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Eric Goska column: Packers max out clock control with fourth-quarter drive

Dec. 2, 2012
 
GPG_ES_Packers vs. Vikings_12.2.12
Packers receiver Randall Cobb (18) reacts after making a catch for a first down during an 11-minute drive in the fourth quarter Sunday. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

Timing is everything

Since 1970, scoring drives by the Packers that have taken 10 or more minutes off the game clock.

TimePlay-YdsScoreDateOpponent
11:0018-73FGDec. 2, 2012Vikings
10:3116-88FGDec. 7, 1997Buccaneers
10:1416-68FGNov. 26, 1970Cowboys
10:1319-80TDOct. 4, 1981Giants
10:0717-84TDSept. 6, 1992Vikings

More

Like sands through the hourglass, so came the yards in one time-consuming, momentum-shifting, fourth-quarter drive for the ages.

Neither penalty, nor sack, nor third down could slow Green Bayís offense on its first advance of the fourth quarter. Controlling both clock and Minnesota, the Packers didnít relinquish the ball until going ahead by nine points, a lead too great for the Vikings to overcome with the little time that remained.

Green Bay disposed of the Vikings 23-14 Sunday at Lambeau Field with a ball-control offense that ran more plays (73 to 53) and produced a better time of possession (38:30 to 21:30) than Minnesota. The Packers were especially dominant in the third and fourth quarters, where their possession time of 21:02 was a second-half record for them in the rivalry.

More than half of those 21 minutes were earned at the start of the fourth quarter. Aaron Rodgers and his offense took 11 minutes off the game clock. Mason Crosby capped the 18-play, 73-yard advance with a 31-yard field goal that put Green Bay ahead 23-14.

In reality, the team gained 88 yards. A 10-yard holding call on fullback John Kuhn and a 5-yard false-start penalty on guard Evan Dietrich-Smith made the trek longer.

The march was the longest scoring drive (in terms of time taken off the clock) by the Packers since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. It was only the fifth scoring drive of 10 or more minutes by the team over the same span.

Green Bay hasnít been known for its time of possession this season. Three years removed from having led the league in this category (33:03 in 2009), the Packers did not have a drive of 7 or more minutes in their first 11 games.

Their best effort had been a 12-play, 80-yard advance to open the second half against the Rams. Rodgers used 6:56 to put Green Bay ahead 17-6 with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb.

The Packers made up for lost time against the Vikings. In one long, memorable sequence, Green Bay held the ball longer than Minnesota did for the entire second half, and it turned the table on a Vikings club that again was in scoring territory.

Adrian Peterson, a load as usual, ripped off a 23-yard run to the Green Bay 40. After cornerback Tramon Williams was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the next play, the Vikings had a first down at the Packersí 25.

Morgan Burnett stepped in. The safety intercepted Christian Ponderís first-down pass intended for tight end Kyle Rudolph on the final play of the third quarter, giving Green Bay new life at its 14-yard line.

Rodgers and the Packers converted four-of-five third downs they faced. In addition to overcoming one himself with a 3-yard scramble, Rodgers erased three others with passes to Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb.

Rodgers went 5-for-5 for 60 yards on the drive. He was sacked twice for 3 yards in losses.

The running game helped as well. James Starks carried five times for 17 yards and picked up a first down on a 9-yard run. Alex Green chipped in 5 yards and Kuhn gained 3 before Crosbyís field goal.

Though the advance was quite possibly Green Bayís longest scoring drive in its 92-year history (in terms of time elapsed), it was not its longest ever. Vince Ferragamo and the Packers of 1986 held the ball a tad longer.

In the third quarter of an embarrassing 42-7 loss to the Vikings on Sept. 28, Ferragamo moved the Packers 81 yards in 19 plays. His 2-yard pass to receiver James Lofton on fourth-and-12 ended a possession that consumed 11:03.

Extra point

Adrian Peterson pounded out 126 yards rushing in the first half, the most by a player in the first half against the Packers since Walter Payton chewed up 163 on the way to 205 in the Bearsí 26-0 thumping of Green Bay on Oct. 30, 1977.

ó aegoska@sbcglobal.net

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