Insider: Thumbs down to 1st half, up to rally
THE BIG PICTURE
The combination of Green Bay’s second straight loss and the Minnesota Vikings’ fourth straight win means a tie for first place in the NFC North Division. Nobody saw this coming after Green Bay won its first six games. Maybe more importantly, though, is the Packers essentially fell three games behind the undefeated Carolina Panthers for homefield advantage in the playoffs — that is if the Packers right their ship in the second half of the season.
After a very forgettable first half, Green Bay looked as though it might make a game of it coming out of the halftime locker room. The Packers needed only three plays and an unnecessary-roughness penalty to cut the lead to 27-14 when Randall Cobb caught a perfect throw from Aaron Rodgers and took it to the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown. After the Packers forced the Panthers into a three-and-out, they had a chance to grab the momentum on their next series. After a 21-yard Rodgers-to-Davante Adams pass gave the Packers the ball at the Carolina 44, their drive stalled when Rodgers was sacked by safety Kurt Coleman and then threw incomplete to Richard Rodgers on third-and-8. A lost opportunity that would haunt them at the end.
It was difficult to decide which unit was worse in the first half: Green Bay’s offense or defense. If you don’t count a desperation drive with less than a minute left in the first half, the Packers’ offense gained a total of 49 yards on their first six possessions. Just as bad, the Packers’ defense gave up four passes of 23 yards or longer in the first half alone. They kept the Panthers from scoring on only two of seven first-half drives, including a missed 43-yard field goal.
Green Bay deserves credit for not packing it in with 9 minutes left in the game and facing a 37-14 deficit. The frustration level at that point was at its peak, witnessed by the sideline confrontation between defensive players Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Julius Peppers and B.J. Raji. But the Packers rallied and had a chance to tie the game with 2 minutes left. They’ll need to use the perseverance that they showed in the fourth quarter as a springboard for the rest of the season.
DID YOU NOTICE?
» Randall Cobb caught only four of the 12 passes thrown to him.
» Tim Masthay punted eight times, a season high.
» Eddie Lacy carried the ball only five times. Not counting the opening game, Lacy is averaging only nine carries in the other seven games this season.
» The Packers gave up 427 yards to the Panthers. Over their past three games, they have allowed an average of 492 total yards.
Five times, the Packers ran the ball when facing a second-and-8 or longer situation. The results: Lacy loses 1 yard, Lacy gains 1 yard, Lacy loses a fumble, James Starks gains 2 yards, Starks gains 4 yards. Besides Lacy’s lost fumble, they were forced to punt every other time.
Green Bay’s offensive line looks as leaky as it did in 2009, when Rodgers was sacked 51 times. Rodgers was continually under pressure Sunday, as Carolina collected five sacks for 38 yards and 14 quarterback hits.
Inside linebacker Nate Palmer played so poorly that with less than 5 minutes left in the second quarter, the Packers pulled him in favor of rookie Jake Ryan. Palmer continued to miss tackles and look lost in pass coverage. Ryan, who finished with a team-high six tackles, might get a chance to start next week.
Starks had another solid outing, highlighted by his steadily improving pass-catching skills. Sunday, he caught six passes on eight targets for 83 yards and a touchdown off a 29-yard screen pass in the fourth quarter.