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Notebook: Packers Striving For Fast Starts Down The Stretch

Green Bay’s offense has been solid in several areas this year, evidenced by their No. 11 overall ranking, but one facet that they have struggled in all season is their ability to have success on opening drives. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 10

Green Bay's offense has been solid in several areas this year, evidenced by their No. 11 overall ranking, but one facet that the Packers have struggled in all season is their ability to have success on opening drives.

Through 13 games, the Packers rank tied for 30th in the league with Detroit with just 10 points scored on opening offensive drives this season, ahead of only Cincinnati at seven points.

The last time the Packers were able to generate points on their opening series came back in Week 7 against Indianapolis when they capped a 13-play, 67-yard drive with a 31-yard field goal from Mason Crosby.

The only other game this season that saw the Packers score on the opening drive came in Week 4 at Tampa Bay when quarterback Aaron Rodgers connected with wide receiver Greg Jennings for a 25-yard touchdown.

Green Bay's offense has started six games with a three-and-out, and has posted just eight first downs on opening drives. In their last five losses, the Packers have gone three-and-out four times with just one first down.

"We've been starting really slow, and I can't explain it," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "I wish I could. I love the game plan. On Fridays we run some of the plays we are going to run starting the game. Saturday we talk about those plays, watch the film of those plays. We feel very confident with the starting plays that we have."

The lack of success on opening drives has also carried over to the first quarter, with the Packers scoring just 44 points on the season in the opening stanza, which is tied for 24th in the league.

"I can't tell you why we haven't executed better in the first quarter, but it has hurt us because we have played a bunch of games where we have had 20, 30 or 40 yards in the first quarter and finished with over 350 or over 400 yards and we lose those games," Rodgers said.

Rodgers said that a fast start is critical not just in road games when the team is trying to quiet a hostile crowd, but also at home.

"You've got to get the crowd involved, and then you go on the road and you've got to take their crowd out of it," Rodgers said. "So starting fast is important, whether you are home or away, and we just haven't done a good job of that this year."

A look at league scoring statistics proves just how crucial fast starts can be to winning games as the top seven scoring teams on opening drives all have winning records.

Ironically, the Packers lead the league in points scored in the fourth quarter at 127, but the players know that they have to find a way to duplicate that success earlier in games.

"I think part of it is a mindset," center Scott Wells said. "You come out determined to do what it takes to move the ball and score points. You don't come out feeling the defense or vice versa.

"That's what I think you've got to get, and that's kind of what is being pressed. Just to come out from the get-go with our foot on the pedal and not hesitate from an individual standpoint."

Woodson staying at safety

With safety Atari Bigby sidelined for a second straight week with a shoulder injury sustained vs. Carolina, McCarthy said the plan is for cornerback Charles Woodson to slide over to start at strong safety for the third consecutive week.

In his two starts there, Woodson has recorded 20 tackles, including a season-high 11 last Sunday vs. Houston. He has also posted a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two passes defensed. Nickel back Tramon Williams has taken over for Woodson at the starting left cornerback spot.

"I would say really Charles' ability to be back there has put him in a position to be around the ball more," McCarthy said on Monday. "That's what I like about his move to safety, and just the fact that he is playing safety doesn't mean that you can't still bring him down to cover down on a receiver.

"But not having Charles as a corner by no means means that we can't still have him line up on a certain receiver."

Bigby has only been able to play in seven games this season because of various injuries, including an ankle injury sustained in the preseason that has bothered him all season as well as a hamstring injury that he suffered in Week 2 at Detroit.

"Atari has been hurt all year," McCarthy said. "He has been hurt since I think it was the Denver preseason game. It's unfortunate, and then he was hurt again in the Detroit game. He was able to fight through it coming out of training camp. I think it is obvious he has not felt the same since training camp."

{sportsad300}Injury/participation update

In addition to Bigby, tackle Mark Tauscher is also out for Sunday.

Defensive tackle Justin Harrell (hip) and fullback Korey Hall (knee) did not participate on Wednesday.

"Justin Harrell has had a bothersome hip the last couple weeks, and it really has gotten to a point where Dr. McKenzie felt we needed to shut him down today and tomorrow, and we will test him on Friday," McCarthy said.

McCarthy said Hall would also potentially test his injury on Friday but said it would be a "challenge" for him to be ready for Sunday.

Linebacker Brandon Chillar (groin), linebacker Danny Lansanah (arm and ankle), defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (illness), defensive end Jeremy Thompson (ankle) and cornerback Charles Woodson (toe) were limited.

For Jacksonville, defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (toe), wide receiver Jerry Porter (groin) and running back Fred Taylor (thumb) did not participate in practice.

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