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Green and Bold: Believe What the First-Half Offense Shows You

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Green and Bold: Believe What the First-Half Offense Shows You

By now, the storyline is familiar: the Green Bay Packers offense gets off to a slow start in the first half before putting together an incredible, come-from-behind second-half push.

Sometimes it's enough to win the game, like in Week 13 last season against the Houston Texans, when Green Bay scored seven points in the first half and then 14 in the fourth quarter.

Other times, like on Sunday night in Atlanta against the Falcons, it's not. 

This situation, which has played out time and time again in recent seasons, suggests that the Packers offense is explosive and capable of performing at a high level, even if it takes a couple quarters to get warmed up. 

But what if that's not true?

There's a quote by Maya Angelou: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

Perhaps it's time to start believing that the true nature of the Packers offense is the slow-to-start unit that we've seen in the two first halves against the Seahawks and Falcons.

Perhaps it's time to stop forgiving the unit when it's able to touch greatness in the second half—which, sometimes, is simply because the opposing defense has switched to prevent mode to limit quick strikes. 

Because that's exactly what we saw from Atlanta on Sunday night, and who's surprised? Aaron Rodgers has shown on multiple occasions that he can change an entire game with one Hail Mary. Of course the Falcons secondary would play farther off and give Rodgers and co. a bigger cushion.

Sometimes, that allows such plays as Davante Adams' 33-yard reception for a score at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Now, of course that's not Atlanta's intent with prevent defense, but the touchdown did come at the end of a 13-play, 6:47 drive. It kept the Packers in the game at 34-16, but with only 12:42 left in the fourth quarter, made it highly unlikely they could have held off any future Atlanta scores while putting another 18 points on the board.

The Falcons took the Packers' biggest enemy at that point—time—and used it against them. 

The Packers found the end zone again on their next drive, this time with 9:35 to go in the game. And once again, they were able to take the cushion the Falcons gave them to make some plays down the field, like when Rodgers connected with Ty Montgomery for a 23-yard reception on 1st-and-10. 

Rodgers would find Montgomery again for a shovel pass that the running back took one yard into the end zone, but this time, the Falcons forced the Packers to take 3:44 off the board on the drive. They still had to find a way to score at least 11 points and they had just over five minutes to do it. 

There's no question the outcome of this game could have been different had the officials not flagged two controversial pick plays, one of which, on Geronimo Allison, wiped out a three-yard Randall Cobb touchdown.

But it also could have been different if the Packers offense could have put more than seven points on the board in the first half. 

The lone first-half touchdown came on the very first drive, which saw the Packers go 75 yards in 11 plays, five of them passes, six of them runs. After that, however, the Packers' first-half drives went: punt, punt, interception. 

Yikes. 

The interception, Rodgers' second in as many weeks, was a killer. It gave the Falcons the ball on Green Bay's 36-yard line and, four plays later, the Falcons had their third touchdown of game and were up 24-7 with seconds to go in the half. 

When you go back and watch the film on that play, Allison, the intended receiver, appears to slow down on the back-shoulder pass, but there's also no question the ball is underthrown. And that's just so rare for Rodgers. 

So does this mean the Packers are doomed to mediocrity on offense, especially in the first halves of games, this year?

Not at all.

But Mike McCarthy, Edgar Bennett, Aaron Rodgers & co. need to evaluate what's working (mostly everything with Ty Montgomery) and what's not (most plays designed to involve the tight ends), and, for the love of god, put some man-beater routes into the gameplan. 

It's also reassuring to remember that the version of the offense we saw in Week 2 was a shell of itself. With starting tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga ruled out, McCarthy changed the game plan accordingly. The Packers limited their normal use of long-developing isolation routes in favor of quick strikes underneath.

The Packers wanted to get the ball out of Rodgers' hands as fast as possible, and there's no question he was under duress from what is quickly becoming one of the league's best pass-rushing units. 

Then, Jordy Nelson went down. We've seen how much his absence can change the way this offense operates; hopefully, it won't be without him long. 

Prior to the season, Rodgers spoke about the offense needing to find its identity for the 2017 season. While the "tale of two halves" it's been exhibiting through two games might be its current identity, rest assured that it's not likely to end the season that way.

If this team has shown us anything in recent years, it's that it can really get in a groove when given some time. Would it be preferable to see a Packers team start hot, stay hot, and finish hot, right into the Super Bowl? Of course. But that's not realistic for most teams, nor is it for this one. 

With healthy personnel and the ability to use the full playbook, the Packers can find an identity and start putting together more balanced games. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (48) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

RCPackerFan's picture

'There's no question the outcome of this game could have been different had the officials not flagged two controversial pick plays, one of which, on Geronimo Allison, wiped out a three-yard Randall Cobb touchdown.'

This is exactly what I have been saying all week.

Also on Packers.com Larry does a great job of showing both plays.
http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/Rock-Report-Pick-plays/325e65...

I'm not concerned with the offense. The first game which is always tough anyways, they played against one of the leagues best defenses. In the second they were playing without their starting OT's. And they aren't just starting tackles, they are pro bowl level players. That completely changed their game plan and limited what they could and couldn't do.

Depending on the injury situation I think we will see a much better offensive performance this Sunday. That is basically assuming that at least one of the OT's can play.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I don't think the one on Allison is remotely controversial. He was well beyong 1 yard downfield.

RCPackerFan's picture

Did you watch the video?

I didn't have as much of a problem with it as the Bennett one.

rdent's picture

The call on Bennett was pure B.S. Unbelievable that idiot ref even though he could make that call in the position on the field he was on.

RCPackerFan's picture

Agreed!

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Hmm, interesting. In terms of position Allison would be liable, expect the video shows he doesn't initiate any contact.

As much as I hate sitting for replays. I think they need to make PI review-able. If there is a tool to make the game more fair it should be used.

RCPackerFan's picture

Watching it live I thought it was more of a penalty. But seeing that, it was clear it shouldn't have been...

in all honesty I think they need to make some stuff review able, especially penalties. Especially the Bennett one.

dobber's picture

"By now, the storyline is familiar: the Green Bay Packers offense gets off to a slow start in the first half before putting together an incredible, come-from-behind second-half push."

In 2016, this really wasn't the case. The aggregate stats show the Packers were among the best 1st half teams in the league (they ranked 3rd) last year in terms of putting points on the board. They also ranked 7th in 2nd half points, but their worst quarter in 2016 was the third, where they were very average.

https://www.teamrankings.com/nfl/

I recognize that aggregate stats don't often show the whole picture. They fail to show how the team evolved over the course of the season, and can be skewed by a couple big games, but they carry a little more merit than, say, a two game sample against good teams in 2017.

HankScorpio's picture

Thanks for looking up the numbers. I was wondering if it was actually true that the Packers offense performs better in the 2nd half of games than the 1st half. It's not something I've ever really noted.

Certainly it rings true that they come on strong in the 2nd half of the season. But I've noted no such trend in individual games over the long haul.

lou's picture

Isn't it amazing that every year the offense improves dramatically (and in the 2nd halves) when they go to the hurry up offense and allow Rodgers to free lance instead of the scripted game plan plays. Everyone must see this it is so obvious.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Those 2nd half adjustments must be pure genius.

croatpackfan's picture

I willl say last time: For oiling perfect machine you need more snaps in preseason. For players to be used on hits, pulls, pushes, holds, tackles etc.
Injuries are ugly, but there is no difference if you lose important player in week 3 of the preseason or in week 1 (or 2) of the season.
Wait, no, it is not true. If I lose important player in week 3 of the preseason I can make some adjustments, maybe some trades or FA signings and have 3 weeks to prepare team for week 1 of the regular season. If I lose important player in week 2 of the season, I have much more problems.
Why? Because every at least good player is on other team already. What is left, with no intention to insult anyone, is left-overs. We know to whom we gave left-overs...
Also, our season plan needs to be reinvented or remade. And that will affect complete team. So, we started slow, we lose important player and we have to lose another few weeks to reestablish new game plans...
Train already left the station...
Now, you may give me as much downvotes as you like, but the truth is the truth...

Thebearsstillsuck's picture

I've felt the same way for a long time. Good players are cut and available at the end of preseason every year for various reasons. Better than the week 2 scrap heap.

Green Bay has 2 new tight ends, 3 and a half rookie running backs basically, a second year undrafted rookie expected to be a fairly significant number 4. All could have used an extra couple series with Rodgers.

Packer Fan's picture

I believe the offense will come around. They need to work on that. Bennett dropping a third down pass didn't help. Think, Atlanta motioned Jones to get him some room to run. Made Randall and Rollins look bad. That was Jones for sure, but also scheme. When the Packers tried the pick play, they got called. Yes it was a bad call and made up to a 14 point swing. But with Jordy hurt, MM needs to dial up some scheme plays to get the receivers open. And somehow get Bennett into the game right away and catch a pass.

Think back too, we would have never thought we would be talking about this, this year. Arrgh.

croatpackfan's picture

I was warning that O can not start fast w/o games... I got only downvotes and insults...

nostradanus's picture

Nice piece Michelle, although I think it's a bit early to assume this is what we will be watching all season.
The Seattle Defense is always tough to move the ball and score on and of course the Packers seemed to be starting in poor field position most of that game.
Atlanta is just the better team (right now) than the Packers and are a nightmare matchup at their place.
It may take a few more games for players like Bennett and Kendricks to fully assimilate into the offense and the running game could improve hopefully (longest run 13 yards, really?). This should be a high-octane Offense but under McCarthy they always seem to start out slowly.
It sure would be nice to have a real running game to balance the Offense and take a bit of pressure off of the Defense and Rodgers. Lets hope this happens sooner than later or we could be looking at another uphill battle for the Division once again.
Go Pack!!

mnbruton's picture

Thanks for reading and for the kind words! I just wanted to point out that my final nine paragraphs are about how this isn't what we'll be watching all season, so certainly don't want anyone to come away from this piece thinking that's what I'm arguing.

nostradanus's picture

Point taken Michelle ;)
Dan

Christopher Gennaro's picture

I'm already worried about Kendricks, and if MM may give him the cold shoulder.Sorry RR doesn't deserve to ever see the field.

Jersey Al's picture

"Perhaps it's time to stop forgiving the unit when it's able to touch greatness in the second half—which, sometimes, is simply because the opposing defense has switched to prevent mode to limit quick strikes. "

Love, love, love this...

flackcatcher's picture

Playing on turf can be a duel edge sword, which cost the falcon's a super bowl.

rdent's picture

Al, I have to agree, love the observation, I can't speak for anyone else but it was clear to me Atlanta let up in the second half, they knew they could run the clock and score if they needed to, GB was never in this game after 14-7.

caruso81's picture

The one crazy-making thing is actually that first drive. With no O-line but beautiful play-calling, GB marched downfield like they owned the place. Then, I don't know what happened - OK...injuries. I haven't watched a replay, but I can't imagine ATL completely changed their defensive scheme and shut down our offense.

So, what's the logical conclusion? McCarthy (and to be fair, Rodgers) abandoned what was working for...I don't know, something else. Why can't we take what we're given? That first drive was a thing of beauty...playcalling, execution...and then we pooped the bed.

dobber's picture

Even on that first drive, didn't they convert 3 (I think) 3rd and longs?

croatpackfan's picture

Yes, they did. More to add to beauty of the drive ;-)

RCPackerFan's picture

On the first drive Nelson got hurt. While I like Allison the drop off from Nelson to Allison is significant.

Their 2nd drive they had a holding penalty that put them behind.
Also, after a promising start to the 3rd drive it ended with a Bennett drop.

Their 5th drive they had the 36 yard reception to Cobb taken away from them which turned into the interception.

I don't believe they changed what was working. They had a dropped pass to end a drive. The following drive I also believe had a dropped pass. The 5th drive (right before halftime) they ran 4 plays.

The 2nd half then the score was 24-7 which changed the way they could play.

Since '61's picture

Offense goes as far as the OL takes you. It's difficult to be successful, especially in a passing offense, to play with both tackles playing their first games at respective positions. They played well but the Packers had to limit their plan to help out the Tackles.

The Packers first drive was probably scripted so everyone was assignment sure. After that against an evolving defense like Atlanta's and an HC who has faced the Packers multiple times as the DC in Seattle in their stadium opener made for a very difficult challenge.
Injuries and penalties didn't make it any better.

Due to the limited number of practices allowed by the CBA during the preseason we have seen poor play around the league at the beginning of the last several seasons. More practices with less preseason games would serve the players and the on field product much more. Although to be fair all the way back to the Lombardi days the Packers offense often started slowly even then.
We have plenty of evidence which tells us that MMs teams get better as the season goes. We need to get our Tackles and Jordy back and the offense will be fine.
RELAX, the season has a long way to go. Thanks, Since '61

Tundraboy's picture

Scripted or not. If it works, why stop using what works.

Since '61's picture

Tundra - Because the other side has smart people as well and they adjust to stop what you've been doing and then you adjust to their adjustments etc...

It's also difficult to continue what you were doing when you're #1 WR goes down as we know from 2015. To me the mistake the Packers made was not using Monty more than they did. It seemed to me that the Falcons had no answer for Monty when we sent him out as a receiver.

The other problem the Packers had was Bennett. He dropped at least 3 passes during the game. R. Rodgers also dropped one that would have gained a first down instead it ended a drive.

Between injuries, penalties and poor execution (i.e., dropped passes) the Packers beat themselves because you can't play a team like Atlanta on the road and have that many mistakes and that many players hurt as the Packers had.

Back to "adjusting pad levels and working on fundamentals".
Bring on the Bengals
Thanks, Since '61

flackcatcher's picture

Playing in the falcon's house for the first time gave the home team a huge advantage. Packers never adjusted to the turf on either side of the ball. Much of the poor play can be spotted to the bad positioning on both sides of the ball early in the game. The packers were clearly surprised on how fast the turf played. Noticed how quickly the falcons players got gassed, that is the main reason they went prevent so early, not the score. I agree with everything you wrote on this thread, the packers will get better. MM is too good a coach to let this team slack off.

Since '61's picture

flakcatcher - appreciate the feedback. Good point about the Falcons being gassed as the reason for them going to the prevent so early in the second half. Thanks, Since '61

Christopher Gennaro's picture

I have to agree with tundra, BB in NE feast on this exact position. Feed it to them until they stop and then feed it again. By doing that the smart people on the other side have to adjust, and once they start reacting, you can dictate. MM continues to amaze me with his I have a plan lets not change. I know he does adjust but, when I see TY going off in the first and the Williams comes in the second its the same play book for since forever. The smart guys on the other side know his play book. If anything that Broncos game on MOnday night with the defense calling the plays, should have shook MM to the core, but it didn't. I'm not calling for his head, but man with an offencive genius tag, should be able to adjust more. oh yeah love your last line, its MM to a tee

Since '61's picture

One thing to keep in mind. Monty suffers from asthma so it is possible that MMs trying to prevent Ty suffering from an asthma attack while the game is going on. Thanks, Since '61

Handsback's picture

I think the Falcon's game would have been a much bigger loss if they hadn't taken their foot off the gas. So any discussion about 4th qtr. points keeping it close is pretty meaningless. I also think Green Bay's offense has much more potential than it has shown so far. What I see is that the Packer's offense is very tied to their defense making the other team play catch-up. The defense usually stops the opponent in their first couple of drives while Rodgers takes the team down and scores some points. The pressure falls on the other team's offense to score as well.

Where it seems Green Bay fails is they don't stop the other team's offense in the first few drives. It becomes a game where the Packer's defense has to make a stop and Rodgers presses to make those long strikes instead of the typical WCO 5-10 yards of forward progress. What I see is when the Packer's lose a component to their offense, they don't make adjustments that account for the consequences. On the flip side....the defense can't have playmakers like Daniels (and/or House) out and expect to stop the other team's passing attack w/o a #1 CB. At this time, might change later, I don't see a #1 CB on the field w/o House. You can say House isn't their #1 CB.....but tell me who is at this time?

So the slow starts have to do with both sides of the ball. Green Bay doesn't have an asymmetric team where if the offense does great they can win (Like the Saints of a few years ago) or if the defense plays great (Like the Seahawks) they win. IMHO this is why Green Bay has such slow starts...both sides of the ball has to play well in order to win. I think what keeps their level of play down is usually their youth in playmaker positions. This year it might be just getting the new tight ends incorporated into the offense and the transition from Randell/Rollins to King.

cheesehead1's picture

This game was disappointing in that it resembled last years game. I agree that ATL could have pulled away even more if they stepped on the gas. Same for last years game. Packers fans and Aaron keep saying we could beat them at home, but to get that advantage you have to win on the road! Very good/elite teams find a way to win tough road games. Not saying we can't, but we're sure not there just yet.

rdent's picture

Cheesehead, when do you think they will get there? Seems to me they have been trying to" get there" since 2010 and not much has changed, face it AR has carried this team with little or no help, the talent level has slipped, Atlanta's top two WR's are better than GB's and lately not as oft injured, TE has been a mess since I can remember, hopefully Bennet can get his head in the game, RB, Monty has shown that he is a weapon but beyond that? And the Defense? I don't even need to get into that. I believe they are as close to getting there as they are going to get under the current regime and if it weren't for AR I doubt any of the current coaches or front office, namely TT would still have jobs.

freddisch's picture

Agree. Rogers talent has allowed TT and company to surround him with below average talent, especially on defense. Without a significantly improved D , GB will not see another SB during Rogers tenure. Without Rogers this would be an under 500 team.

rdent's picture

No doubt about it.

Since '61's picture

rdent - unless the defense significantly improves the Packers will not reach an elite status. If the defense just improved their tackling they would look much better. But most importantly this defense needs to reach the point where they can be expected to make stops against good/elite offensive teams.

The defense needs to go into a game like the Atlanta game and shut them down. I'm not saying shut them out, I'm saying make it tough for them to score. Punish them for every yard. Force a turnover or two. Hold them off while the offense builds a lead. Atlanta has too many weapons to keep them out of the end zone on their home field but hold them down to under 17 - 20 points, win or lose, and we would all feel better about the team and our defense.

As of today we have 2 players who could play for an elite defense, Daniels and Dix. After that, Clark, King, and Jones have a chance to evolve to that level.

If you reach a point where you have 5 -7 players who are elite then guys like Perry, Brooks, CM3 can be effective contributors. Maybe Adams and Beigel can reach a high level as well but we have yet to see them play. Burnett is adequate but not elite. Randall, Rollins, Martinez, Ryan, Brice, Evans would all be good situational players on an elite defense.

The rest are probably JAGS for depth, although I would like to see Hawkins given a chance at the slot and boundary CB. He may be a sleeper. On top of all of this the Packers must with deal with injuries, the salary cap and free agency.

I doubt if we will see a solid, balanced team on both sides of the ball in the near future. Sigh. However, that is also true for our opponents but it would be nice to have confidence in our defense to be able to dominate any opponent at home or away on any given Sunday. Thanks, Since '61

cheesehead1's picture

IMO, injuries are no excuse. Every team deals with them. Long ways to go, but would certainly like to see something from House and more consistency from Bennett. I think we'll be fine in time, now need some much needed turnovers.

dobber's picture

"now need some much needed turnovers."

THIS!!!

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

There are no manbeater routes when nearly half your weapons are slowed by having to chip and help substandard tackles.

The defense just has too many guys covering too few guys.

We need Bak & Bul back. Period.

RCPackerFan's picture

At this point if we can even get 1 of those 2 guys back, would be a tremendous help.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I predict we get both.

RCPackerFan's picture

I hope you're right!

OrganLeroy's picture

I predict Cobb, Nelson, Bahktiari, Bulaga, Daniels and House won't play.

donnyanderson44's picture

With the way training camp is maybe we're still in preseason. Game speed can't be duplicated in practice and they are still getting their rhythm and timing down. A train gets rolling slowly then picks up speed. We are a young team experience will be the best teacher. Let's stink now and see what we have, then make the necessary changes. If that means demoting personnel like Randall or Rollins for Hawkins, so be it.

PETER MAIZ's picture

When you're lacking Bak and Bulaga, Jordy and Cobb exit, Mike Daniels doesn't play then how, therefore, are we supposed to pull off a victory? Then Bennet doesn't catch balls. At least last year's tight end (forgot name) did make a difference. It seems that TT wants to make a team out of sheer speculation, as were the picks of Rollins and Randall. Had all the injuries not shown their ugly heads, this would have been a very close game.

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