And it had almost nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone.
The Packers finished a woeful 26th in red-zone offense, with touchdowns on 50.8 percent of their inside-the-20 possessions. Contrast that to the previous five seasons, when Green Bay led the league with 61.6 percent touchdown efficiency.
Logically, that statistic had everything to do with Rodgers’ half-season absence. However, Rodgers’ presence had no bearing on the red-zone struggles.
In the first seven games with Rodgers in the lineup, the Packers went 14-of-28 in the red zone — a success rate of 50 percent.
In the next eight games, including the Chicago game in which Rodgers was injured, the Packers were slightly better. They went 16-of-31 — a success rate of 51.6 percent that was skewed by back-to-back games of 5-for-5 vs. Dallas and 4-for-6 vs. Pittsburgh with Matt Flynn at quarterback.
Upon Rodgers’ return for the Week 17 game against Chicago, Green Bay went 3-of-6 in the red zone.
All told, the Packers went 17-of-34 with Rodgers and 16-of-31 without him.
Interestingly, the quarterbacks put up good numbers in the red zone. Flynn ranked third in the league with a 102.7 rating and Rodgers was fourth with a 101.4 rating. And the running game was superb, with Eddie Lacy being the best goal-line back with seven touchdowns in eight attempts from the 1- or 2-yard line.
So, where was the disconnect? McCarthy and the coaches talked all year about a lack of execution. It also didn’t help to not have Randall Cobb, with his ability to make plays in space, and Jermichael Finley, with his jump-ball ability, for long stretches. In fact, neither were on the field for a nine-game stretch. The Packers were 9-of-24 for the first seven games of that period before getting hot vs. Dallas and Pittsburgh.
As for Rodgers, the numbers were typical. His 107.0 red-zone rating trails only Peyton Manning’s 107.9 since 2008. Rodgers ranked seventh in red zone passer rating after finishing second in 2012, second in 2011, third in 2010, fourth in 2009 and second in 2008.
He threw 11 touchdowns vs. one interception inside the 20-yard line last year. The interception was as rare as finding a five-leaf clover. For his career, he’s thrown 119 touchdowns and only three interceptions in the red zone.
In 2012, Green Bay ranked third in the NFL by scoring touchdowns on 68.1 percent of its red zone possessions. That’s on top of red zone efficiency of 65.2 percent in 2011, 60.4 percent in 2010 and 60.4 percent in 2008. The Packers had finished in the top 10 in red zone percentage in each of the past five seasons — the only team to accomplish that feat.
The red-zone woes help explain why the Packers, in spite of a third-ranked 400.3 yards per game, settled for an eighth-ranked 26.1 points per game.
Had the Packers been at even 60 percent in the red zone, they would have scored six more touchdowns last season. That would have given them 459 points and increased their per-game output to 28.7. That would have ranked second in the league.
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.