Are Packers Going Conservative on Offense?

With Brett Favre at the helm on the field, the Packers have had a gunslinger's mentality … until recently. Plus, get other notes from Green Bay as the Vikings and Packers begin preparations for their Monday night showdown.

After 14-plus seasons and 234 straight starts at quarterback for the Packers, Brett Favre had an epiphany. The unorthodox thrower with whom Green Bay more often than not has lived or died because of his gambling ways made a recent discovery that he can do more with less.

The risky, sometimes fatal throws downfield and into double coverage aren't as prevalent anymore. At least they weren't out of Favre's right hand Sunday, when the Packers enjoyed one of their finest offensive performances of a season that has yielded just two wins in nine games.

A big reason the Packers avoided trouble for most of their stunning 33-25 victory at Atlanta is head coach Mike Sherman and offensive coordinator Tom Rossley reined in their gunslinger, seeing as how there was only a scant number of targets for him to hit.

With the exception of one play, the Packers didn't employ their staple "Eagle," or four-receiver, formation. Another of their playbook favorites, a three-tight-end set, has been null and void the last few weeks.

There's simply not enough healthy, capable guys to occupy all of those spots. Consequently, the offense has been scaled back noticeably, and Favre is learning on the go to play within the conservative framework.

"Sometimes, from my standpoint with the new guys, I felt like I had to go over the top and make some plays that maybe were not there because of who we had and their lack of knowledge in our offense," Favre said Wednesday as he gave a self-assessment of his play this season. "For the most part, (I've played) well enough to win, but in some of these games, I don't think I needed to take as many chances as I did."

True, Favre leads the league with 15 interceptions heading into Monday night's game against visiting Minnesota. Yet, he's had only one in each of the past two games, when he's been taking fewer risks with the injury-depleted offense.

Green Bay has been without Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker since he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 1. It lost budding rookie receiver Terrence Murphy to a season-ending neck injury in Week 4. Robert Ferguson, who slid into the starting lineup for Walker, has been sidelined the last three games because of a knee injury.

What's more, No. 2 tight end David Martin, who excels as a pass catcher, has missed the past three games because of a strained groin.

Small wonder the Packers are crossing their fingers Ferguson and Martin, both questionable on the injury report, can make significant progress in practice later this week and get back on the field Monday.

"If they come back, when they come back, it will be an added boost," Rossley said. "Another shot of adrenaline to get those playmakers back. And, I consider Robert Ferguson and David Martin guys who can make plays."

Given all that they've lost from a personnel standpoint the majority of the season thus far, it's remarkable the Packers rank fifth in the league for passing yardage with an average of 250.3 per game. Perhaps more unbelievable, considering they're down to unknown rookie Samkon Gado as their fifth starting halfback, is the Packers lead the circuit with 22 possessions of 10-plus plays, one more than juggernaut Indianapolis.

So, Favre and the coaches alike can't help but be consumed with eagerness as they envision the return to a wide-open and more effective offense in the season's remaining weeks with the return of Ferguson and Martin.

"We've probably been at our best offensively when we've got in the flow and changing personnel and teams try to sub with us," Rossley said. "It allows you to flow more with different personnel. I think the more weapons we've got, the more we like it."

NOTES

  • Though there's a slight chance RB Tony Fisher will play Monday, rookie Samkon Gado will remain the starter for the game Monday against Minnesota.

    Gado parlayed a 25-carry, 103-yard, three-touchdown performance in his first pro start last Sunday into NFC offensive player of the week, which was announced Wednesday.

    Fisher has missed the last two games because of a broken rib. He's slated to return to practice Thursday, though on a limited basis. He's listed as questionable on the injury report, and his status for Monday won't be determined until the end of the week.

    If Fisher is cleared to play, the coaches are inclined to let him handle the third-down duties at which he's excelled. Fisher gained only 51 yards on 17 carries in his only start of the season Oct. 30 at Cincinnati, the last game in which he's played.

  • Starting WR Robert Ferguson and backup TE David Martin also are questionable to return to action Monday. They will practice on a limited basis Thursday.

    The passing game has been scaled back in the wake of both players being out the last three games. Ferguson has a torn lateral-collateral ligament in his left knee, while Martin is nursing a strained groin.

  • With the next game not until Monday, Sherman canceled practice Wednesday and instead put the players through an extended walkthrough.

    He cited ongoing injury concerns involving players such as Ferguson, Fisher and Martin as a reason to give the team an extra day of rest before it resumes practice Thursday.

    "I think it will help us be fresher down the road," Sherman said.

  • OLB Robert Thomas is coping with a strained quadriceps, suffered in the second half of the last game, and is questionable to play Monday. The weak-side starter may have to be held out of practice Thursday.

  • OLB Na'il Diggs isn't assured of getting his starting job back at the strong-side spot Monday, though the likelihood would increase if Robert Thomas (quadriceps) can't play. Diggs played extensively off the bench Sunday, his first game in six weeks after he sustained his second torn medial collateral ligament of the season. Paris Lenon has started in place of Diggs the last four games but would be the top candidate to slide over to the weak side to replace Thomas.

  • DT Corey Williams is likely to be out a second straight game because of a torn right calf. The backup is on the injury report as doubtful.

  • MLB Nick Barnett was credited with 11 tackles in Sunday's game after the coaching staff reviewed film, bumping his team-leading total to 120. Barnett needs only 61 tackles in the last seven games to shatter LB Mike Douglass' single-season club record, set in 1981. Barnett has recorded double-digit tackles in all but two games this season.

  • Each of the last six regular-season meetings between the Packers and the Vikings, dating to 2002, has been decided by five points or fewer, tied for the second-longest streak in league history behind the eight straight tightly contested games between Philadelphia and Washington from 1991-95.

  • The Packers are playing Minnesota on a Monday night for the first time since Green Bay pulled out a 26-20 win in overtime Nov. 6, 2000, at Lambeau Field. The game is etched in Packers annals as the "Monday Night Miracle."

    Amid a heavy downpour, Antonio Freeman gathered in a deflected pass from Brett Favre while on the ground and, when untouched by defender Cris Dishman, proceeded to get up and score the game-winning, 43-yard touchdown.

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