Offense Still Striving To Improve

The progress the Green Bay Packers’ offense has made in the past two weeks certainly bodes well for the second half of the season. But if there’s one thing that keeps the 7-1 Packers hungry and working hard, it’s that they know there’s still plenty more progress to be made. As Head Coach Mike McCarthy has said often, this team hasn’t played its best football. - More Packers-Vikings Game Center


The progress the Green Bay Packers' offense has made in the past two weeks certainly bodes well for the second half of the season.

In difficult road victories at Denver and Kansas City, the Packers found some production in their running game and have proven to be a threat with their vertical passing game.

But if there's one thing that keeps the 7-1 Packers hungry and working hard, it's that they know there's still plenty more progress to be made. As Head Coach Mike McCarthy has said often, this team hasn't played its best football.

That's particularly true on the offensive side when, as tough as Invesco Field at Mile High and Arrowhead Stadium are to visit, the team left so many opportunities on the table in the two wins.

"None of us offensively should feel complacent right now, because we're so inconsistent," quarterback Brett Favre said. "And that's weekly. Whether it be penalties, a lapse in the running game, third-and-1 or third downs period, or red zone. Each week it's something."

The past two weeks it's been a little of a lot of those things.

Against Denver, the red zone offense was the biggest failing. In the second quarter, a first-and-goal at the 6 ended in a field goal when a run gained 2 yards, a pass was incomplete, and a third-down run gained 3 yards and was stopped at the 1.

Then on the very next possession, with a second-and-goal on the 1, two false start penalties and an incomplete pass led to another field goal.

Two possessions that were as close as 1 yard from a touchdown, and the offense had only six points to show for them.

"There's a lot of room for improvement," rookie receiver James Jones said. "We're far, far, far from playing our best football, and we definitely have to keep on working hard."

At Kansas City, the missed chances were nearly as frustrating and were a combination of running and passing struggles. An interception in the red zone killed a promising opening drive. The Packers were approaching the red zone in the second quarter when a second-down run lost 3 yards and led to a field goal.

In the second half, a third-and-2 run from the Kansas City 34-yard line was stuffed for no gain, and a long field goal was missed. And trailing by one point early in the fourth quarter and in the red zone, a second-down run lost 1 yard and a third-down pass play was disrupted by pressure, leading to another field goal.

"It's disappointing when you get those drives and you get field goals out of it," center Scott Wells said. "That's something we've really got to work on. Our third-down short-yardage was not what it needed to be, especially in the red zone. That's two weeks in a row, so that's something I'm sure is going to be an emphasis."

Penalties have hurt in other spots. In addition to the two false starts near the goal line in Denver, the offense has been called for five holding penalties, one false start and one delay of game at the line of scrimmage the last two weeks.

And then there was the discouraging development last week of pressure on Favre coming from the interior of the defensive line, which as Favre explains is the most difficult type to handle.

"That's probably the worst from a quarterback's standpoint," Favre said, noting that when facing pressure from the outside, a quarterback can step up in the pocket, still survey the field and possibly take off running.

"With pressure in the middle, not only can you not see what's happening in front of you, but when you go to escape, you're escaping right into rush ends."

{sportsad300}Those struggles, along with the inconsistencies in the running game, have prompted the coaching staff to open up the competition at the guard spots on the offensive line. Junius Coston, Jason Spitz, Daryn Colledge and possibly rookie Allen Barbre are in the mix for the two starting jobs this week against Minnesota.

But as the coaches are known to say, it doesn't matter to them who's playing because everyone is expected to execute, and when the execution isn't sharp, no one is satisfied.

"We had more opportunities to score more points and didn't do it, didn't capitzlize on it," Wells said following the Kansas City game. "There were some conversions we didn't get, and overall it was sloppy. But it feels good to be able to have that game and still win."

That's what ultimately makes these nice problems to have, because the Packers can go about trying to fix them while not having to lament that they're costing them victories.

And at the same time, it's clear to see just how much better they can be in the season's second half.

"We always say as we get in our meetings on Wednesday morning, 'Imagine what we could do if we were a little bit better here, a little bit better there,'" Favre said.

"I think we're far from being where we think we should be, but the good thing is we have been winning and making enough plays - we can make a lot more but we're making enough - to win."

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