Finding rhythm in Motown: Why Green Bay Packers beat Detroit
By Kenn Korb
As I’m sure you know by now (and are sick of hearing), Green Bay has been struggling on offense for awhile now. A big part of the problem has been that they have been unable to find a consistent rhythm — especially towards the start of games.
The way their first drive began against Minnesota in Week 2 was a perfect emblem for those issues: on the first offensive play they lose a fumble, and even though Randall Cobb recovered it to technically begin a new drive, that drive sputtered out quickly for a 3-&-Out and a punt.
This kind of start was what we saw all of last year as the unit fell from being among the league’s best, particularly after their surprising 6-0 start to the 2015 season.
In 2015 (18 games incl. playoffs), the opening drives ended as such: 4 TDs, 3 FGs, 8 punts (incl. 4 three-&-outs) and 1 turnover on downs; just in the 12 games following the 6-0 start, those numbers are 0 TDs, 3 FGs, 6 punt (incl. 3 three-&-outs), and 1 turnover on downs.
For context, in 2014 the team’s numbers (18 games incl. playoffs) were 8 TDs, 2 FGs, 2 turnovers, 5 punts (incl. 2 three-&-outs), and 1 turnover on downs.
As you can plainly see, there was a huge dropoff in this offense’s ability to put up points right away, and without strong starts it has been harder for the team to find a rhythm and win games.
This week, that was not a problem.
Green Bay not only went out and scored on their first drive, but they found a rhythm and followed it to scoring on their first five. As a matter of fact, the only drive in the first half they didn’t score on started on their own 25 with 0:32 left on the clock; had Aaron Rodgers completed his pass to Richard Rodgers on the first play of that drive, they may have been well on their way to another.
A fast start allows this team to do what they are best at: getting into a rhythm, putting a defense on their heels, and attacking relentlessly all over the field.
It also removes the added pressure of feeling like a play is needed every time they are out there; when that happens we tend to see too much of a sandlot mentality kick in for Rodgers, and the offense tries to force openings instead of taking what is there.
That can work at times, but it doesn’t provide the kind of consistent production for an offense that we used to see pre-2015.
It isn’t likely we see too many games where the Packers score pretty much every time they line up in a half, but if we can see more strong opening drives this team can be one much closer to our expectations of them — and much more dangerous for all opposing defenses.