Key to the game: Second-half flurry falls short for Packers in Denver

Another slow start proves costly in Green Bay’s third straight loss

Green Bay Packers RB AJ Dillon

DENVER – The Packers made plays they needed to make in their attempt to claim a much-needed win in Denver on Sunday.

Unfortunately, in what has become a recurring theme for the 2023 squad, all of them came in the second half.

The Packers mounted a gutsy rally, even taking a momentary lead over the Broncos in the fourth quarter, but Will Lutz's fourth made field goal of the afternoon proved to be the Packers' undoing in a 19-17 loss at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium.

Lutz's first three makes all came during a first half in which Green Bay again struggled to move the ball, falling behind 9-0 at halftime after punting on its first three possessions.

As has been the case all season, the second half was a different story. The Packers scored 17 points over three consecutive series in the third and fourth quarters, with Jayden Reed's 4-yard touchdown catch giving Green Bay a 17-16 lead with 8 minutes and 31 seconds remaining.

"You could see it out there. Guys were having fun and just enjoying being out there, not pressing," said running back Aaron Jones of the Packers' second-half performance. "I feel like in the first half when we weren't moving the ball, (not) putting points on the board, guys were pressing."

Green Bay's best shot at first-half points came following an 11-play, 52-yard drive in the second quarter but rookie kicker Anders Carlson missed his first field goal of the year from 43 yards.

The defense held Denver at bay, giving the offense time find its rhythm in the second half. The running game took shape behind AJ Dillon and Jones, who returned from a hamstring injury.

Green Bay got on the board with Carlson's 29-yard field goal to cap the first series of the second half and spun momentum completely in its favor after receiver Romeo Doubs fought for a 16-yard touchdown pass to cut Denver's lead to 16-10.

With the defense forcing a three-and-out, the Packers marched down the field at the start of the fourth quarter during an 11-play, 76-yard drive that culminated in a dramatic Reed TD on fourth-and-2 that initially deflected off Doubs' hands.

All six of Green Bay's offensive plays of at least 15 yards came in the second half, including the 18-yard pass from Jordan Love to tight end Luke Musgrave that spurred the drive Reed scored on.

"The effort is always there," Reed said. "We're always a team that goes out there and plays our hardest. Obviously, we figured it out a lot in the second half this year. Just hopefully we can get that edge in the first half and that'll definitely create a difference in every game we play."

Overall, the Packers' defense did well in limiting Denver to only one TD-producing drive. However, it will lament Russell Wilson and the Broncos making just enough plays to fashion a nine-play, 41-yard series that set up Lutz's 52-yard kick.

The Packers threatened a response after Dillon took an underneath pass 29 yards to the Broncos' 44, but a holding penalty knocked Green Bay back into its own territory, leading to Love throwing a deep interception on third-and-20.

Check out photos from the Week 7 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023.

"I don't know what we think we are, but I guess we're just supposed to be some miracle second-half team," cornerback Rasul Douglas said. "(Like) 'Space Jam,' everybody drink the juice team or whatever and just win. That … is just not the NFL. We're not doing that.

"We have to do whatever we're doing in the second half in the first half and repeat that in the second half. Once we do that, we're good."

The Packers' offense produced 215 of its 331 total yards on its three consecutive scoring drives. Because of that, Green Bay has now outscored teams 104-54 in the second half.

Conversely, through the first seven games, the Packers trail the opposition 78-26 through the first two quarters.

To end its recent three-game slide, Green Bay knows it must start faster. That starts next Sunday when it begins a back-to-back homestand against Minnesota.

"It just comes down to playing a complete game," Doubs said. "We came out in the second half, fought in the second half. We cannot keep waiting until the second half to start. Again, we got another week of ball. It gives us another chance to figure out a way to get better and again we'll try to figure it out."


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