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Friday, September 30, 2005

Game Preview: Packer (0-3) at Panthers (1-2)

by Thomas Pyc
PackerChatters Staff

After three disappointing games the Green Bay Packers have a total of ZERO rushing touchdowns. To add to the underachieving statistics that the Packers have generated to this point is the amount of interceptions the defense has mustered, one. If you cannot run the ball or create turnovers then winning football games is not easy to come by. A total of three points is the difference between a winless team and being above .500 in Green Bay. For the Packers to have success this season they need to execute efficiently. No more driving ending penalties, drive extending penalties (for the opposition), more ball control, more defensive playmaking and some sustainable offensive drives are all areas that this team has to improve in order to turn their season around. Impossible? No. Will this happen sooner than later? Let’s hope.

The Panthers’ Offense vs. The Packers’ Defense

Last week the 5’9” receiver Steve Smith racked up 170 yards and three touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins. Smith shredded the Dolphins’ secondary before and after the catch. Smith’s favorite defense is press coverage, something that the Packers frequently use. After Smith the receiving corps are performing at a mediocre level. Newly acquired Rod Gardner and second year man, Keary Colbert, have the potential to take their game up a notch but have not done so to this point. Quarterback Jake Delhomme is definitely feeling the departure of Mushin Muhammed (Chicago) and appears to be somewhat in a lull. The running back situation has been solid so far this season. Old pro Stephen Davis runs in tandem with DeShaun Foster which brings a thunder and lightning attack to the field. Davis has lost some speed but Foster’s continued development makes up for that. Former Packer, Mike Wahle, will face off against his old teammates and there is little doubt that the Panther’s coaching staff did not pick his brain for the Packers’ offensive tendencies.

Last week, the Packers’ defense held up very well for three and a half quarters versus the Bucs. But in the end the defense wore down and the Cadillac rolled his team to victory. This defense is going to keep getting better with time. Building a cohesive group takes time and practice and Jim Bates has the knowledge and experience to do it. You can see the improvement by Ahmad Carroll and Kenny Peterson. Aaron Kampman and Nick Barnett have raised their play level as well. Offenses are throwing away from Al Harris and noticing that they cannot run through KGB’s side anymore. This week is Na’il Diggs second week back on the field. Both Diggs and fellow outside linebacker Robert Thomas should be working at full speed soon and really start-wreaking havoc on the opposition. Unfortunately for this growing group there are several individuals showing up on the injury report. Carroll, Hawkins, Kampman, Manning, Roman and Thomas are all currently listed.

The Packers’ Offense vs. The Panthers’ Defense

For the second week in a row Favre and Co. will get to face off against a Cover 2 defense. Led by defensive end Julius Peppers this group has playmakers at every level. Middle linebacker Dan Morgan has been healthy and making a difference and in the secondary veteran free safety Mike Minter keeps the group in line and on task. Linebacker Will Weatherspoon is currently listed as questionable but he can also make a difference if the medical staff allows him onto the field. But with as many playmakers as this group has they have surrendered over 22 points in each of their losses. Last week they were lit up for 27 points by the Dolphins who are far from an offensive juggernaut.

If rookie running back Ronnie Brown and journeyman Gus Frerotte can light up the scoreboard on this Panthers’ defense than both Brett Favre and Ahman Green have to be licking their chops at the chance. But with Mike Wahle spilling the beans on the Packer offense it is going to be on Sherman and Rosselly to inject some new twists into the gameplan that will render Wahle’s expertise worthless. The Packers offensive line out weighs the Panthers’ defensive line without their all-pro Kris Jenkins and should have the muscle to open some holes for the running game but the difference is going to be whether or not tight end Bubba Franks and fullback William Henderson are playing well. Those two gentlemen are going to be expected to get to the linebacker level and take them out of the play. For the second week in a row Packer receivers will face cornerbacks without top speed. Hopefully they worked more on the deep ball with Brett this week.

The Bottom Line

An 0-4 start would be traumatic to this team’s ego. Right now, there is still time for the Packers to rebound and make a run at the division. If Favre can stretch the field with Fergie and Driver the running room should improve for Ahman. On the other side of the ball it is all about stopping Steve Smith. Al Harris typically takes the opposition’s number one receiver but Ahmad Carroll matches up better against Smith physically. The game might feature two teams that are under .500 but it has the makings of a great matchup. The Packers can win this game simply by playing mistake free football, something that is easier said than done.
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