Eric Goska column: Packers earn rare win without red-zone visit

Nov. 18, 2012
GPG_ES_Packers vs. Lions_11.18.12
Packers receiver Randall Cobb (18) makes a catch between Lions safety Ricardo Silva (39) and cornerback Jacob Lacey (21) for a 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

Zoned out

Outcomes of the four regular-season games in which Mike McCarthy’s Packers have failed to reach the red zone.

Nov. 18, 2012LionsW, 24-20
Sept. 28, 2008BuccaneersL, 30-21
Nov. 19, 2006PatriotsL, 35-0
Sept. 10, 2006BearsL, 26-0


No red zone, no problem for the Green Bay Packers.

Aaron Rodgers and his offense ran not a single play inside the Detroit Lions’ 20-yard line Sunday. That oversight didn’t stop Green Bay as the work it did elsewhere was enough to carry the day in a 24-20 victory over its NFC North Division rival at Ford Field.

The Packers ran 59 plays. Even with 31 of those coming in Lions territory, the team steered clear of the red zone.

To be fair, Rodgers did fire two TD strikes from just outside the boundary. He connected with tight end Jermichael Finley on a 20-yard pass early in the second quarter that put Green Bay up 7-3. He also lofted a 22-yarder to receiver Randall Cobb late in the fourth quarter that gave the Packers the lead for good at 21-20.

Four of Green Bay’s 11 possessions started in Detroit territory and another began at the Packers’ 48-yard line. Of those five drives, only one — the team’s last — resulted in points. The others ended on downs, with an interception and with missed field goals.

The advance that resulted in points started at the Lions’ 20. It was a prime example of the lack of production that tended to accompany Green Bay when it entered scoring territory.

With James Starks needing to move the ball just beyond the stripe to be considered in the red zone, the running back instead was stopped for no gain by linebacker DeAndre Levy and then by defensive tackle Sammie Hill. On third down, Levy dumped Starks for a yard loss.

Out trotted Mason Crosby who had missed field goals from 50 and 38 yards. This time, the struggling kicker came through with a 39-yarder that extended the Packers’ lead to 24-20 with 19 seconds left.

Perhaps Crosby could have avoided his earlier misses had Green Bay ventured into the red zone. If nothing else, the distance on his attempts likely would have been shortened.

If any play hinted the Packers might not see the red zone on this afternoon, it occurred on the team’s second drive. On first down from the Lions’ 37, Rodgers hit a wide open Cobb for 26 yards, but the play was wiped out by a holding penalty on guard Josh Sitton.

Another holding penalty — this time on guard Evan Dietrich-Smith — meant that despite two completions to Cobb and another to James Jones, Green Bay faced fourth-and-4 from the Detroit 31. There, the Packers declined a long field goal attempt — even before Crosby’s two misses — opting instead for a Rodgers’ pass that fell incomplete.

When Rodgers and the offense did score, they drove for length. The Packers had two of the three longest drives of the afternoon — 81 and 82 yards — capped by Finley and Cobb, respectively. The Lions had an 83-yard drive in the third quarter.

Even M.D. Jennings covered some distance in scoring his first touchdown as a pro. The safety weaved 72 yards through traffic after intercepting Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the third quarter.

Failing to reach the red zone is a rarity for coach Mike McCarthy and his Packers. Prior to Sunday, his team had been held out just three times in the regular season, losing each time.

In fact, failure to reach the red zone and losing usually go hand-in-hand. Green Bay had dropped its last 23 regular-season games under those circumstances.

Detroit last kept the Packers out on Oct. 28, 1973. In that game, Green Bay quarterbacks Jim DelGaizo and Scott Hunter ran just 14 plays beyond midfield, never advancing beyond the Detroit 22. The Lions won 34-0.

It has been 40 years since the Packers last won a regular-season game in which they failed to reach the red zone. On Nov. 19, 1972, Green Bay knocked off the Oilers 23-10 despite running just five plays on Houston’s side of the field. Jon Staggers (85-yard punt return), Dave Davis (68-yard reception) and MacArthur Lane (36-yard run) scored touchdowns while Bob Brown sacked quarterback Dan Pastorini in the end zone for a safety.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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