Packers’ offense cashes in during second half
By Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
~Detroit – When it went into the cramped locker room inside Ford Field at halftime Thursday afternoon, the prolific Green Bay Packers offense looked like a unit that had lost its change in a vending machine.
It had paid accordingly, running a no-huddle offense against the Detroit Lions that had bought them victories numerous times before. But coming away with just 86 yards and seven points made it seem like an empty exchange.
The only time this season the Packers had scored less in the first half was at Atlanta on Nov. 9, and that had as much to do with the defense getting torched as it did with the offense failing to get into the end zone.
This time, it was just an agonizingly slow start. Three third downs went unconverted and the only score came on a two-play, 13-yard drive that followed linebacker Clay Matthews’ interception.
“We just needed to get ourselves in better down-and-distance situations and maybe get more of a run-pass option,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who completed 22 of 32 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns.
“In the first half, we had a lot of three-receiver sets and wanted to throw the football and didn’t run the ball as effectively or as much as we wanted to.
“The second half, we got back to more under-center stuff and giving at least the threat of a run.”
The Packers ran into a somewhat similar situation two weeks ago against Minnesota when the pass rush was teeing off on Rodgers and the offense needed some stability. Coach Mike McCarthy inserted tight end Andrew Quarless into the lineup to start the second half and the blocking improved.
McCarthy did the same thing Thursday, bringing in Quarless to team with starting tight end Jermichael Finley and going with more true run-formation looks. The result was a more balanced offense and a 20-point second-half barrage that helped lift the Packers to a 27-15 victory.
“They do a very good job on third down,” McCarthy said of the Lions. “So I went to more of a multipersonnel format in the second half and we were very productive. We ran our offense.”
The difference between the halves was considerable.
Rodgers threw for 242 of his 307 passing yards and a 65-yard touchdown strike to James Jones in the second half. He completed 13 of 17 passes after going 9 of 15 in the first half and posted a passer rating of 137.5 in the final 30 minutes.
After rushing just five times in the first half, the Packers ran 13 times in the second.
“We came in and felt we had to make adjustments and we did,” receiver Donald Driver said. “We changed what we felt (would work) with what they were doing. We still want three wide receivers, but sometimes we went to our base package.
“We had to get things rolling first. That was our main focus. Once we were able to get rolling a little bit we were able to put all kinds of personnel out there and they couldn’t stop us.”
On the opening drive of the second half, McCarthy went with Quarless and Finley together and, after running once for no gain, split both tight ends out in passing formation. The Lions, who stayed in their base defense to protect against two tight ends on the line of scrimmage, were forced to put a linebacker on Quarless and a safety on Finley.
Rodgers immediately went to Finley, who beat safety Amari Spievey for a 26-yard gain down the left sideline. A short time later, Rodgers hit Driver for 15 and then Greg Jennings for 19 as the Packers drove 77 yards for a touchdown.
“It was just about giving them different looks,” Quarless said. “We were thinking no-huddle coming into the game, but it kind of slowed down. One of the great things about this offense is we can put tight ends out on the field that are athletic.
“It’s hard for them to game-plan to that. With me and Finley on the field we were able to run the ball a little bit and also pass it.”
Having tight ends and running backs on the field didn’t necessarily help the Packers run the ball better, but it gave the illusion that they were going to do it. And when Rodgers went play-action and got Spievey to bite up on it, he hit Jones for the long touchdown that put them ahead, 21-0.
All told, the Packers scored on their first three series of the second half and when Detroit scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to make it 24-8, Rodgers drove the offense 53 yards on 10 plays for a field goal midway through the fourth quarter. Six runs during the series helped the Packers take 5 minutes 42 seconds off the clock and leave Detroit with a little more than 2 minutes to pull off a miracle.
“We went a little more under center in the second half and had some success, at least just kind of keeping those drives going, putting us in third-and-manageable situations,” Rodgers said. “We converted those better in the second half.”
It didn’t hurt matters that the Lions lost three members of their secondary to injury – eventually having to use wide receiver Rashied Davis at cornerback – and dominating defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to ejection. Rodgers took advantage of what he could and most important didn’t throw an interception for the seventh game this season.
“When you play a team like this, you can’t shoot yourself in the foot,” said Lions and former Wisconsin linebacker DeAndre Levy. “We made too many dumb penalties, bad errors throwing the ball (and) we didn’t get any turnovers. When you’re going against a good team, it’s hard to win when you do those things.”
Full story here