Lows Torpedo Packers' Offense

The Packers did plenty of good things but they did a lot more bad things in managing only one score in the second half. Aaron Rodgers was sacked six times and threw two interceptions in the second half alone.

Last week, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the difference between the best production and the worst production of his team was too great to overcome.

That was evident on offense in Sunday's dumbfounding 38-28 loss at Tampa Bay.

High: Facing the NFL's 28th-ranked run defense, Ryan Grant and Ahman Green spearheaded a rushing attack that churned out 170 yards and a superb 5.3 yards per rushing attempt. That kind of production, especially when complemented by a good quarterback, almost always is good enough to win a game — especially against a team that was 0-7 with a rookie quarterback making his starting debut.

Low: Aaron Rodgers was sacked six times — all in the second half — and the sublime decision-making ability that defined his first seven games went AWOL with three interceptions. For the first time in 24 career starts, Rodgers finished at less than 50 percent accuracy (17-of-35). His previous worst was 51.9 percent (14-of-27) at Tampa Bay last year. For the third time in his career, Rodgers threw three interceptions — including at Tampa Bay last year. Those interceptions trumped his three total touchdowns and 292 yards of total offense.

High: Rodgers hit James Jones with a superb throw for a 74-yard touchdown on the second snap from scrimmage to make it 7-0, and another big-time strike to Donald Driver for a 32-yard score made it 21-14.

Low: Two of Rodgers' interceptions came on the type of poor reads he generally has avoided in his short tenure as the starter. Rodgers said he didn't see Elbert Mack when he tried to hit Driver on a deep post in the first quarter. That interception set up a short touchdown drive that tied the score 7-7. And with the Packers driving early in the third quarter, he went deep to Greg Jennings but he was surrounded by four defenders at the goal line, with Aqib Talib getting the interception off a deflection.

High: The Packers ran the ball 16 times for 77 yards and didn't allow a sack in the first half.

Low: The Packers allowed six sacks in the second half.

High: The Packers ran the ball for 93 yards in the second half.

Low: The Packers scored just once after intermission, and that lack of production was a big reason why the Buccaneers were able to recover from a 28-17 deficit in the final 13 minutes.

This game very well should have been over at halftime. The Packers scored touchdowns on two of their first three possessions to lead 14-7. With a 21-14 lead, the Packers twice got the ball on the Buccaneers' side of midfield in the second quarter but went three-and-out with drives that netted minus-3 yards.

The first of those possession was foiled from the start. As promised on Friday, McCarthy gave left tackle Chad Clifton a breather, and T.J. Lang was horrendous. Before Lang's first snap, he was flagged for a false start to push the ball back to the 50. On second-and-13, Lang was beaten at the snap and Rodgers had to throw away the ball to avoid a sack. Then, in a bizarre decision, McCarthy benched Lang and called a draw play on third-and-13, when the offense needed about 10 yards to have a shot at a field goal.

Still, the defense did its job, with Nick Collins intercepting Josh Freeman and giving the Packers the ball at the Bucs' 46. Rodgers, however, threw three consecutive incompletions.

Rodgers chases after Mack's interception.
Seve Nesius/AP Images
The second half was an abject disaster against the NFL's 28th-ranked scoring defense, with the offense taking another giant step toward the team-record 62 sacks absorbed by Packers quarterbacks in 1990. McCarthy minced few words.

"Well it has to stop. You can't sit here and keep taking sacks," McCarthy said. "I'm sure you're tired of asking the question. I'm tired of talking about it. That's a reflection of coaching and playing. So it's something that's been coached, it's something that's been trained and it keeps showing up on Sundays. It's no different than if you look at Tampa Bay's quotes all week. That's all they talked about was sacking the quarterback and it happened again today. It has to end. We cannot continue to have the numbers that we have in the sacks. And the other part of it too, I thought he had plenty of time to throw. I'm real curious to see the film because either they're doing a hell of a job covering us. There's time and time again that our receivers on crossing routes vs. that coverage, I'd be curious to see what the film looks like."

It didn't look good live.

Second-half drive No. 1: The calamity of errors started on the second-half kickoff when Tramon Williams muffed the kick and the Packers took possession at their 4-yard line. On second-and-8, Aaron Rodgers was sacked — with Mark Tauscher re-injuring his surgically repaired left knee — and the Packers punted.

Second-half drive No. 2: After Grant ran for 12 yards on two plays, Rodgers was sacked by Geno Hayes, who destroyed tight end Donald Lee at the line of scrimmage. The Packers wound up punting.

Second-half drive No. 3: The Packers scored their only touchdown of the half, with Rodgers overcoming a sack with a 12-yard scramble on third-and-goal for a touchdown that made it 28-17 with 12:54 to go in the game.

"Two-score lead, that's kind of what we were going for," Rodgers said. "Felt like our defense would be able to play downhill, making them one-dimensional. Unfortunately, we gave up the big kick return that kind of stole the momentum back."

Second-half drive No. 4: Because of that big return, Tampa Bay cut the margin to 28-23. The Packers came out running, with Grant gaining 6, 6 and 4 yards before Green broke off a 9-yard run. That made it first-and-10 from Green Bay's 45-yard line. But this promising drive, which could have put the game on ice, fizzled. After Green ran for 5 yards on two rushes, Clifton was beaten and Rodgers threw incomplete to Spencer Havner on third down.

Second-half drive No. 5: The Buccaneers scored again to take a 31-28 lead with 4:14 to go. Needing a score to at least force overtime, Rodgers was sacked on the first play, with a bull rush shoving Clifton and Daryn Colledge into Rodgers' face, Chris Hovan running untouched around end on a stunt and Ryan Sims taking advantage for the sack. On third-and-6, Colledge was flagged for holding while Rodgers scrambled to convert a third-and-6.

Second-half drive No. 6: Needing to get about 50 yards with no timeouts in the final 1:35 to have a chance at the tying field goal, Rodgers was sacked for the sixth time of the half. The game ended moments later when Rodgers was victimized by a pick-six on fourth-and-12.

"It's very frustrating," Rodgers said of his fruitless last two drives. "We feel like we should be able to move the ball on anybody. They played with a lot of confidence on defense, they had a good scheme. You've got to give them credit, they made plays. But we didn't make enough plays on offense and that's why we came up short.

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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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