on December 1, 2008 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Packers safety takes blame for loss to Carolina

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson’s welcomed return to safety for the first time in three years had an ending Sunday that some might hope to forget.

Woodson took responsibility for giving up a 54-yard pass from Carolina’s Jake Delhomme to Steve Smith late in the fourth quarter.

The big play to the Packers’ 1-yard line set up the fourth touchdown run of the game by DeAngelo Williams with 1:30 left to earn the visiting Panthers a 35-31 victory.

“I would take myself 100 percent of the time to be in that position (to break up the pass),” Woodson said. “I thought (Smith) made a great catch. They needed it at that point, but it shouldn’t have happened.”

The Packers moved Woodson, a four-time Pro Bowl player at cornerback, to safety in practice last week after the position was decimated by injuries in Green Bay’s loss at New Orleans on Monday night.

“Just getting your best players on the field,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the change with Woodson. “It was a short week coming off the Monday night game, and we just felt that it was in the best interest of the defense to get (our) best players on the field.”

Woodson started Sunday’s game alongside safety Nick Collins, filling the spot normally occupied by Atari Bigby.

Although Bigby suited up to play, he had aggravated a sprained ankle in the previous game. Bigby also injured his shoulder as a situational player in the second quarter Sunday and didn’t return to the game.

Aaron Rouse wasn’t available for the game because of an ankle injury.

So Woodson was willing to go to safety for the first time since 2005, his last of eight years with the Oakland Raiders.

“I felt great,” Woodson said. “I’m very comfortable (at the position). I played safety before, when I was in Oakland. I grew up playing safety. So I know how to play the position.

“I got a little work (in practice Friday). I just tried to get different reads down and that type of thing. I was definitely ready.”

Woodson forced a fumble at the end of a 43-yard run by Jonathan Stewart in the second quarter, but guard Travelle Wharton fell on the football to keep possession with the Panthers at the Packers 2. Carolina scored a touchdown two plays later.

With Woodson going to safety, nickel back Tramon Williams was promoted to a starting assignment at cornerback, opposite Al Harris.

“Charles decided to step in and make a move to safety, take some snaps at safety. That’s a good move by a great teammate,” Williams said. “The coaches did have the confidence to put me in there. That was a big move.”

After giving up the crucial pass play late in the game, Woodson didn’t know whether his move to safety would be more than a one-game deal.

“I don’t know. We’ll see what happens this week,” Woodson said. “We’ll meet tomorrow and try to get a game plan started for the next week and see what happens.”

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LEAKY COVERAGE: The game-changing pass from Delhomme to Smith came right after Carolina’s Mark Jones had a 45-yard runback on the kickoff following a 19-yard, go-ahead field goal by the Packers’ Mason Crosby.

Coverage on kick returns was a thorn in the side for Green Bay most of the day.

“Minute mistakes foiled us today — inconsistency and not being on the same page,” said Packers defensive back Jarrett Bush, a member of the coverage units.

Jones averaged 38.8 yards on four kickoff returns.

Earlier in the fourth quarter, he ripped off a 51-yard runback on a kickoff to midfield, putting Carolina in position to go down and get a 1-yard touchdown by Williams to tie the score at 28-28.

“We can’t be giving up returns like that swing the momentum,” Packers kicker Mason Crosby said. “It’s kind of on all of us. I just have to keep kicking the ball, and we’ve got to get down there and make the tackle.”

The Panthers capitalized on having a short field. Carolina’s average starting spot was its 40-yard line — compared to the Packers starting at their 23.

None of the Panthers’ five touchdown drives was more than 55 yards.

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GRANT GONE: The Packers lost top running back Ryan Grant to a sprained right thumb in the second quarter.

Although Grant was expected to return to the game after the second half started, according to an announcement in the press box, Grant later said a mutual decision was made to keep him out for the duration.

“Just with ball security the way it was, not to chance it,” said Grant, who had 12 carries for 39 yards before he was hurt.

Grant said the injury shouldn’t keep him out for the next game.

Brandon Jackson responded with a season-high 80 yards on 11 carries.

“My goal every ballgame is just hoping my number gets called. Tonight, it happened,” Jackson said. “I got my number called and went out there and did the best I could do.”

Following Grant’s departure, Jackson promptly responded with a 24-yard run to the Panthers’ 4. The Packers scored a touchdown three plays later on a 6-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to Donald Driver.

Jackson had a 32-yard run into Carolina territory on the first play of the second half. Green Bay ended the drive with a 44-yard field goal by Crosby.

“He did a great job,” Packers tackle Mark Tauscher said of Jackson. “Ryan’s obviously a good running back, and when Brandon steps in there, we feel like we can still do some good things.”

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O-LINE ADJUSTMENTS: Tauscher played through an injury Sunday, but the Packers had to cope with the loss of center Scott Wells to a concussion for most of the game.

Wells was removed after his shotgun snap to Rodgers sailed over the quarterback’s head, resulting in a fumble that Carolina recovered at the Green Bay 17 late in the first half.

McCarthy indicated that Wells suffered the head injury prior to that possession for the Packers. The Panthers turned the miscue into a touchdown to go ahead 21-10.

Rodgers said Wells appeared to be woozy before the botched snap was made.

“Unfortunately, he was probably a little foggy,” Rodgers said. “We called ‘on two,’ and he snapped it on ‘one.’”

The Packers went the rest of the game with right guard Jason Spitz at center and rookie Josh Sitton at right guard.

Tauscher was in the starting lineup and played the entire game after he came in as questionable because of a game-ending hamstring injury he suffered on the second play of the previous contest.

“I knew Friday I felt like it was getting better and I could deal with it,” said Tauscher, adding that he felt OK after the game.