October 09, 2002
Packers Feel Patriots Pain
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
FOXBORO, MA -- For a change the Patriots are about to face a team that is even more banged up than they are.
The Green Bay Packers are headed to Foxboro on Sunday and are without a good majority of their defense due to injuries. Six of the 11-players who started on opening day are on the injury report, with three of them listed as "Out" and two are "Questionable" (50% chance they'll play). Two notable players were right defensive end Joe Johnson who is out after tearing a triceps muscle in the third quarter of Monday night's victory over the Bears and leaving the game, and cornerback Mike McKenzie is nursing a groin injury that he aggravated prior to the game and is listed as questionable.
Whether or not those injuries have any bearing on the Packers remains to be seen. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila replaced Johnson at defensive end and played well, recording two sacks, three tackles, and an interception that he returned 72-yards for a touchdown.
Needless to say the Packers have guys who can step in and play well, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick knows his team is going to have their work cut out for them.
"They have a defensive line rotation where they use everybody," said Belichick on Wednesday. "They use all of their defensive lineman and they have always done that."
"They have several good players there, (Aaron) Kampman is a good young player. KGB (Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila) is probably the fastest pass rusher we have seen. They've lost one last week I guess, but the rest of the guys will rotate through there."
What the Patriots are able to do offensively against that defense will likely depend on whether or not wide receiver Troy Brown is ready to return on Sunday. Brown reportedly practiced with a knee brace on Wednesday with the first team and may finally be ready to return to action. With #80 out of the line-up the offense has had difficulty scoring, averaging 14-points in their two losses down from the 38-point average of the first three contests.
Much of that has been caused by the Patriots ending up in too many third-and-long situations. They haven't gotten much production from Antowain Smith the last couple of weeks, and prior to that they had used the short passing game almost like their running game. Brown had been involvend in many of those plays, with over half of his 31 receptions having come on 1st down. The veteran receiver had gained 144-yards on 17-catches (6.7 avg.) to start off most drives, and to make matters worse they've been struggling to convert when facing 3rd-and-10 yards or more this season. The Patriots are just 2-of-21 in that situation so far this season, and were 1-of-5 on Sunday with two turnovers.
Whether or not Brown does return is still obviously the other question. He's been a game time decision the past two weeks, with Sunday's game against Miami being the closest he had been to playing after being scratched prior to the game. The fact that he did practice on Wednesday is encouraging, but Belichick continued his mysterious ways when asked if he expected Brown to be a game time decision.
"At this point I really don't know," said Belichick. "It certainly could be. If we don't [know sooner] then it will be a game time decision."
Meanwhile Sunday's match-up will mark the return of former Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn who is coming off of an 8-catch 154-yard performance against Chicago on Monday night. Glenn had been suffering from headaches prior to the game but apparently felt good enough to go and had a big night, and reportedly is looking forward to oppose his former team.
Belichick expects to see a solid effort from Glenn, who he traded to the Packers during the offseason.
"Terry is a good player," said Belichick. "There's no question about his talent level. Green Bay is using him a little bit more in the slot. I think based on their total receiver situation, he's played more in the slot, played the inside position."
"He's run a variety of different routes in there. That was by far his most productive game against Chicago. Nobody knows better than we do what kind of threat he is and what kind of skill level he brings to the field."
One obvious concern will be whether or not New England can contain Brett Favre who is listed on the injury report as 'Probable' with an elbow injury. Favre was near flawless Monday night, completing 22-of-33 for 359-yards and three touchdowns with a qb rating of 133.3
"He does everything well," said Belichick speaking of Favre. "I think that in some respect he kind of reminds me a little of (John) Elway."
"He's obviously had a tremendous amount of experience and you're not really going to surprise him and fool him with a lot of new looks that he hasn't seen before. He's seen pretty much everything a defense could throw at him and then some."
Whatever defense they throw at him will need to be better than it has been. They allowed 217-yards rushing the week before to Chargers runningback LaDanian Tomlinson, and spent nearly 40:00 on the field last week because their offense couldn't convert on third down and their defense couldn't make the play to get them off the field.
With the bye week approaching the Patriots now have the chance to go into their week off with the momentum. With the problems the Packers have in their secondary it would be no surprise if the game turns into a shootout with New England trying to exploit that weakness. If that happens the game will likey come down to who runs out of bullets first.
Sitting at 4-2 would certainly be better than 3-3, and hopefully the latter isn't what they achieve.
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