Slow Starts Plaguing Offense

We have the 12-team playoff breakdown on where the Packers stand in the first quarter this season. In the big picture, the Packers are starting the game just fine. But, if the offense came firing out of the gates, the numbers would be much better.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he's not concerned about his team's slow starts.

And by one measuring stick, that's for good reason.

Over the course of the season, the Packers are plus-41 in first-quarter point differential. That's good for fourth among the 12 playoff teams. Offensively, their 74 points rank sixth among the playoff teams. (See the list at the bottom of this story.)

However, the offense has been sputtering out of the gates during the second half of the season. In the last nine games, the Packers' 23 first-quarter possessions break down like this:

— 13 punts.

— Three turnovers.

— Three field goals.

— Two touchdowns (both against the Giants in Week 16).

— One missed field goal.

— One blocked field goal.

For the season, Green Bay has scored touchdowns on 24.0 percent of its possessions over the course of an entire game. The touchdown percentage in the first quarter during the nine-game stretch is just 8.7 percent. For the season, it has punted on 40.6 percent of drives; during the nine games, it's 56.6 percent.

Fortunately for the Packers, the stingy defense has been especially strong in the first quarter. In the nine games, the Packers have outscored their opponents 23-16 in the opening period, with the only touchdown allowed during that span coming at New England.

"I'm not usually concerned about the way we start," McCarthy said in talking about the offense. "There's other factors. We've deferred a few times. You could look at that too. I'm curious, I don't know how many times we've had the ball the first time compared to past years. It's not really how you start. We focus more on the productivity within each possession, and that's the first thing we go through every week as an offense when we get back together. We go through the possessions in detail, and the common themes are there. If you're scoring in the first quarter as opposed to the third quarter, it has nothing to do with what the time of the game is. It's really the things you're not doing properly that are holding you back. I don't think we have an issue coming out of the locker room, by no means, so I'm not concerned about it."

To answer McCarthy's question, the Packers have started the game with the ball nine out of 16 times, including the New England game, when they got the ball on the onside kick.

Interestingly, the Packers started with the ball in five of the first six games. During the nine-game stretch, they've gotten the ball to start the game four times, so it's true that the offense has lost a possession or two.

Starting fast is always a key, and especially so on the road. The Eagles are third among playoff teams at plus-51 in first-quarter point differential, including second in first-quarter scoring with 110 points.

"Obviously, we're going into a hostile environment, one of the most hostile environments we could enter into by going to Philly," receiver Greg Jennings said. "It's pertinent that we get off to a fast start. We know that they're an explosive offense; we feel like we're an explosive offense. We have to be able to put our defense in a position where they can just pin their ears back and go after (Michael) Vick each and every play. If we're not doing the things that we're capable of doing as an offense and not sustaining drives and keeping our defense fresh, then we're hurting ourselves."

First-quarter scoring

New Orleans: 112-33 — plus-79

New England: 103-39 — plus-64

Philadelphia: 110-59 — plus-51

Green Bay: 74-33 — plus-41

Chicago: 88-68 — plus-20

Baltimore: 61-51 — plus-10

Pittsburgh: 58-49 — plus-9

Indianapolis: 78-70 — plus-8

Kansas City: 55-57 — minus-2

Atlanta: 69-75 — minus-6

New York Jets: 36-57 — minus-21

Seattle: 55-89 — minus-34

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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