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Offense Struggles In Red Zone Today

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Offense Struggles In Red Zone Today

A continuing theme here at CHTV over the course of the offseason has been my trying to temper peoples enthusiasm for the Packers' offense. Yes, it raked up a lot of yards. Yes, it scored a bunch of points. But a big problem the offense had throughout the 2008 season was finishing off drives with a touchdown. The red zone was a frustrating place for McCarthy and company last year.

Seems that things are picking up where they left off.

One thing that a lot of teams did to Rodgers last year was to drop seven or even eight guys into coverage once the Packers got down inside the 20. Too often Rodgers first read was taken away and he would do one of two things. Throw it away/into the ground or pull the ball down and run. Very few times did he stick a throw for a big TD. Now, clearly this is a product of both Rodgers' and McCarthy's oft-repeated mantra: "Take Care of the Ball". One could not go seemingly 30 mins at the beginning of last year without these words coming up in an interview with one or both of them when asked about McCarthy's expectations for Rodgers in 2008.

Well, it is now 2009 and it is time for Rodgers to be a little less careful.

The Packers have been here before under McCarthy. They struggled mightily in the red zone in 2006 as well before becoming a model of efficiency in 2007. What was the biggest change? I'd love to say it was some great adjustment McCarthy made or an obvious personnel move by Thompson. But the truth is it was a combination of both of those...and Brett Favre. McCarthy did indeed start calling more roll outs near the goal line, Thompson traded for Grant who gave the Packers the physical runner they had missed after a declining Green was not punching the ball into the end zone with any regularity and, as much as I hate to say it...it was Brett Favre. Favre made some ridiculous throws that season, especially on those designed roll outs. Was the increased efficiency all Favre? No. But he had a big hand in it.

Rodgers needs to loosen his own reigns a bit this season when he gets down near the goal line. From all accounts, it sounds as though he and McCarthy have talked about opening the offense up and giving Rodgers a bit more responsibility at the line which can only help Rodgers' confidence both in the huddle and during play from scrimmage. But  make no mistake, until Rodgers takes this next step in his development, we'll see a whole lot more of Mason Crosby than we will Lambeau Leaps. And that is unacceptable.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (16) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Ron La Canne's picture

Apparently MM doesn't even open it up in practice. That "Turtle Shell" approach to offense has to change. I know it's practice but still isn't this where you start working in the plays that actually score? Being in the "Red Zone" means score the TD. FG's are for pansies!

packeraaron's picture

Of course, this could also be a sign that the defense is improving... ;)

bucky's picture

"Well, it is now 2009 and it is time for Rodgers to be a little less careful."

No it's not. I'd much rather see Mason Crosby come in than see Rodgers become "a little less careful." If teams are dropping extra defenders into coverage when the Packers are in the Red Zone, the solution is pretty obvious: run the freaking ball.

packeraaron's picture

Just remember Bucky, every time Crosby's out there kicking field goals you're that much closer to one of those 7 games lost by 4 points or less. ;)
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That's (mostly) a joke, but I think you get my point.

JerseyAl's picture

I don't mind field goals if you gave it 3 good tries at the end zone and couldn't do it. I for one am tired of seeing Mason Crosby come in because we were so conservative the three plays before.

As for inside the five, one of the best ways to score a TD is to use your tight end. He steps over the goal line, turns around, blocks off the defender with his body, you throw it in his gut and you score 6 points. (see B. Franks) is that out of our playbook?

swany11's picture

I hear people talk about the Packers RZ inefficiencies, but I just don't get it.

<blockquote>2008 RZ Stats:
6th in TD %
Tied for 1st in Scoring %</blockquote>

Seems like the offense is taking care of business inside the 20.

The problem probably lies in actually getting inside the 20.

<blockquote>19th in RZ possessions
12th in TD's scored</blockquote>

packeraaron's picture

When were those TDs scored? How much time was on the clock? End of the half? End of the game? Also, those are strict RZ stats, yes. The problem I kept seeing last year was drives dying heading into the red zone, so in that sense, you're right. My post here was just a jumping off point getting there...

Nick's picture

Im not concerned about the offense. Curious about your opinions on Grant, aaron. I expect him to have a stronger year...he did really well when you go back and consider the significance of his injury last year.

swany11's picture

And ironically enough, the 2008 numbers are better than the 2007 numbers. Two less possessions, two more TD's scored. And better %'s. The circumstances behind those drives don't really matter, because I would imagine that evens out over the entire season.

So as far as the RZ goes, there really isn't a problem.

I would be curious what the overall drive statistics are for 2008. Especially in the 1st quarter. I think that is where a big part of the problem was for the offense in 2008.

Nick's picture

The first drive was definitely the biggest issue. They needed to start off strong...and McCarthy recognized that. I think it could be attributed to Arod jitters or nervousness in the beginning of games.

packeraaron's picture

swany - See, I completely disagree that "the circumstances behind those drives don’t really matter" - of those RZ TDs which are Donald Lee going in in garbage time against the Falcons and which are Donald Driver catching an 8 yard hitch against the Titans to take the lead?
It matters.

swany11's picture

I probably didn't explain myself well. I do agree that it matters. But, it's a moot point unless someone analyzes each one from 2008 and 2007. If the ratio of quality TD's vs. garbage time TD's significantly favors 2007, then we have a problem that McCarthy needs to fix. But until someone compares the two, it is purely speculation.

PackersRS's picture

I totally agree with swany11. The impression from the games is that we sucked at RZ, but when the statistics show that we were #1, I can't argue with that. It's just too high for circumstances to determinate that we were bad at it...

bomdad's picture

I'm with Nick. they need to get into the red zone MORE, especially on the first drive (who cares too much if you score, your winning field position), at the end of the first half and at the start of the 3rd quarter. Holmgren coached teams made a point of taking away halftime, I'd like to see a return to that.

buckslayernyc's picture

You need a dominant TE threat in the red zone to free up the outside wr's and slants. Its not about play calling, its about having the right players, especially a credible run threat that can take it to the house at any time. I would prefer 12 yard TD runs instead of TD passes of the same distance.

When that field gets shortened, the pressure on our WRs goes up, we need a relief valve that becomes more important in that strategic down and distance. That's the TE and the third down back.

The plays we have are fine, McCarthy's calls are fine, Rodgers choices are fine until the end of the game when he forces it (which it seems is being advocated here).

IPBprez's picture

Tend to agree - without a Chmura or a Jackson out there in the RedZone, defenses just play the QB that close to the line.
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RON - That “Turtle Shell” approach is my most extreme beef against McCarthy. You call it Turtle Shell - I call it Prevent Football Mentality. He tries so hard to protect his possession of the ball, he might as well take it and go home. The rest of the guys can find a suitable rock and keep playing FOOTBALL.
Like said previously, and I do think we will find it with the personnel we've brought in, I want Rodgers to have all day in the pocket. And, that means even in the Red Zone.
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Here's the other rub. How often did we see MAC use the 2-minute Offense? Especially when the rest of us could see the time on the clock? How often did he mis-use it? Wasn't it in the first game against Detroit, where we gave them 3.5 minutes left in the game and they could have come back and tied it up or won? If not for Woodson and (was it?) Collins.
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While I certainly prefer MAC over SherRossley, it doesn't bode well that Mike cannot rid himself of his Schottenheimer roots. IF it's actually true that Rodgers is petitioning for, and getting, more freedom to call plays (out there) as Favre was allowed, then I would auto-think that the Offense will get tricky on Defenses, and that (fellas) translates into more WINS. How many remember that Article in '07 which discussed how Rodgers had one serious duty, and that was to prep for the next game, beginning Sunday evening (?) His report was to be ready by the next Wednesday and he would give his recommendations to the Coaching Staff and the Offense. After game 6, he was coming to the same conclusions as the Coaches. ....So, yea.... Rodgers can be a thinking man's QB, much like Bart Starr. AND, he also knows when to throw it away. I would look for his INT percentages to go even lower.

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