miles Austin after a 63-yard gain. That was Collins' final play of the night.

Mix in the absence of starting safety Atari Bigby (hamstring) and Woodson playing on a broken toe, and it adds up to a mess in the secondary.

Thus, it's no surprise Tony Romo riddled that defense for 260 passing yards, including gains of 63 and 52 to Austin. It's also no surprise what coach Mike McCarthy's focus was on heading into a matchup on Sunday at Tampa Bay (2-1).

"I'm more concerned with the medical condition of our football team right now," he said.

The Packers had a few other injury scares in the first quarter, with receiver James Jones and linebacker Nick Barnett missing time. Jones sprained a knee on the first play from scrimmage and Barnett ran off the field clutching his bruised left elbow after Marion Barber ran through his tackle attempt. Both returned, though Jones clearly wasn't himself.

Lambeau flameout

For the first time in six trips to Lambeau Field, the Cowboys flew back to Dallas as winners. Beyond that, the Packers had won 10 of their last 11 regular-season home games under McCarthy.

"No doubt about it, it's frustrating, it's disappointing," McCarthy said. "Losing at Lambeau, I don't like it, that's for sure. It's an emphasis. We definitely thought we had that going in the right direction."

Special teams letdown

Trailing 20-9, the Cowboys were punting on fourth-and-33 from their 15-yard line. The crowd was back in the game, and good field position beckoned.

Instead, Mat McBriar boomed a 65-yard punt, and explosive Will Blackmon managed only a 6-yard return. A shoving match ensued, and rookie Jermichael Finley was flagged for unnecessary roughness.

So, instead of getting the ball at about midfield with an average punt, the offense took over at its 13.

In the end, two of the NFL's top special teams fought to a draw. McBriar (43.3) and the Packers' Derrick Frost (42.4) posted strong net punting averages. The Cowboys averaged 19.3 yards on three kickoff returns and one Mason Crosby touchback. The Packers averaged 16.2 yards on six kickoff returns.


Not surprisingly given he was held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday and didn't do much on Friday, starting fullback Korey Hall was deactivated because of a knee sprain sustained last week at Detroit. The Packers' other inactives were Bigby (hamstring), receiver Ruvell Martin (finger) and rookies Brian Brohm (third quarterback), Pat Lee, Breno Giacomini, Josh Sitton and Jeremy Thompson.

John Kuhn started for Hall and Aaron Rouse started for Bigby.

The Cowboys' inactives were receiver Sam Hurd, cornerback Alan Ball, fullback Deon Anderson, safety Roy Williams, guard Joe Berger, tackle Doug Free, linebacker Anthony Spencer and Brooks Bollinger (third quarterback).

Extra points

The Packers' captains were Al Harris, Mark Tauscher and Mason Crosby. … The Cowboys won the toss and elected to defer, so the Packers decided to return the opening kickoff. That decision paid immediate dividends for Dallas when Adam Jones forced a Grant fumble on the second play from scrimmage. … Rodgers has fumbled a center exchange from Jason Spitz in all three games. The flub on the final play of the first quarter lost 8 yards, though the Packers managed a field goal after Collins' big interception to go ahead 6-3. … The crowd of 71,113 was the largest for a regular-season game in Lambeau history and marked the team's 271st consecutive sellout (including 16 playoff games). ... On his 25th birthday, Greg Jennings caught a career-high eight passes and finished with 115 yards. ... Collins' 61-yard interception return was the longest of his career. ... Center Scott Wells, who returned to practice last week for the first time since reinjuring his back during the second preseason game, did not play. He had started 39 of 48 games the past three seasons.

 Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and E-mail him at

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