Goska: Packers waste no time falling behind

Eric Goska
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In the case of the Green Bay Packers, the NFL might want to consider moving the two-minute warning to the beginning of the game.

Play would stop and all involved would be informed that Green Bay, already behind on the scoreboard, would continue to trail for the remaining 58 minutes. Fans could then decide if continuing to watch would be worthwhile.

The Packers have played two games in November. In both, they immediately fell into an early hole from which they failed to emerge.

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Tennessee was the latest to send them reeling. The Titans scored on their first play from scrimmage and didn’t look back in blowing out Green Bay 47-25 at Nissan Stadium.

The Titans opened with an onside kick. Had the Packers’ Joe Thomas not recovered, Tennessee might have scored even earlier.

As it turned out, the linebacker’s alertness provided nothing but a momentary reprieve. Green Bay went three-and-out and punted.

Before running its first play, Tennessee picked up five yards when defensive lineman Mike Daniels jumped offside. Then, on first-and-five, DeMarco Murray followed fullback Jalston Fowler as a gaping hole opened on the left side of the line.

Fowler blocked linebacker Julius Peppers, tackle Jake Conklin handled defensive end Datone Jones and tackle Taylor Lewan shielded safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Dix, Jones and Quinten Rollins pursued, but Murray sprinted 75 yards untouched to the end zone.

With 1:43 gone, Green Bay trailed 7-0. The Packers hadn’t fallen behind so quickly in a game since ... well, the previous week.

Jordan Todman delivered that punch at Lambeau Field. The Indianapolis kick returner zipped 99 yards with the opening kickoff to put the Colts up 7-0 with just 13 seconds elapsed.

The Packers trailed for 59:47 in that 31-26 loss to the Colts. They were in arrears for 58:17 in Tennessee.

Oh, the horror: back-to-back 58-minute trailers. When was the last time that happened?

Certainly not in the last 66 years and perhaps never. The closest call since 1950 occurred 16 years ago under first-year coach Mike Sherman.

On Oct. 1, 2000, Chicago quarterback Cade McNown’s 1-yard run put Green Bay behind for good with 57:18 remaining. A week later, Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson did the same with a 30-yard field goal with 56:23 to go.

For as wide open as the NFL is, scores in the first two minutes don’t happen every week. There have been six to date this season, two each at the expense of the Packers and Buccaneers.

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Of course, a longstanding franchise like Green Bay has given away some early points over the years. It has surrendered 37 scores — 31 touchdowns, four field goals and two safeties — in the opening two minutes since 1950.

The ultimate giveaway occurred on a Monday night in 1984. Fumbles by running backs Gerry Ellis and Jessie Clark handed the Broncos 14 points in the first 37 seconds of Denver’s 17-14 win.

Cashing in at the outset often involves a highlight-reel play. Bill Jessup snagged a 68-yard pass from Y.A. Tittle in San Francisco in 1954. Cordarrelle Patterson set the NFL record with a 109-yard kickoff return in Minnesota in 2013.

But abrupt deficits can be overcome. The Packers have won 13 of 36 games after staggering out of the gate, most recently against the Jets (31-24) two years ago.

Short of that, abrupt deficits can trigger serious rallies. Green Bay pulled even or surged to a lead on 10 other occasions before eventually succumbing.

Green Bay couldn’t catch Tennessee. The Titans led 35-16 at the half and never allowed the Packers to come closer than 13 in the second half.

Murray and second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota took it to the Packers in a first quarter for the ages. Murray had 88 yards on four rushes and Mariota went 7-for-7 for 127 yards with a 9-yard TD toss to tight end Anthony Fasano.

Throw in six yards rushing by Derrick Henry and Murray’s first TD toss as a pro — a 10-yard option pass to tight end Delanie Walker — and the damage checked in at a whopping 231 yards and 21 points.

Green Bay has permitted 200 or more yards in an opening quarter just four times since 1953. Only the 1953 Rams (252) and 2004 Colts (247) gained more. Further, Tennessee averaged an out-of-this world 14.4 yards per play in the opening 15 minutes, a yield that has not been matched (minimum seven plays run) perhaps ever.

Sunday marked the 13th time since 1950 (and the second week in a row) that Green Bay trailed for the final 58-plus minutes of a game. The team had endured two such games in a single season (1959, 1986) just twice before.

nflgsis.com and pro-football-reference.com served as references for this article.

Trailers not worth watching

Since 1950, back-to-back regular-season games in which the Packers trailed for the longest combined time (never securing a lead or pulling even) after the opposition’s initial early score.

Year        Opp.          Trail          Opp.       Trail       Total

2016       Colts         59:47         Titans     58:17      118:04

2000       Bears         57:18         Lions      56:23      113:41

1970       Bears         55:37         Lions      57:19      112:56

1959       Giants       53:25         Bears      58:39      112:04

1956      Browns      57:16         Bears      53:39      110:55

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