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Field Position Provided Early Chances In Tampa

For all of the emphasis on the Packers’ fourth-quarter failings on Sunday in Tampa, there were two opportunities earlier in the game that, had the offense capitalized, might have prevented the game from coming down to the fourth quarter anyway. - More Packers Sign G Daniels To Practice Squad


QB Aaron Rodgers attempts to pass from near midfield during the second quarter of Sunday's game in Tampa.

For all of the emphasis on the Packers' fourth-quarter failings on Sunday in Tampa, there were two opportunities earlier in the game that, had the offense capitalized, might have prevented the game from coming down to the fourth quarter anyway.

Those two chances were on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter, both of which started in Buccaneers' territory. Holding a 21-14 lead at the time and looking to push that to a two- or even three-score bulge by halftime, the Packers failed to extend their lead and saw the Buccaneers cut the deficit to four points with a field goal right before intermission.

"You want to be able to take advantage of good field position and put some points on the board," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "We didn't cash in."

The two drives began at Tampa Bay's 45- and 46-yard lines, respectively, following a punt from deep in Buccaneers' territory and an interception by safety Nick Collins. In that position, an offense generally needs only one first down to get into field-goal range, and two to be in the red zone with a realistic chance for a touchdown.

But the Packers couldn't manage a first down either time, and gained just two yards total. The net production was actually minus-three yards because the first drive started with a false start on left tackle T.J. Lang, the first snap he took in place of Chad Clifton as part of a planned rotation.

That possession continued with a 2-yard run by Ryan Grant, an incomplete pass with Aaron Rodgers under pressure, and a failed draw play on third-and-13.

The second drive was no better, as Rodgers tried three different receivers on consecutive pass plays - Greg Jennings, Donald Lee and Donald Driver - and couldn't connect with any of them.

The sudden stalling of the offense was a bit befuddling, as on their first five possessions of the game, the Packers had put up 231 yards and three TDs. There was one interception and a three-and-out for a punt (which was blocked), but a 74-yard TD pass to James Jones plus long scoring drives of 69 and 76 yards already had been accomplished in just 1½ quarters.

"A little bit, yeah," Philbin said when asked if he was surprised the offense didn't just keep rolling given their best field position of the day. "We had 21 points at that point in time. We had moved the ball relatively well and we hadn't had any sacks. We were confident we'd be able to move the ball and score some points.

"But the execution wasn't what it needs to be, and you have to give Tampa credit for playing good defense in that situation."

The turn of events was even more startling considering that until then the Packers had made a living by taking advantage of that kind of field position in 2009.

Through the season's first seven games, the Packers began 14 offensive possessions on the plus side of the 50. With the exception of taking a knee to kill the clock at the end of the Chicago game in Week 1, the Packers had scored points on every single one of those drives. Every single one, until Sunday.

Not all of those could be considered maximizing on the opportunity, of course. Twice in St. Louis the defense recovered fumbles in the red zone, but the offense settled for field goals. Then against the Vikings in Week 8, a fumble recovery at the Minnesota 21-yard line led only to a field goal.

{sportsad300}But all told, the Packers had posted six touchdowns and seven field goals on possessions beginning in enemy territory. That includes three possessions, like the two in Tampa Bay, that started between midfield and the opponents' 40.

Against Detroit, the Packers took over once at the Lions' 46 and another time at their 43, and were able to get field goals. Against Minnesota in Week 8, a fumble recovery on a kickoff gave the Packers the ball on the Vikings' 41, and Green Bay responded with a touchdown.

But the production in Tampa was zilch, in two chances, and the failure to extend the lead early in the game almost certainly helped the winless Buccaneers' psyche as they hung close against a team no one expected them to beat.

"We let them stick around and didn't finish them off," nose tackle Ryan Pickett said. "Good teams put teams away and we didn't do that."

Hence, the fourth quarter mattered, whereas moving the chains here or there in the second quarter might have put six, 10 or even 14 more points on the board.

"Obviously those are situations where if you get one or two first downs you might be in a position to kick a field goal, or obviously better yet, score," Philbin said. "But it didn't happen."

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