Fast starts, efficiency fueling Packers offense

Ryan Wood
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No matter the incentive, Aaron Rodgers hasn't changed his preference. If the quarterback had his way, the Green Bay Packers would defer possession to the second half.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a touchdown pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014.

But Rodgers can't argue with recent results.

The Packers have scored opening-drive touchdowns in four of their past five games. The lone exception came Oct. 2 against the Minnesota Vikings. Green Bay recovered from an opening-drive punt, scoring touchdowns on its second and third possession.

In its past three games, the Packers have accepted the opening kickoff and marched the football downfield for a touchdown. Rodgers said he prefers coach Mike McCarthy to start games with the defense on the field, but getting a touchdown lead before the opposing offense leaves its sideline is always nice.

"Mike's been taking the ball (at the coin toss), which is different," Rodgers said. "I like to defer, personally. But, hey, Mike has gotten us in a rhythm early. We've scored, I think, four out of five on first drives. That does a lot for your defense when you're giving them the lead when they take the field.

"So if we keep doing that I think Mike's going to expect us to score every time, but it's definitely a big confidence boost when you take the kickoff and go down and put points on the board."

Green Bay's hot starts have helped the offense compensate for a lack of snaps.

With plans of running a no-huddle offense almost exclusively, the Packers set a goal of 75 offensive plays per game entering the season. Instead, the Packers rank 29th in the league with 59.1 plays per game, less than two more plays per game than the last-place Tennessee Titans (57.5).

Green Bay has reached its 75-play goal only once this season: at the Miami Dolphins (76). Twice they've run fewer than 50 plays in a game: at the Detroit Lions (49) and Chicago Bears (46).

The Packers still rank sixth in the league with 27.8 points per game. They've also been impressive in efficiency rankings. The Packers lead the NFL with .469 points per play. They also rank second in the league with 12.5 yards per point.

Midway through the season, Rodgers knows averaging 75 plays per game is an unrealistic goal. He said the key is being efficient. Early in games, that's especially been the case.

Green Bay's four opening-drive touchdowns in the past five weeks have averaged 80 yards and just 6.5 plays.

"I think we can help our defense out a little bit by switching some of the time of possession, but at the same time we scored quickly on drives," Rodgers said. "You know, we're an up-tempo team when we can be, and we've scored on some less-than-10 play drives. Over the years we have four or five 10-plus play drives, but recently a lot of our scoring drives have been of the shorter variety." and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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