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Offense Matured As Opening Drive Clicked

The Packers began last week’s game with an 83-yard drive for a touchdown. Right out of the tunnel, and right down the field. A start like that has happened only twice in the 21-game Mike McCarthy era. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Redskins Game Center Notebook: Coston Questionable, Moll Ready At RG


It's not something that has happened very often over the past couple of seasons, and the achievement perhaps wasn't duly noted in the wake of the loss to the Chicago Bears last Sunday.

But the Packers began that game with an 83-yard drive for a touchdown. Right out of the tunnel, and right down the field.

A start like that has happened only twice in the 21-game Mike McCarthy era, and for an offense that has as many as six key players with three years or less of NFL experience, it's a true sign of growth to be able to get things clicking right from the first snap.

"It's a very important element in terms of this offense's progression," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "Confidence is a critical factor in any sport, and when you taste success early you kind of whet your appetite a little bit and you feel like you can continue to do so, and you're just going to build momentum in the course of the game."

The only other time under McCarthy the offense began a game like that was, coincidentally, against the Bears in the season finale last year, when it marched 75 yards for an opening TD. The offense scored two other touchdowns on its first possession last year, but both of those were on short drives set up by turnovers against New Orleans and Seattle.

This one was no gimme. A holding penalty on the opening kickoff return put the Packers on their own 17, and it took just seven plays to go the length of the field. The offense didn't even face a third down until it was third-and-goal from the 2-yard line.

A 44-yard run by DeShawn Wynn was the big play that got the Packers into scoring range, but even before that snap the offense was on the move with a 12-yard run by Wynn and passes of 7 yards to Donald Driver and 12 yards to Greg Jennings on the first three plays.

"You need guys to step up and make plays, and the real encouraging thing was it appears coming out of the gate our guys were ready to go physically, they were ready to go emotionally," Philbin said. "They were hungry, and I think that's the reason why we got the ball in the end zone."

The offense was in great position to feed off of that momentum as well. After a three-and-out by the Bears, the Packers got the ball back at their own 22 and moved all the way into the red zone again.

Unfortunately, a fumble by receiver James Jones inside the 10-yard line short-circuited the chance to add to the early lead. But the fast start that had been established by the offense on the first drive had carried over, and the potential created by the tempo was evident.

"That just shows you how much more mature we are as an offense," tight end Bubba Franks said. "It also shows you how deadly we can be."

{sportsad300}The next step in the maturity of the offense will be to capitalize fully on the early momentum when things are clicking.

Turnovers prevented the 341 yards gained in the first half from producing more than 17 points, and a blocking breakdown on a critical third-and-1 play in the red zone on the Packers' opening drive of the second half forced a field goal attempt that turned out to be Green Bay's final points of the evening.

"When you come into a game and you want to play well, starting fast is a key element," right guard Junius Coston said. "When you come out and score like that like we did, it made us feel real good, but we just have to figure out a way to pull that game out."

Going up against Washington, the NFC's No. 1 defense in yards and points allowed, on Sunday, only places a higher premium on a productive beginning that carries through.

"It's going to be important to get off to a fast start and maintain that," Franks said. "We have to maintain our focus and our physicalness the entire game for 60 minutes and not just half a game.

"We're to the point in the schedule you can't go out and play half a game and expect to win. You have to get ready for four quarters."

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