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Monday, September 22, 2008
Packers searching for a swagger

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

 
 AP Photo/Andy Manis
 Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers struggled during the Packers' 27-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Damage control began shortly after the final gun. Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Ryan Pickett gathered his fellow linemen and a few linebackers. They said a few words, shook their heads in disgust and went their separate ways in agreement.

"I'm pretty sure I know how we're going to come back from this," Pickett said. "We're going to come back next week smoking."

The Packers absorbed a sound defeat Sunday night at Lambeau Field, a relatively rare occasion for a franchise that had won 20 of its previous 24 games over the past three seasons. You would be hard-pressed to find an aspect the Dallas Cowboys didn't surpass them in a 27-16 victory. It's only natural to wonder how the Packers will respond.

Pickett is one of the few veterans on a team whose average player is 25.57 years old; the figure ties the Packers with the Kansas City Chiefs as the youngest teams in the NFL. Green Bay's quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, has made a total of three NFL starts. So it was up to players like Pickett, cornerback Charles Woodson and receiver Donald Driver to set the appropriate postgame tone after losing a matchup between two of the NFC's early-season heavyweights.

In tough times, a coach I once covered would implore his players to look inwardly first and respond with confidence.

"Do your job," the coach would say. "Do your J-O-B." That's the approach Pickett took Sunday night after the Cowboys ran up 217 rushing yards against his defensive line. Pickett is the Packers' designated run-stopper, and he minced few words as he dressed Sunday night in the Packers locker room.

"What happened tonight won't ever happen again," Pickett said. "They ran for what, 200 yards on us? We have a lot of pride on our defense. We've been good in the past and we'll continue to be good. I can tell you one thing. We will definitely stop the run. It won't be why we lose another game.

"We're very confident that nothing like this will every happen again," he added. "If somebody wants to run it, they can try."

The Packers have the NFC North's most well-rounded roster and are one of several teams that ultimately could challenge the Cowboys for NFC supremacy. Sunday night, however, they learned just how hard they're going to have to bring it. And if they didn't have one before, the learned they will need the kind of confident swagger the Cowboys bring to every stadium they play in.

"The reality is that it's the third game of the season," coach Mike McCarthy said. "It was a big game. It's a great measuring stick for our football team. And I'll tell [the media] exactly what I told them. The Dallas Cowboys are further ahead than we are right now. That's the facts and that's Week Three. How far ahead, time will answer that question."

Someone asked Driver if he thought the Cowboys were a better team.

"No." Driver said, a clip in his voice.

Why not?

"They're just not a better team," he said. "They are 3-0. We're 2-1. Yes. But let's not get too down about this. I think they're a good team, but I also know that the only team that can really beat us is ourselves. I've said that all year. So now we have to go watch the tape and fix ourselves."

All eyes will be focused on Rodgers, who lost his first game as a starter after producing the NFL's sixth-best passer rating during the first two games. Rodgers' final numbers were respectable -- he completed 22 of 39 passes for 290 yards -- but he was sacked five times and managed only 10 yards on five scrambles as the Cowboys kept him flustered and uncomfortable for most of the night.

"It's disappointing," Rodgers said.

"You'd like to win them all, obviously, but Dallas is a good football team and we unfortunately didn't play our best tonight."

There's worse things than losing to the Dallas Cowboys in prime time. As long as you come back from it stronger -- and with a little swagger.