Packers' foes driven to score before halftime
With all due respect to the Kentucky Derby, the most exciting two minutes in sports this year might be the waning moments of the second quarter of a Green Bay Packers game.
Eleven opponents have charged toward the Packers’ end zone with the clock winding to halftime. Eleven opponents have scored before it reached zero.
The Philadelphia Eagles were the latest to produce points with time running out. They closed out the first half with a field goal in their 27-13 loss to Green Bay on Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Chalk it up to Green Bay’s familiarity with this routine. Chalk it up to the fact that the team was tired of losing. Whatever the reason, the Packers did not let the Eagles build off that late first-half score. Green Bay surrendered nothing but a field goal in the third and fourth quarters as it ended its four-game slide.
But stopping Philadelphia proved impossible in the final minutes of the second quarter. The Eagles overcame poor field position and a yardage-laden sack to produce a drive that culminated in a 48-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis that cut Green Bay’s lead to 14-10.
The Packers punted only once and it came with three minutes, 39 seconds left before halftime. Jacob Schum pinned the Eagles at their 1-yard line thanks to Jayrone Elliott, who made sure he reestablished himself in the field of play before touching the ball down.
The 13-play, 69-yard advance that ensued did not lack for excitement. Carson Wentz hit Jordan Matthews with a 20-yard back-shoulder throw. Defensive lineman Mike Daniels dumped Wentz for a 14-yard sack.
Wentz converted a third down with a 17-yard dash, his longest run of the season. Linebackers Joe Thomas and Julius Peppers pressured Wentz into incompletions, and cornerback Quinten Rollins batted away a throw.
Linebacker Nick Perry finally forced the try for field goal after he held running back Darren Sproles to a 4-yard gain on a third-down pass play. Sturgis’ kick passed through the uprights with 25 seconds to spare.
The Jaguars started this scoring trend against the Packers late in the season opener. Blake Bortles connected with Julius Thomas from 22 yards out to give Jacksonville a 17-14 lead with 1:09 to go before the break.
Every Green Bay opponent since has followed suit, even the Bears. Seven touchdowns and four field goals have yielded 59 points. A pair of two-point conversions failed.
The longest scoring strike was a 73-yarder from the Lions’ Matthew Stafford to Marvin Jones Jr. that arrived with 32 seconds to go. The shortest was a 5-yarder from Atlanta’s Matt Ryan to Devonta Freeman (0:27).
The longest drive in terms of number of plays was a 15-play, 96-yard march by the Colts that resulted in an 8-yard pass from Andrew Luck to Donte Moncrief (0:11). The shortest in terms of distance was a 12-yard advance capped by Marcus Mariota’s 6-yard toss to Kendall Wright (1:55).
Giving up points in the final two minutes of the first half is old hat. The last year in which the Packers did not surrender any was 1945.
Permitting such an elongated streak of yielding points just before halftime, however, is a novelty. The current run of 11 games is nearly double the length of the previous record (six) against Green Bay.
That occurred in 1990. The Rams, Bears (twice), Chiefs, Lions and Buccaneers each dinged the Packers for points just prior to intermission as Green Bay started out 2-4.
The search engine at pro-football-reference.com provides some clue as to how rare this streak is. Since 1998, Green Bay is the only team to have given up points in the final two minutes of the first half in each of its first 11 games. The 2005 Vikings are next having done so in 10 of their first 11.
This year, the Packers have been especially generous in the second quarter. They have surrendered more yards in that 15-minute stretch (1,252) than in the first (925), third (714) or fourth (966) periods.
A chunk of those second-quarter yards (401) were manufactured in the final two minutes. Green Bay’s opponents have averaged 7.7 yards on 52 plays.
The Cowboys were the biggest producers. They whisked 97 yards in 33 seconds and that included a 20-yard TD pass from Dak Prescott to Brice Butler.
Much of this late second-quarter production has come through the air. From Bortles to Wentz, passers have combined for 24 completions in 39 attempts for 349 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s a passer rating of 130.2.
Last season, Green Bay gave up points in the final two minutes of the first half in eight games. The high under coach Mike McCarthy had been nine in 2013.
The franchise record is 12 set in 1990. Green Bay could tie that mark Sunday when they welcome the Houston Texans to Lambeau Field.
The Packers’ regular-season record for most points given up in the final two minutes of the first half is 68 set in 1990. They also were nicked for 60 or more in 1980 (60), 1989 (61) and 1991 (65).
The Packers have scored 29 points in the final two minutes of the first half. They have gained 314 yards on 47 plays (6.7 average).
pro-football-reference.com and nflgsis.com served as references for this article.
Since 1921, the most consecutive regular-season games in which the Packers have allowed a score in the final two minutes of the first half.
4 10 times; last in 2010