Third downs short-circuit Packers' offense

Robert Zizzo
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Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers bobbles the ball on third down during the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. The play was ruled a catch, but Rodgers was short of a first down.

All season, the Green Bay Packers have had problems converting on third-down situations. On Sunday night in their regular-season finale against the Minnesota Vikings, they saved their worst performance for last.

The Packers’ offense entered the game No. 27 in the NFL in third-down percentage, converting only 35 percent of the time. The Vikings’ defense, meanwhile, was No. 8 in the NFL, allowing a 36-percent conversion rate.

That’s pretty much how it played out Sunday in the Packers’ 20-13 loss at Lambeau Field, only worse.

Green Bay was 2 of 15 on third downs (13 percent), its worst percentage of the season and the second time this season it converted only twice in a game.

The offense’s inability to succeed on third down led to four punts, one fumble, one interception and two turnovers on downs.

Said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, “It’s going to be important come Sunday night at Washington.”

The Packers couldn’t convert on third-and-long or on third-and-short. Six times they failed on third-and-4 or less.

One of the biggest third-down blunders came on Green Bay’s eighth possession, on third-and-2 from the Minnesota 35-yard line. The Packers were trailing 13-3 with 5:12 left in the third quarter. Eddie Lacy plowed through the middle for 5 yards for the first down, but the play was nullified by a holding penalty on center Corey Linsley. The 10-yard penalty knocked the Packers out of field goal range and set up third-and-12 from the Minnesota 45.

On the next play, quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ throwing arm was hit by defensive end Everson Griffen, jarring the ball loose. Vikings’ cornerback Captain Munnerlyn scooped up the ball and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown and a 20-3 Minnesota lead.

One outcome of failing so often on third down while playing from behind is that the Packers went for it on fourth down six times, converting three of them.


Backup defensive end/linebacker Datone Jones sustained a neck injury in the first half and was ruled out for the game during the third quarter. Also, backup linebacker Andy Mulumba sustained a knee injury in the second half.

Before the game, the Packers got creative with their beat-up offensive line after starting left tackle David Bakhtiari was sidelined with an ankle injury for the second straight week. Green Bay shifted starting left guard Josh Sitton to left tackle and replaced Sitton at guard with Lane Taylor.

Also, starting cornerback Sam Shields was ruled inactive for the Packers. Shields, who sustained a concussion two weeks ago at Oakland, was replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Quinten Rollins. Usual starter, fellow rookie Damarious Randall, was on the bench to start the game as Casey Hayward started at the other cornerback. Randall entered as the third cornerback on the first passing situation.

Other Packers inactives were linebacker Jayrone Elliott (quadriceps), tight end Justin Perillo (hamstring), offensive lineman Josh Walker, cornerback LaDarius Gunter and quarterback Brett Hundley.

For the Vikings, starting defensive tackle Linval Joseph (foot) was inactive. He was replaced by Tom Johnson. During the third quarter, running back Adrian Peterson sustained a lower back injury but returned late in the fourth quarter.


The opponents and venues for the Packers’ 2016 season schedule have been determined.

Outside of their usual six division games, Green Bay is scheduled to host Seattle, Dallas, the New York Giants, Houston and Indianapolis, and travel to face Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, Jacksonville and Tennessee.

The NFL’s realignment in 2002 resulted in eight divisions with four teams and introduced a scheduling formula that guarantees that all teams play each other on a regular, rotating basis. It consists of a three-year rotation against divisions in your conference with four-year intervals against the other conference. Next season, the Packers will play the NFC East and the AFC South.


• The Packers lost to each of their division rivals — the Vikings, the Bears and the Lions — at home this season. Only three times have the Packers lost at home to all three teams: 1968, ’86 and ’91.

• The Packers’ scoring drive on their first possession took 8 minutes, 43 seconds off the clock after Mason Crosby connected on a 28-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3. It was Green Bay’s second-longest scoring drive by time of the season. Their longest was against the Chicago Bears in the season opener, a 9:31 touchdown drive.

• The Packers have outscored their opponents 37-12 on game-opening drives but have scored only 9 points in their past 10 opening drives.

• Dating to 2006, Green Bay fell to 8-2 in Week 17 games, including 5-1 at home.

• The game time temperature was 24 degrees with wind out of the west at 11 mph. The wind-chill was 15 degrees. or follow him on Twitter @RobertZizzo.

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