Should Slow Start Spark Fears of 2012 Repeat?

A dismal preseason by the No. 1 offense last summer carried over to the first three games of the regular season. Through two games this preseason, the starting offense has no touchdowns and two field goals.

On the surface, the Green Bay Packers' offensive struggles echo what happened last preseason.

Last summer, Aaron Rodgers and the No. 1 offense scored three touchdowns and one field goal out of 14 preseason possessions. Rodgers threw one touchdown in four games after tossing 19 touchdown passes in his previous four seasons as the starter.

While Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy denied it at the time, that lackluster production led to significant concern entering the regular season. As McCarthy recalled at the start of training camp last month, he didn't feel his team had the "rhythm and timing ... coming out of training camp that we had in prior years." That showed up at the start of the regular season, when the Packers scored just 57 points in a 1-2 start.

In the games against Arizona and St. Louis this summer, Rodgers and the No. 1 offense have scored no touchdowns and two field goals on four possessions.

So, should there be some concern about how this preseason has started?

No, McCarthy said.

"I wasn't really concerned about the points from last week," McCarthy said after the Packers bounced back from last week's 17-0 loss by winning 19-7. "Clearly, I understand the outcome of the game but quality of play (and) opportunity for our players is my No. 1 priority. The quality of play from all three phases is my second priority and then the third priority is winning the game. If you don't like that, I get that. Trust me, I want to win every play, every game. We're a young football team, we've got a lot of guys battling to be on our 53, and we've got to make sure we create opportunities for those individuals."

Rodgers' four possessions haven't ended in touchdowns but the productivity has been there.

In his one possession last week, Rodgers completed 3-of-5 passes for 62 yards. The No. 1 offense had an 11-play drive for 86 yards and picked up three first downs but stalled at the Cardinals' 2-yard line.

Against the Rams, Rodgers completed 10-of-12 passes for 134 yards. The No. 1 offense had an eight-play, 64-yard drive for a field goal, a five-play, 33-yard drive with a missed field goal and an 11-play, 68-yard drive for another field goal. Those drives picked up eight first downs.

"I thought the offense moved the football," McCarthy said. "The obvious — the ability to get into the end zone — is something we need to obviously focus this week."

Green Bay's first drive reached the Rams' 13 but was foiled by Jermichael Finley's holding penalty on third-and-1. McCarthy, with an eye on his kicking competition, admitted to taking some of the air out of the ball. On third-and-11, he called what amounted to a wide receiver screen. Mason Crosby entered and hit from 34 yards.

Green Bay's second drive also died from a self-inflicted wound. On second-and-1 from the Rams' 29, Rodgers missed Finley, who was streaking free up the middle. On third-and-1, Lacy was stuffed for a 2-yard loss when right guard T.J. Lang was knocked into the backfield and tight end Matthew Mulligan missed his block, with that defender then taking out fullback John Kuhn. On the next play, Giorgio Tavecchio missed from 49 yards.

Green Bay's third drive started at its 2-yard line and advanced to the Rams' 21. On third-and-5, rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari was beaten by an inside move from former first-round pick Robert Quinn, who dropped Rodgers for a 9-yard loss. Crosby made it 6-0 with a 48-yard field goal.

"I would say it's preseason, first," Rodgers said. "But we're working on things, and we'd like to finish off those drives. The Rams have a very good defense, we saw that last year, it was a tough game and we made some plays late to pull it out, but you've got to finish off those drives with touchdowns."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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