Packers Need To Look At Red Zone Efficiency Late In Season

Green Bay improved their red zone efficiency from 2013 to 2014, but execution was wanting down the stretch. 

I don't have to tell Packers fans about their team's red zone woes late in the the 2014 season. 

We're all still living with the memory of the Green and Gold kicking field goals early on in Seattle. Just one of those possessions ending in a touchdown probably means the Packers are playing the Patriots in Arizona two weeks later rather than clearing out their lockers the next day. 

What might surprise Packers fans is the fact that Mike McCarthy's offense actually improved their red zone efficiency from 2013, when they scored touchdowns 50.72% of the time in red zone possessions, to 57.14% in 2014. 

The problems seemed to hit during the second half of the year. Whether it was opposing defenses getting a better handle on what the Packers were trying to do, or whether it was just a simple lack of execution, Green Bay stumbled in the red zone down the stretch. Over their last seven games, they scored touchdowns on 12 of 26 red-zone opportunities. 

I for one think execution, or lack thereof, in the running game was the biggest culprit down the stretch. It could be something as simple as lineman not getting to the second level, as shown in the play below: 

Something that seems to bite McCarthy at times is his penchant for getting too cute with his calls and play designs. For instance, needing one yard, McCarthy called for this monstrosity down in Tampa Bay:

Now, I've been a vocal critic of the fullback dive - but that is one billion times more preferable to whatever in Sam Hill that is supposed to be above. 

(My favorite bit of that video, by the way, is Eddie Lacy turning to the sideline after the play and telling them to give him the damn ball. Of course, McCarthy responded by spreading it out and putting Rodgers in the gun...) 

A simplified approach in the red zone might yield better results in 2015. That's not to say that a wrinkle here or there isn't worth throwing in, and it will be interesting to see what kind of effect having Tom Clements call the plays will have. But overall, when you look at the Packers attempts in the red zone in 2014, you see a lot of unnecessary pulling and movement from the offensive line. I get they're a zone-based running team, but down in the red zone, where the rubber meets the road, it's time to let guys like Josh Sitton or T.J. Lang fire out from their stance. 

The Packers ended 2014 ranked first in points per game with 30.4. It's not like they struggled to score points in general. But improving their ability to put the ball in the endzone when presented with red zone opportunities will only make this team more lethal and help get them to Super Bowl 50. 

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Comments (24)

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Bearmeat's picture

April 08, 2015 at 07:50 am

Great stuff Aaron.

"MM has a tendency to get cute..." AMEN!

You've got to think he realized this about himself trying to coach and call plays, and that this is exactly the type of thing that will be fixed next year. Really, all that remains to do is add depth and fix ILB.

I've been saying it since day 1 of the post-season: If ARod stays healthy, GB wins SB 50.

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RCPackerFan's picture

April 08, 2015 at 07:59 am

I think a few things will help them in the red zone this year.

First the emergence of 2 young players. Adams and Rodgers. Both will become better red zone targets. I expect both to take jumps this year, and should be more productive especially in the red zone.

Second I do think that McCarthy not calling plays will allow him to see them game a little more clearly and he will see that the zone traps and pulls don't work down on the goal line. He will make the adjustments mid game.

Another factor, could be finding another TE. It seems like drafting a TE will be on their list. If they get a 6'5+ target, that could really help.

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HankScorpio's picture

April 08, 2015 at 09:00 am

I agree that further development from Adams and Richard Rodgers will help red zone. Both are big, strong guys and those kinds of players make good red zone targets. If Janis can prove worthy of offensive snaps, he would add to that as well.

Speaking of 6'5" targets, I would not mind them signing the kid from Whitewater, Jake Kummerow, as a UDFA. He'd probably need a year on the PS so I doubt he would help in 2015. But you can't teach someone to stand 6'5" tall.

No doubt that they need to get better at red zone efficiency.

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RCPackerFan's picture

April 08, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Yeah, he is a guy that I could see Thompson looking at in the 7th round or as an UDFA. He is a big target. He has good speed. Maybe he will be this years Jeff Janis?

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TarynsEyes's picture

April 08, 2015 at 10:37 am

"...McCarthy not calling plays will allow him to see them game a little more clearly and he will see that the zone traps and pulls don't work down on the goal line. He will make the adjustments mid game."

Amazing that he didn't learn this from all the 'game reviews' he and the staff does of each game and log it under 'MUST CORRECTIONS'.

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RCPackerFan's picture

April 08, 2015 at 12:24 pm

I just think during games that McCarthy can sometimes get to focused on the next play call that he doesn't really absorb what is working or what isn't.
I think by him allowing Clements/Rodgers to do the play calling he might see a little more of what is and isn't working, in which he will be able to relay that message, and make adjustments faster.

Joe Philbin was a guy that would challenge McCarthy in his play calling. Since he has left has anyone done that?
With McCarthy not doing play calling he will be able to challenge Clements/Rodgers into making adjustments faster.

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MarkinMadison's picture

April 08, 2015 at 01:53 pm

"Joe Philbin was a guy that would challenge McCarthy in his play calling. Since he has left has anyone done that?"

Bingo.

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Idiot Fan's picture

April 09, 2015 at 03:27 pm

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you guys, but I hear this statement a lot, and I'm just curious - how do we know that this is true?

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RCPackerFan's picture

April 10, 2015 at 07:41 am

I heard Jason Wilde and Bill Johnson talking about it on Green and Gold. It was a while ago, but I remember them talking about it.

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HankScorpio's picture

April 08, 2015 at 09:09 am

That second video is exactly what you should avoid on the goal line. Going east-west across the middle of the field is a recipe for failure. I would say to avoid lateral runs altogether but if you have to move laterally, at least run away from the bulk of the defense instead of right to them. You especially avoid that with a slow moving FB. Pick a point of attack and hit it hard and fast.

I don't have a particular issue with the fullback dive per se. They don't use it much and it keeps defenses honest. But Nagler is dead on in calling out that play on "what not to do".

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DrealynWilliams's picture

April 08, 2015 at 11:01 am

And we had some people complain about MM taking the field goals against Seattle! Ha!

Now you know (remember) why!!!

1) Execution
2) Plays
3) Personnel/Formation

In that order.

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lou's picture

April 08, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Finally asked the most legit question about the offense of the Packers, what took so long ? How can a team with the best QB, (2) Pro Bowl caliber receivers, one of the best all around RB's, and for the 2nd half of the season the best offensive line in the NFL fail so often to score a TD inside the 5 yard line ???? In the Seattle game when both Tretter & Taylor came in on short and goal I just cringed, both received F grades from Bob McGinn's season analysis and the results were predictable. Tretter had more hype before each of the last 2 seasons and his injury may have been the best thing for the offense, we now have the best young center since the McCarren and Ringo days.

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RCPackerFan's picture

April 08, 2015 at 03:44 pm

I think in the Seattle game it was in part due to Rodgers lack of mobility. His ability to extend plays is the difference in the Red zone on many of his TD's.

Also play calling I didn't like. Like you said, bringing in extra OL and taking off your best 2 offensive Weapons. Just didn't make sense to me.

Also the way the offense is set up, I would much rather see them spread 2 WR's way out on each side, with Lacy in the backfield. WR's are in 1 on 1 situations and Lacy is running against a 7 man front vs 11.
In this offense, they should never take out Nelson and Cobb on any play. To dangerous to take off the field.

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Tundraboy's picture

April 18, 2015 at 07:47 am

Exactly. Lets hope we see none of that this year.

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TXCHEESE's picture

April 08, 2015 at 04:23 pm

Gotta agree with RC. How many times have we seen #12 buy some time and then throw a dart to someone in the back of the end zone. His lack of mobility really hurt the offense down inside the 10.

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4thand1's picture

April 08, 2015 at 07:58 pm

Exactly

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Amanofthenorth's picture

April 09, 2015 at 05:24 am

Kuhn runs five yards with the ball on the one yard line and loses a yard. That was a monstrosity.

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pooch's picture

April 09, 2015 at 06:07 pm

lol,remember listning to the fan and them saying Kuhn is all pro and trying to put him on the same page as Jim Taylor...not in a million years is he anywhere close,Taylor would never be denied the goalline from a yard out even if it was him alone against all 11 defenders

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Tundraboy's picture

April 09, 2015 at 08:39 pm

LOL Exactly. Jim Taylor would never ever not get that yard.

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HankScorpio's picture

April 10, 2015 at 07:20 am

I dunno. I doubt even Jim Taylor could have made that train-wreck of a play call work. The play design asked the ball carrier to run from off LT across the formation to attack the LOS over RT..in heavy goal line formation where the defense is stacked in the box with run stuffers. The very design of the play puts every single defensive player in a position to stop it. On goal line runs, you're asking 9 guys to block 11 defenders since the ball carrier and QB are not blocking. You simply cannot call a play that puts all 11 defenders in position to stop it.

Having said that, no doubt that John Kuhn is no Jim Taylor.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 10, 2015 at 11:34 am

Well said. One penetrating defensive lineman blows up the play. And most of the defensive linemen get that opportunity.

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The TKstinator's picture

April 10, 2015 at 05:08 pm

They oughta run more plays that work, and fewer that don't work.

Man, it's tough being so visionary.

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4thand1's picture

April 10, 2015 at 10:21 pm

Remember the fake FG against dabears?

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The TKstinator's picture

April 10, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Fondly.

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