Packers make perfect mess of things

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The Independent Online
If the first weekend of NFL action was not enough of a warning to those who insist on backing favourites, then the second round should certainly have persuaded such punters to take a closer look before picking candidates for the Super Bowl. Even on game-by-game basis, going for the short odds is not bringing a return.

There was talk of the Green Bay Packers, who ran up a 13-3 record last year and swept to the Super Bowl, might produce perfection this season. Forget it. With 11 seconds left at Veterans' Stadium on Sunday, rookie Ryan Longwell missed a 28-yard field goal and the Packers lost 10-9 to the Eagles in Philadelphia.

The Packers failed to score a touchdown for the first time since 18 October 1992, a run of 85 regular-season and playoff games. "This is an early wake-up call for us," Green Bay's coach, Mike Holmgren, said.

Ty Detmer's pass to Freddie Solomon for a two-yard touchdown with 1:56 set up the Eagles win. That fourth-down pass capped an 80-yard, 19-play drive that lasted 9min 22sec.

It was enough to leave punters tearing their hair out - the Eagles had opened the season by losing to the unfancied New York Giants 31-17. Of course, in game two for the Giants were thrashed 40-13 at the Jacksonville Jaguars thanks to inspired play by a third-string quarterback. Steve Matthews directed the offense to a franchise points record in his first start.

Matthews, picked up on waivers two weeks ago, was playing in place of Rob Johnson, who had started since Mark Brunell was injured in a pre-season contest against the Giants. He completed 15 of 22 passes for 252 yards and directed eight scoring drives. Natrone Means and James Stewart ran in two touchdowns each.

The New England Patriots are bucking the trend. They started with a 41- 7 win over the San Diego Chargers and followed up with another convincing performance, beating the Colts 31-6 in Indianapolis. Drew Bledsoe threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers for the second consecutive week, completing 15 of 25 passes for 267 yards. He threw a 34-yard scoring pass to Shawn Jefferson, a 21-yarder to Curtis Martin, a six-yarder to Vincent Brisby and a 21-yard TD pass to Troy Brown.

The Dolphins have also made a flying start. Olindo Mare's third field goal of the game, a 29-yarder 2:15 into overtime, gave them a 16-13 victory over the Tennessee Oilers in Miami.

For the second straight week, the defense and special teams of the Dolphins bailed out the misfiring offense, which twice bogged down inside the Oilers 10 and has managed just two touchdowns in two games. Nevertheless, they have won them both, and, on Sunday, Dan Marino completed 24 of 43 passes for 324 yards.

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