Notebook: Short-yardage offense falls short

The Packers failed four times to get 1 yard; communication breakdowns; and much more from a 20-16 loss at Jacksonville.

First, the good: The Green Bay Packers' offense converted an impressive 10-of-16 third-down plays on Sunday in Jacksonville.

Now, the bad: On second-and-1 from the Jaguars' 49-yard line on the Packers' second possession of the second half, Ryan Grant lost a yard. On third-and-2, Aaron Rodgers overthrew an open Greg Jennings against a blitz. The Packers punted.

And finally, the ugly: On second-and-1 from the Jaguars' 44-yard line late in the third quarter, Grant was stopped for no gain. Ditto for Grant on third-and-1. On fourth-and-1 on the first play of the fourth quarter, coach Mike McCarthy put the ball in the hands of noted playmaker John Kuhn. He didn't gain the yard, either, and the game turned at that point.

Asked about the short-yardage ineptitude, McCarthy didn't have an answer.

"Well, I mean, obviously their run game ... without seeing the film and the exact breakdown on each play, I couldn't accurately answer that. Second-and-1 and third-and-1 and fourth-and-1, it was a tough go for us in the second half for whatever reason. So, it definitely factored in the game."

Factored, indeed. Those short-yardage failures prevented the Packers from building on their 13-7 halftime lead. Even kick a field goal on one of those two drives, and the outcome of the game might be very different.

Giving the ball to Kuhn was a curious decision. Kuhn enjoyed short-yardage success early in the season when opponents weren't prepared for the rare sight of a Packers fullback carrying the ball. Kuhn converted his first four third-and-1 runs this season, but he was stopped on third-and-goal in the final 2 minutes against Carolina two weeks ago. And if going for it on fourth-and-1 was a consideration, why not throw the ball or give Rodgers a run-pass option on third-and-1?

Nonetheless, McCarthy gave the ball to Kuhn rather than his $30 million halfback or his $67 million quarterback, who converted a third-and-1 with a sneak earlier in the game.

"That's an option," McCarthy said when asked about using Rodgers on another sneak on fourth-and-1.

That's confusing
Nobody can say McCarthy hasn't given rookie tight end Jermichael Finley opportunities.

On second-and-goal from the Jaguars' 5-yard line on the Packers' opening possession, McCarthy called Finley's number. Finley, split to the left, ran a fade route against Drayton Florence, but the 6-foot-5 tight end didn't get too far off the ground and couldn't catch the pass against the 6-foot Florence. The Packers settled for a field goal.

On third-and-goal from the 5 in the second quarter, Finley lined up in the wrong spot after a Jaguars timeout. Rodgers was forced to throw to safety-valve Donald Lee for no gain. As Finley jogged from the field-goal team to the kickoff team, McCarthy was in his ear.

"That's what I'm referring to is the communication as far as the huddle call was following a timeout," McCarthy said. "There's no need for that. We should be set and ready to go there. Frankly, the formation, not being lined up initially factored into the play, so ... That's why we're kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns on that particular play."

Then, early in the third quarter, linebacker Brady Poppinga and cornerback Al Harris got into a shouting match over who was covering who. They shook hands on the sideline following the possession.

"That's communication, that's what I'm talking about," McCarthy said in explanation. "There's play calls that come in from the sideline that need to be communicated and it goes from the communicator all the way out and it wasn't as clean as it needed to be today."

Which begs the question of why communication breakdowns are a problem in Week 15.

"I'm not saying they're not communicating. It could be cleaner," McCarthy said. "Communication is something we do every day, and there's days you do it very well and days that you could probably do it better and we had one of those days."

Hello, No. 89
There was a James Jones sighting at Jacksonville.

Jones, who's second NFL season has been ruined by a nagging knee injury, was the Packers' only impact offensive player on Sunday. He had four catches for 132 yards after entering the game with 12 catches for 101 yards in his first seven games. He had catches of 46, 40 and 34 yards.

"He made some big plays," Rodgers said. "He's a talented guy that hasn't been healthy for part of the season. The first one (the 46-yarder) was sort of a broken play and he put his hand up and made a great play. The late catch (the 40-yarder) down the sidelines on a stop and go was big, and then late in the game when we needed a big play, he made another double-move and made a great catch (the 34-yarder)."

Extra points
Grant topped 1,000 rushing yards for the season. He needed 20 and got 56 but needed 21 carries to get them. His long run of the game was 9 yards. ... Left tackle Chad Clifton wasn't in the game for the final series because of a pair of sprained thumbs. The other injury listed by McCarthy was a concussion for tight end Tory Humphrey. ... Punter Jeremy Kapinos averaged 43.5 yards, with a 43.5-yard net, on two punts. One was a fair catch at the Jags' 10-yard line. ... Among the inactives were defensive tackle Justin Harrell (hip), starting fullback Korey Hall (knee) and starting safety Atari Bigby (shoulder). ... Brandon Chillar started at weak-side linebacker and had one tackle and one pass defensed. ... The Packers entered with the NFL's fourth-ranked red-zone offense (63.2 percent touchdowns) but scored touchdowns on just 1-of-4 trips inside Jacksonville's 20-yard line. ... The Packers might have run their best two screen passes of the season, with Grant picking up 15 and 12 yards in the first half. ... The Jaguars didn't have a single pass play of 40 yards or longer until Dennis Northcutt's 41-yarder, which set up the winning touchdown. ... The Packers haven't lost four games in a row since starting 0-4 in 2005, when they finished 4-12 in Mike Sherman's final season.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at

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