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Packers searching for answers regarding their offense's frequent first-half struggles

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers are like a finicky old car that needs several hits to the ignition before finally making some progress.

Green Bay has been outscored 63-6 in the first half of its last four games and hasn't scored a touchdown before halftime in any of them. That helps explain why the Packers (2-4) carry a three-game skid into Sunday's home matchup with the Minnesota Vikings (3-4).

“We’ve got everything we need,” wide receiver Romeo Doubs said. “It’s just a matter of how fast we can pick up on it and keep our foot on the gas whenever we get started.”

This marks the first time the Packers have gone four straight games without scoring a first-half touchdown since 1988, according to Sportsradar. That’s a rather discouraging sign, considering the Packers went 4-12 and got shut out three times that season.

“Do we have to be better? Absolutely,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “We have got to be better. We’ve got to find a way to not only put our guys in a better position, whether it’s by scheme or whatever, but then we’ve got to go out there and execute it, especially when we get the looks that we’re looking for.”

Green Bay’s issues on offense shouldn’t come as much of a surprise in the Packers’ first season since trading four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets.

Quarterback Jordan Love had made only one career start before this year. He’s throwing primarily to rookies and second-year players while leading the NFL’s youngest offense.

Green Bay’s top offensive lineman — left tackle David Bakhtiari — played just one game before getting lost for the season due to lingering knee issues that have limited him since he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 31, 2020. Running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Christian Watson have each missed three games with hamstring injuries.

But it’s tougher to pin down why the Packers struggle so much at the start of games. They’re doing just fine after halftime.

Green Bay leads the NFL in second-half points per game (17.3) but ranks at the bottom of the league in first-half scoring (4.3). The Packers have rallied from halftime deficits to take the lead in each of their last two games before losing both.

“The same way we’ve been playing the second halves, with our backs against the wall, we’ve got to come out with that mindset,” Jones said. “Attack. And the person lined up across from you, attack them. Come out with urgency when we break the huddle, push the tempo to the ball and put the stress on them.”

The Packers are taking steps to try to correct things.

Offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich, who typically had worked games from the sideline, went into the coaches’ box for Green Bay’s 19-17 loss at Denver and intends to do that again Sunday. Stenavich pointed out one reason why the Packers might be moving the ball so much better after halftime.

“I think guys kind of take a breath and, as the game goes on, they just feel more comfortable and start executing better,” Stenavich said. “But that’s been our biggest thing in the first half, is just untimely penalties, negative plays, things like that that just kill drives and really stymie our execution. We keep talking about it, we keep focusing on it and making sure we’re focused, we’re dialed in and every drive is important.”

Watson said the Packers need to get more big plays early in games rather than having to rely on extended drives.

“I think one play can be the catalyst,” Watson said.

Love believes once the Packers get that “monkey off your back” by making a big play early, the first-half points might start coming in bunches.

“That’s that game of momentum right there,” Love said. “Once you start rolling fast, put up some points, make some plays, the momentum is going to start going.”

NOTES: Cornerback Jaire Alexander (back), linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (ankle), tight end Luke Musgrave (ankle) and center Josh Myers (ankle) are questionable for Sunday’s game. Myers was a full participant in Friday’s practice. Alexander, Campbell and Musgrave practiced on a limited basis. Campbell has missed three straight games. Alexander has been out for three of the Packers’ last four contests.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl