Red Zone Saves Defense But Killing Offense

The Packers are 2-0, thanks largely to the defense keeping the opponent out of the end zone on 8-of-11 red zone possessions. On the other hand, the offense's inability to turn takeaways into touchdowns is the biggest issue for coach Mike McCarthy.

So far, coach Mike McCarthy can tolerate the NFL-high 851 passing yards and NFC-worst 952 total yards the Green Bay Packers have allowed after two games.

That's because Green Bay has a 2-0 record, thanks in part to that same defense that has redeemed itself by making a bevy of what the coaches label "adversity plays."

"We've stepped up two weeks in a row when it counted," McCarthy said. "At the end of the day, keep them out of the end zone. That part has never changed from the defense perspective."

Ten days after the defense made a huge goal-line stand on a run play to end the game and close out a 42-34 win over New Orleans in the Sept. 8 opener, the Packers kept Carolina out of the end zone four times out of six incursions inside the Green Bay 20-yard line on Sunday. The Panthers potentially squandered at least 15 points by not cashing in on those non-touchdown possessions in the red zone — they kicked three field goals and turned the ball over once on downs.

That helped swing the outcome in the Packers' favor by a 30-23 final score after Carolina bolted to an early 13-0 lead.

As proud as McCarthy was about the defense for not breaking more often than not with its back against the goal line, he lamented his offense's inability to strike for more points in the Panthers red zone.

Green Bay scored touchdowns in all four of its red-zone opportunities against the Saints, only to regress to a 1-for-4 success rate against Carolina.

"Frustrating," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who offset the in-close malaise by throwing for far-out touchdowns of 49 and 84 yards to Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, respectively.

Rodgers and his offensive mates were stewing after not being able to turn three straight takeaways by the defense in the third quarter into more than a field goal each time. Left with nine points, instead of potentially 21, Green Bay kept the heavy-underdog Panthers in the game until the end.

"We've got to get seven points (in each of those possessions) on the road," Rodgers said. "When you're playing a team that's maybe a little bit more veteran-laden and you have opportunities like that, you can't let 'em get back in the game."

The red-zone struggles by the offense, which had one drive stall at the Carolina 1-yard line, don't happen often for the Packers. They have been among the league leaders for scoring touchdowns inside the 20 the last three seasons, highlighted by a No. 6 NFL ranking in 2010 with a touchdown conversion rate of 60.4 percent (32-for-53).

McCarthy cited five enforced penalties on the offense — two in red-zone situations — as a contributing factor to the Packers' not winning by a bigger margin.

"Anytime we're on the 50-yard line, we expect to get points, and that was not the case," McCarthy said. "Just like I told the team (Monday), our efficiency needs to improve — but the adversity football that we've played in the first two weeks has been very good.

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