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Green Bay Packers operate out of hole early, often

Oct. 10, 2010
 
Green Bay Packers receiver James Jones is knocked out of bounds by Washington Redskins safety LaRon Landry after a first-down catch during the first quarter of Sunday's game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. Jones was one of eight Packers receivers to catch passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the quarter.
Green Bay Packers receiver James Jones is knocked out of bounds by Washington Redskins safety LaRon Landry after a first-down catch during the first quarter of Sunday's game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. Jones was one of eight Packers receivers to catch passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the quarter. / Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette

Shadows of the goal post

Since 1954, regular-season games in which the Packers began their opening four drives the fewest yards away from their end zone.

Yds Result Date
32 Raiders 28, GB 3 9-17-1978
45 Redskins 16, GB 13* 10-10-2010
51 Falcons 24, GB 10 10-4-1992
53 GB 23, Bears 14 10-3-1965
54 Giants 20, GB 10 12-19-1987
54 GB 26, Bears 20 12-13-1998
55 GB 24, Colts 13 11-13-1954
55 GB 17, Steelers 3 9-27-1992
56 Giants 31, GB 17 11-3-1957
56 GB 49, Eagles 0 11-11-1962
*overtime

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The Green Bay Packers set up shop in undesirable neighborhoods early and often at FedEx Field. Extricating themselves from that unfavorable field position was one of the few challenges the Packers surmounted in their 16-13 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins.

Adversity—some self inflicted, some not—dogged Green Bay all afternoon. Injuries, penalties, dropped passes and more conspired to keep the team from earning a second win on the road.

Perhaps it was a harbinger of the misfortune to come that the offense started at a distinct disadvantage. The Packers began their first four drives at their 8-, 10-, 13- and 14-yard lines. Add it up and that’s 45 yards from their end zone for an average start at their own 11.

How unusual is that? Since 1954, the team had just twice before launched its first four possessions all from inside its own 20: in a 49-0 win in Philadelphia in 1962 and in a 20-3 loss to the Eagles on opening day 1991.

Just once in the more than 800 games played in that span has the team been less than 45 yards removed from its goal line on its first four advances. In a 28-3 setback to the Raiders on Sept. 17, 1978, the Packers got under way from their 7, 4, 1 and 20.

A poor kickoff return and three well-placed punts kept Green Bay backed up. Cornerback Pat Lee returned the opening kickoff — his first as a pro — but 7 yards. Washington punter Hunter Smith then dropped his first three kicks inside the 20.

The Packers emerged with a touchdown despite the long fields. After tight end Donald Lee fumbled away the Packers’ first possession, running back Brandon Jackson ripped off a 71-yard run to set up Aaron Rodgers’ 5-yard touchdown pass to Donald Lee.

Tim Masthay punted to end Green Bay’s third drive and Rodgers couldn’t connect with rookie tight end Andrew Quarless on fourth down from the Redskins’ 1 early in the second quarter.

In jumping out front 7-0, the Packers produced their first 200-yard first quarter (209 yards) since a 212-yard outburst against the Bears in October 2002. Rodgers likely became the first passer in Packers history to connect with eight different receivers in an opening period.

While Green Bay had to squint to see Washington’s end zone early on, the Redskins enjoyed better field position. Their first four drives began at the Packers’ 21, and their 28, 29 and 1 for an average starting position at their own 34.

Green Bay didn’t allow Washington to score on any of those advances. With their defense still mostly intact, the Packers gave up 56 yards and allowed the Redskins to run just three plays in their territory.

In the end, both teams had 15 chances with the ball. Green Bay had three other drives start from within their 20, including their last shot which ended with a Rodgers’ interception.

Extra point

Since 1951, Brett Favre (twice), Don Majkowski and Lynn Dickey are the only other Packers quarterbacks to have thrown to seven different receivers in a first quarter.

Eric Goska is a Press-Gazette correspondent, a Packers historian and the author of "Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness," a statistical history of the Packers. E-mail him at aegoska@sbcglobal.net.

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