What Went Wrong for the Packers in the Red Zone vs. New England

The Packers went 0-for-4 in the red zone against the Patriots. But why?

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams by Benny Sieu—USA TODAY Sports.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams by Benny Sieu—USA TODAY Sports.

Missed opportunities, simple lapses in execution and a commendable effort from the opposition represented the primary culprits for the struggles of the Green Bay Packers inside the red zone against the New England Patriots. 

The Packers ran up almost 500 total yards and penetrated New England’s 20-yard line four times. But Green Bay had to settle for four field goals and just 12 points from inside the red zone, finishing with an 0-for-4 performance scoring touchdowns that nearly cost the Packers an otherwise fully deserved win. 

After 12 games, Green Bay is scoring touchdowns on 58.3 percent of its red-zone trips—which is almost eight percentage points better than 2013 and good for 10th in the NFL. The Packers were perfect in the red zone a week earlier against the Minnesota Vikings. It can’t be considered a problem area. 

That reality doesn’t make understanding the difficulties Sunday any less important. 

“It really comes down to execution, and give the New England Patriots’ red-zone defense credit,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “They kept us out of the end zone. It will definitely be a highlighted emphasis this week.”

The Packers had chances. And while missed opportunities are frustrating for any offense, getting and whiffing on good looks beats the alternative. 

The offense’s first trip to the red zone ended after two short runs with Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers’ incomplete end-zone attempt to Davante Adams. A chance to score was lost on the third down. The Patriots rushed three, spied Rodgers with Rob Ninkovich and played both safeties deep, but the Packers still got the matchup they wanted to the outside. Adams was left one-on-one with cornerback Logan Ryan after New England doubled both Jordy Nelson to the offense’s left and Andrew Quarless over the middle of the field. The rookie ran a sublime route, selling the inside dig route before blowing past Ryan and bee-lining to the back pylon. 

New England escaped seven points when Chris Jones quickly beat left tackle David Bakhtiari to the inside, forcing Rodgers to throw before he probably wanted to. With another half-second, Rodgers likely throws a catchable ball and Adams is able to celebrate a touchdown in the south end zone stands. 

Rodgers and Adams missed another chance one series later. On second down from the 17, Adams ran a simple go route and created a sliver of space against the single coverage of Ryan. Rodgers threw a near perfect ball, but Adams wasn’t able to extend, secure the catch and get two feet down all in one motion. It was a difficult play, no doubt. He simply ran out of real estate. But Adams wasn’t close to getting the second foot inbounds. 

On third down a play later, the Patriots once again rushed three and spied Rodgers. He bought time but was forced to throw over the head of Cobb—who was otherwise well covered by Darrelle Revis—and out of the back of the end zone. 

The third trip into the red zone short-circuited inside New England 10-yard line. 

The second-down play call asked Nelson to beat Revis in the slot. He ran a decent route and was in front of Revis, but Rodgers threw behind and the ball found the turf. Even if he had caught the ball, Nelson was going to be short of the end zone. Both Revis and linebacker Dont’a Hightower were in position to stop the gain at roughly the 2-yard line. The Patriots again rushed three and dropped eight. 

An execution error killed the third down play. The Patriots brought only three, but with a twist; New England dropped both outside linebackers and blitzed Hightower through the A-gap. He made quick work of center Corey Linsley and dropped Rodgers for a nine-yard loss. At the moment Rodgers was sacked, no receiver appeared open against another eight-man coverage. 

It could have been worse. Had the Packers gained just two more yards on the first possession of the second half, Green Bay would have finished 0-for-5 in the red zone. The Packers’ drive stalled at New England’s 22-yard line and Mason Crosby missed a 40-yard field goal. 

The fourth and final miss could have been the most costly. 

The Packers faced a third down from the Patriots’ 10-yard line following a five-yard completion to Lacy and a Rodgers’ throwaway after almost 12 seconds in the pocket. New England threw Green Bay another curve ball, bringing a five-man blitz and trusting one-on-one coverage on the perimeter. James Starks stepped up and stuck his block and Rodgers was able to get off a clean throw. Adams smoked Ryan on a simple slant route, but the perfectly thrown ball clanked off Adams’ hands and harmlessly rolled into the end zone.

A secured catch and Adams would have scored with ease. A touchdown would have given Green Bay a 30-21 lead with under nine minutes to go. Instead, Crosby’s field goal made the score 25-21 and set up a nervy final. 

“When you’re playing a good team, you’re fortunate to win when you’re 0-for-4 in the red zone,” Rodgers said. 

Make no mistake, scoring touchdowns in the red zone is hard. Only three offenses in football have scored seven points on better than 66.7 percent (or two out of three) of their chances inside the 20. Most sit around the 50 percent mark. New England is 11th in the NFL in red zone scoring defense at 51.4 percent. 

The Packers have adjustments to make. New England made things difficult by stopping the run and overloading coverages, most times with at least eight defenders and one spy. That many players in a confined space makes it tough to find openings, even with Rodgers’ ability to buy time and the skill of Green Bay’s receivers in the scramble drill. New England combined the eight-man coverages with pass-rush lanes designed to keep Rodgers in the pocket. Expect more teams to commit to coverage when the Packers get into the red zone. 

It’s also worth noting that not many teams have the athletic linebackers and secondary to pull off New England’s plan. Rodgers will buy time and beat most defenses trying to drop eight players into coverage. One team can match the blueprint—the Seattle Seahawks. Execution would need to be more precise if a rematch with the defending champions surfaced in January. 

The concern level should still be low. An extra second for Rodgers on the first try, another foot for Adams on the second and a completed catch on the fourth, and the Packers hang a big number on the Patriots. No words are spent on Green Bay’s red zone execution. 

The Packers will now expect this week’s added emphasis on operating inside the 20-yard line to ensure Sunday’s struggles were nothing more than a blip on the radar. A couple of adjustments to new looks and a touch of precision, and scoring inside the red zone shouldn’t be an issue. 

 

Zach Kruse contributes to Cheesehead TV. He is also the Lead Writer for the NFC North at Bleacher Report. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].

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Comments (40)

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MarkinMadison's picture

December 03, 2014 at 10:10 am

The sack given up by Linsley was unfortunate, and a mistake that I doubt he will make twice.

Great breakdown and analysis.

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 03, 2014 at 10:47 am

The one thing I wouldn't mind seeing them try to do a bit more would be to target the TE's in the redzone a little more. Rodgers has very good strong hands, I think he could become a good player to look to in the redzone area.

Other then that, I think they have been doing fine in the redzone for the most part all season long.

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zoellner25's picture

December 03, 2014 at 11:29 am

I agree. I would run more jumbo sets, or at least with two TEs and two WRs, and Lacy to get some play action working. MM doesn't really seem to go to that.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

December 04, 2014 at 09:57 am

I get why we see so much Shotgun with 2-3 WRs on the field in the Red Zone.

- It keeps the defense honest/spread out and keeps our weapons on the field.

But I don't understand why we don't see any other formations outside of Shotgun and Goal-line.

- Let's try 3 TEs x 1 WR and 1 RB, 2 TEs x 2 RBs and 1 WR, or we can go 5-wide and have Cobb or Adams do a Sweep (I'm just saying)

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 03, 2014 at 02:52 pm

Or 2 WR's, 2 TE's, 1 RB. One of the TE's can move outside with Cobb or Nelson to the slot.

I just like the match ups with the TE's a little better in the redzone.

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green19's picture

December 03, 2014 at 12:10 pm

I went back and looked at the four trips in the red zone and this is my quick take on what derailed each trip.

- Rodgers missed a throw he usually makes on the first and third trips into the red zone. Adams was open and Rodgers just missed the throw on the first trip. The 2nd down pass to Jordy on the third red zone trip was also a miss. Jordy might slice into the end zone or it at least sets up an easier 3rd down. Both difficult throws but ones he usually makes even under pressure.

- the Patriots just played great defense on the Packer's 2nd trip into the red zone. Great coverage, great def play calls, sometimes that just happens.

- Adams dropped a touchdown on the final trip into the red zone.

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 03, 2014 at 02:51 pm

In reality, Adams could have had 3 TD's in that game.

The one was an overthrow by Rodgers. (Adams got open to the right side of the end zone)

The next Adams caught but couldn't get 2 feet in. That's a very tough throw to hit, but a little better throw and I believe Adams gets that. Another thought was, if that was Nelson, does he make that catch? Nelson is one of the best sideline WR's I have ever seen.

And the last one was of course the dropped ball..

Very close to having 3 TD's.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

December 04, 2014 at 01:11 am

Yeah, I wondered if Nelson gets two feet in bounds on that pass.

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Samson's picture

December 03, 2014 at 04:51 pm

" It can’t be considered a problem area. "

58.3 % and good for 10th in the league. When you break it down by opponent and at what time of the season, it may very well be a problem. --- Do that and your revised numbers will be more applicable.

Going 0-4 in a playoff game means some couch time for Packer players. (watching like their fans)

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murphy's picture

December 03, 2014 at 06:37 pm

"Going 0-4 in a playoff game means some couch time for Packer players."

I guess it's good that the Pats are no where near the talent level of any potential NFC playoff teams.

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Samson's picture

December 03, 2014 at 09:04 pm

Every team in the playoffs is capable, especially if the Pack are unable to convert in the red zone. --- It's part of the game.

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murphy's picture

December 03, 2014 at 10:16 pm

I had no idea that capitalizing on scoring opportunities is important.

It's very fortunate that a football mind such as yourself is here to explain things to us simple-minded homer fans.

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Samson's picture

December 03, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Now you do.
Anytime I can be helpful.
(BTW- Sarcasm usually begets sarcasm --- you asked for it)

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murphy's picture

December 03, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Trust me, I will be sure to let you know if I glean any knowledge from any of your posts.

To think, one of the great football prodigies of our time, posting right here on CHTV!

I'm still waiting for your red zone stats report. Bated breathe and all that.

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Samson's picture

December 03, 2014 at 09:06 pm

Sorry Stroh
The stats would be over your head. You should stick to easier concepts such as whoever scores more points, wins !!!!! (enough punctuation for you --- LOL)

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Samson's picture

December 03, 2014 at 09:59 pm

Stroh
I'll do it but first explain this comment I pulled from another blog reference you.

"By the way ____, Stroh is still on CHTV despite being banned. He's posting undercover with the name DannyDS. Like you know my style, I know his. The thing is I don't care as long as he stays there and doesn't come here it will all be good. Just thought I mention it."

Come on Stroh ---- how about a little truth today.

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Samson's picture

December 04, 2014 at 10:04 am

http://allgbp.com/2014/09/30/corys-corner-anyone-want-to-play-nose-tackl...

Here you go Stroh. ------ Exposed !!!
You'll find it. ---Read the comments.

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green19's picture

December 03, 2014 at 07:49 pm

Yeah, it would be interesting to "break it down" for every trip into the red zone this year. I can think of a few instances where the red zone stats are not really indicative of their efficiency in the red zone. Cobb fumbling into the end zone. Flynn took a knee at the Bear's 2 yard line to end the 2nd Bears game. Can't remember if Flynn was in the red zone in Carolina, Saints, or against Philly.

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Samson's picture

December 03, 2014 at 09:23 pm

"it would be interesting to "break it down" for every trip into the red zone this year"

The numbers exist somewhere. ---- The NFL has always been about detailed examination. MM & company do it all the time.

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4thand1's picture

December 03, 2014 at 08:11 pm

Such an expert. What would we do without his knowledgeable insight. Smoking gun, "watching like their fans." troll away.

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Samson's picture

December 03, 2014 at 09:10 pm

Got any football insight. ---- Didn't think so.

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4thand1's picture

December 03, 2014 at 09:19 pm

Yeah, anything the opposite of your trolling. Don't hate appreciate.

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Samson's picture

December 03, 2014 at 09:56 pm

Stroh's little bro.
You're not worth my time.

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murphy's picture

December 03, 2014 at 10:43 pm

So no stats breakdown, then?

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rjwh23's picture

December 03, 2014 at 07:43 pm

Useless? Oblivious? What "Red Zone" article did you read?

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Samson's picture

December 03, 2014 at 09:29 pm

DannyDS, alias Stroh or alias Strohman doesn't read any articles. He just miraculously knows everything. ---- Just ask him.

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Samson's picture

December 04, 2014 at 10:03 am

http://allgbp.com/2014/09/30/corys-corner-anyone-want-to-play-nose-tackl...

Here you go Stroh. ------ Exposed !!!
You'll find it. Read the comments.

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aj's picture

December 03, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Samson, why do have such a brash attitude towards the other posters on this site? You don't need to agree with everyone, but you don't need to be a dick to everyone either.

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Samson's picture

December 03, 2014 at 11:18 pm

My posts are actually pretty tame. Go back. Read my first one. There's nothing to it. ---- However, when others then attack me for just expressing an opinion, I defend myself.

Remember: some of these dudes use more than 1 ID.----- Also, some of these dudes are banned but have returned under false pretenses. --- (i.e. ---DannyDS, alias Stroh or alias Strohman)

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aj's picture

December 03, 2014 at 11:51 pm

I don't mind if your opinions are different than others man, just hate the internet tough guy act that is way too prevalent on these websites.

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Amanofthenorth's picture

December 04, 2014 at 02:45 am

And you people are all glad Cow is gone?

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zeke's picture

December 04, 2014 at 03:35 am

Yes. Someone will always try to fill the void, but yes.

I just assumed that CHTV moved to Samson's front lawn, which is why he's so upset. Sort of like Dan Devine's dog.

Hey, wait a minute. You don't suppose...

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 04, 2014 at 06:44 am

Wow...

Just when i think we might get some great intelligent football talk about the team the most of us love...

^^^^ This stuff happens...

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Idiot Fan's picture

December 04, 2014 at 08:26 am

*Sigh*

I sometimes wonder if these people are actually creations of Corey and Aaron to mess with us and drive up comment totals. Odd isn't it how the void immediately gets filled?? :)

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 04, 2014 at 08:46 am

Its funny how there are certain individuals that only want to come here to argue with everyone else... Just gets old.

Your right though. When one leaves another pops right up.

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murphy's picture

December 04, 2014 at 10:34 am

Samson has been here in spurts. He just seems to have hit critical mass on the pettiness scale lately.

I was actually hopeful that he'd provide the stats analysis that he said he would. I'm really curious, if they're hitting on almost 3 out of 5 red zone trips, what are the most common causes of the 2 out of 5 failures?

From one stats site I looked at (assuming it's accurate), Green Bay is averaging 4 red zone trips per game, so over 12 games they would have 48 attempts. Going 0/4 against NE leaves them at 58.33% success, so they should be 28/48 for red zone TDs.

Converting the 3 "could have been a success" opportunities against NE would put them at 31/48, or 64.58%, which would be good enough for 6th behind Denver, and we wouldn't be having this conversation.

That's nitpicking, and I'm sure that fans from an opposing team could quickly find a number of "near failures" to counter the "almost successes", but I'm not overly worried about the red zone offense.

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lucky953's picture

December 04, 2014 at 08:22 am

Well done Zach. I, like most fans, am not worried about our red zone offense. The suggestions to go to less vanilla formations are really good. I have no doubt that if we see Seattle or NE in the post season, MM will have some new schematic wrinkles to show. We're not likely to see three "near misses" in the same game again. Still, it's a helluva good feeling beating a terrific team without a "perfect" game. As MM said in the presser, it helps your team if you can win games in different ways: there's no panic if something isn't working. Confidence can carry you through adversity (unlike 2011 when the offense had to completely carry the team).

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sheppercheeser's picture

December 05, 2014 at 06:47 am

I don't go for the shoulda-coulda analysis. The Pats could say the same thing with their missed field goal and Gronk's dropped TD pass. These things are part of the game. There's no such thing as perfection.

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4thand1's picture

December 05, 2014 at 10:50 am

Keeping the Packers out of the end 4 times was just pure luck. It won't happen again. Did they keep them outa the end zone on the 32 yard pass or the 45 yard play to Jordy? Did they stop GB from marching up and down the field like a band. The Pats were lucky they didn't get blown out of Lambeau.

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DraftHobbyist's picture

December 06, 2014 at 01:59 am

Another amazing article by Zach, which is what I have come to expect from him over the years. One thing that surprised me was that we were only 10th in the redzone. I wouldn't call that a "problem" per say, but I would've guessed we were higher than that. I hope we can get that figure into the Top 5. If we are to win the Super Bowl this year, the offense will have to carry the defense through at least one bad defensive performance in the playoffs.

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