Packers Offense Recap: The Vanishing Fourth Quarter Act

PHILADELPHIA PA - JANUARY 09: Brandon Jackson #32 of the Green Bay Packers scores a touchdown in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9 2011 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

It wasn't the usual offensive performance I have come to expect from the Green Bay Packers. They weren't able to make big plays down the field, and WR Greg Jennings had his worst game of the season (1 reception for 8 yards). Instead they went to the one running back, two full backs, backfield several times in the game, and relied on rookie RB James Starks to move them into scoring position. They were only able to get into the red zone on three possessions, but they managed to come away with a touchdown on all three, and that was just enough to win.

What really disappointed me was how the offense relied too much on the run down the stretch (only two pass attempts in the entire fourth quarter) and it helped the Eagles get back into the game. The offense was fairly consistent in the first three quarters:

Quarter Total Offensive Plays Total Yards Points Scored TOP
First 15 93 7 7:48
Second 17 85 7 8:11
Third 17 102 7 8:56
Fourth 12 29 0 7:05

More after the jump, and more on this game from Bleeding Green Nation.

Four Quarters

The first play of the game was a 15 yard pass to TE Andrew Quarless, who I had expected to play a bigger role. While the Eagles struggle against tight ends according to Football Outsiders, the Packers used him primarily as a blocker and he didn't have a big role in the offense. After a 12 yard pass to WR Donald Driver, this drive stalls and the Packers punt from the Eagles 38 yard line. The second drive is all set up by Starks. He runs and receives on 6 of the 10 plays, before making way for TE Tom Crabtree to catch his first career touchdown pass.

The second touchdown drive starts off again with good field position, this time at the Packers 43 yard line, and once again it's led at first by Starks. Then QB Aaron Rodgers completes passes to Jennings and WR James Jones (with a scramble in between) that ended up being the only receptions for those two receivers. The touchdown pass to Jones was a great catch as he scooped it off the top of his feet. They had just over a minute left on their final drive when, if you can stand to look at it, Jones dropped a huge gain (possible touchdown), and then they threw in the towel on the next play.

Despite all the fumbles they recovered in the second quarter, their luck couldn't hold out forever. Rodgers couldn't fall on his fumble on 3rd down at the start of the second half. They bounced back on plays by Starks and Driver that got them back in the Eagles red zone. Then the offensive line did a great job on a screen pass to RB Brandon Jackson that went for 16 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately that was about the last appearance by the Packers offense for the game. They went three-and-out on their final possession in the third quarter.

After another first down conversion by Driver, who was injured on the play and did not return, the offensive line was blown up on a failed 3rd and 1 rushing attempt by FB John Kuhn. With four minutes left, the offense had a chance to run out the game. It looked like they might after Starks ripped off a 12 yard run. But all they managed to do was run off two minutes and exhaust the Eagles timeouts. On twelve plays in the fourth quarter, they disrupted their rhythm by attempting only two pass plays (one for a sack), and relied on the defense to hold on for the win.

Individual Analysis

QB Aaron Rodgers. It was far from his best game of the season, but I was impressed that he threw for three touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 122.5 despite getting little production from his top two wide receivers. He does need to be more careful with the ball after fumbling twice in this game.

RB James Starks. With the pass offense largely bottled up, Starks became the main source of yardage to move them down the field. A great game from a surprising source.

WR Donald Driver. It wasn't flashy (5 catches for 56 yards) but four of his receptions converted for first downs. The Packers were only moving down the field when they got Driver and Starks involved in the offense.

WR James Jones. He dropped a huge pass, but he has some sort of thumb injury that he's been dealing with. Luckily it doesn't matter because they won the game.

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