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.
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."
"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
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)."
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notebook: Short-yardage offense falls short
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