Green Bay has been anything but a four-quarter team when the football is in its hands. Its maddening inability to have a closer's mentality makes the Packers' 5-3 record and first-place standing in the NFC North entering Sunday night's home game against the Dallas Cowboys somewhat remarkable.
"The biggest thing is we're just not executing as an offense," receiver Greg Jennings said. "Last year, we had our struggles, and then we came on strong -- we were able to execute when it counted. We were really on top of our game and really came out with a mind-set that we couldn't be stopped, and we executed as such. Whereas this year, we haven't gotten into that rhythm and that mind-set to where we're not going to be stopped."
The Packers are persevering again in spite of their lethargic offense, taking a two-game winning streak into what no longer has the appeal of a midseason showdown between NFC rivals in prime time. The Cowboys are all but kaput for 2010 with a 1-6 record.
Yet, if Dallas can hang around for the first three quarters and keep the score close, there may be hope yet for the Cowboys to get their season turned around given Green Bay's sorry display of offense late in games.
Of 25 move-the-ball possessions for Green Bay in the fourth quarter or overtime in the first eight games, the Packers have scored all of 30 points. A fifth of that total came on two field goals by Mason Crosby in the final 15 minutes Sunday that enabled Green Bay to eke out a 9-0 win at the New York Jets.
Crosby's kicking leg and a bang-up job by a short-handed defense saved the day, but that didn't divert all of the attention away from the shortcomings of the offense.
Injuries to key players notwithstanding -- running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley are out the rest of the season, and receiver Donald Driver has been ineffective the last two games because of a thigh injury that will keep him out Sunday -- the Packers are out of sorts in their pass-first system that has plenty of talent at quarterback Aaron Rodgers' disposal.
"We're making enough plays to win games, but there's a standard that's been set here with the kind of points we scored last season, the kind of production we put up," Rodgers said. "If you compare this year to last year, obviously we're below the standards we set last year."
The Packers rolled up a franchise-record 461 points in 2009, and all but 28 points were the doing of the offense.
Green Bay is on pace for 352 points this season, which would be its lowest output in four years. Of the 176 points scored thus far, all but 14 were tallied by the offense.
The scoring-challenged unit will be hard-pressed to come remotely close to the 433 points it threw up a season ago. Jennings has maintained that the offense is capable of scoring a minimum 28 points a game, but the Packers have attained that only once without the help of a defensive score this season -- and that came way back in Week 2, a 34-7 rout of the winless Buffalo Bills.
Since then, the Packers have won two games by four points or less, lost three games by three points each and came away with that relatively lopsided upset of the Jets last weekend.
A common denominator in those six games that all went down to the wire is the Packers failed to push the pedal to the metal to either pull away from teams in games they were leading or pull out a win in games they lost in the closing seconds or overtime. They scored touchdowns in only two of 20 possessions after the third quarter.
Little wonder some irritability could be detected when cornerback Charles Woodson spoke of the three takeaways the defense had against the Jets.
"We have to turn them into points," Woodson said. "To have as many turnovers as we had, taking away momentum when they were driving, we've got to put points on the board. It was big for us to come up with those, but we feel like we left some points out there."
Rodgers' fourth-quarter passer rating of 74.6 is among the worst in the league this season. He has completed 36 of 57 passes for 392 yards and only one touchdown with two interceptions.