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HOLMGREN HAS GUIDED PACKERS TO PLAYOFFS

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Though he's most concerned about the game Sunday with the Detroit Lions that will decide the NFC Central title, Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren did take some time this week to reflect on his coaching this season.

The second-year coach admits that he has made a few calls on offense that he laments."There are two or three calls that I have lost a lot of sleep on," Holmgren said. "That will happen every year as long as I call the plays. If it happens too much more, I will let someone else do it."

Like his young team, Holmgren is growing.

"I would think that each year I would trust that I would get better," Holmgren said, "either in handling people or sensing for the team when to back off and when to crank it, those types of things.

"I would hope that with each year I would get a little bit wiser. Just like the football team, I would hope to continue to improve."

There are a few plays that Holmgren would like to have back.

"The one that is the most obvious was the first-and-goal (play) from the two against the Vikes," Holmgren said. "The play was really a good play. We just didn't execute it."

On that play Dec. 12, running back Darrell Thompson was tackled for a five-yard loss. The Vikings stopped the Packers on the next three plays and went on to defeat Green Bay, 21-17.

"It was an interesting set of circumstances (that) led to the call because Jackie Harris was injured on a play right before that," Holmgren said. "We had to do some quick juggling. That's one that hurt a lot."

Holmgren also had laments about a loss last month in Kansas City.

"There were a couple of plays in the Kansas City Monday night game that I thought could have made the difference," he said. "I always think if I'd called this or if I called that . . . you can't do that too much because it will drive you nuts."

Holmgren has been criticized at times for being too conservative.

"In the Philadelphia Eagles game, way back when, I should have been a little more conservative," Holmgren said. "In the fourth quarter, when we had a third-and-nine, I could have just run the ball out and punted and let our defense play. I didn't. I threw the pass and it was intercepted. I probably would like to have that one back."

The Packers led the Eagles, 17-7, after three quarters, but ended up losing by 20-17 in that Sept. 12 game.

The Packers, the San Diego Chargers, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts all made significant improvement last season under first-year coaches. The Packers have continued their success while the Chargers, Steelers and Colts have all regressed this season.

"We all came in with different levels of talent in place," Holmgren said. "You might have been able to sneak up on some people because no one knows you and they don't know how to prepare for you the first time around.

"That's what we did. No one knew Brett Favre very well. This year we were not going to sneak up on anybody. Plus our schedule, because of the formula, we played a tougher schedule."

Holmgren credits general manager Ron Wolf for improving the Packers' talent base through free agency.

"The big boost for us was signing Reggie White, Harry Galbreath and a couple of guys like that," Holmgren said. "Free agency helped us. Those other teams had the same opportunities as well. It's so close. The difference between 10-6 and 8-8, there are a lot of teams in that area where a play here, a bounce here or an official's call here or there, can make the difference."

Some television analysts, such as ESPN's Joe Theismann, are touting the Packers as a team to watch in the playoffs. Holmgren would like to see some more consistency over a longer period of time before he announces that Green Bay is a serious Super Bowl contender.

"We have not yet shown the maturity or the consistency to be mentioned with the great teams, I believe," Holmgren said. "We can compete and we are in any game we'll line up for. But which team is going to show up? The team that has six turnovers vs. the Bears and went for 500 yards and gave them 21 points or is it the team that shutout the Raiders and played a very resourceful, solid football game in minus-25 degree weather?"

Part of the Packers' inconsistency can be directly traced to Favre, a 24-year-old quarterback. Favre has thrown 20 interceptions.

"Brett has had a good year," Holmgren said, "a very productive year in many respects. He has also led a Green Bay Packer team to the playoffs, which not many quarterbacks in the last whatever it is, 20 years, have done. So, he's doing OK."