Packers Hope To Start Fast


As much as anyone, the Packers understand the importance of getting off to a strong start each week.

That scoring-first often lends to leading-last is more than a football myth. It can be seen in the numbers.

Including playoffs, the Packers are 20-3 in the Mike Sherman era when they get on the scoreboard first.

Of late however, the Packers haven't had much luck exploding out of the blocks offensively. And that has Sherman's attention.

"I'm concerned when we fall behind like we have the last couple ballgames," Sherman said. "As I told the team, you can't let the game come to you, you have to go get the game."

Over the first three drives of the last four games, only twice have the Packers been able to produce a score (1 touchdown, 1 field goal). The other 10 of those possessions have ended in either a punt (7) or turnover (3).

And, even more concerning, six of those early non-scoring drives (50 percent) have stalled without the Packers earning a first down, including four times in the last two games.

"Early on (this season) we were starting the way we would like," quarterback Brett Favre said. "The last two games we've kind of come out waiting to see what would happen.

"Even (at Tampa Bay) we came out, we had a good drive, but then we got the ball back on a turnover and we went right down and scored. For whatever reason the last couple weeks we haven't done that."

Some of those frustrations are due to struggles on third-and-short.

In the opening three drives of the last four games, the Packers have twice failed to convert on both third-and-1 and third-and-2.

Failed runs were to blame on both third-and-1 situations, incomplete passes in both cases of third-and-2.

Assessed Sherman, "Our third-and-short offense is not good enough to win the championship, bottom line. We need to get better there."

According to Favre, improving in third-and-short is simply a matter of execution.

"There's no one to blame but ourselves," he said. "It's not the play, it's the players. I don't care what play is called, you've got to make it work ...

"When we played Dallas when they were on top, their offensive line when it was third-and-1, it didn't matter. Emmitt Smith didn't get touched until you were five yards into the defensive backfield.

"You have to have that type of mentality. Not that one particular play is the difference, but what else can you ask for? Third-and-1, you've put yourself in good position. We have to make it work, it's as simple as that."

Whatever is the cause of their ills, the Packers need only a bit of a jumpstart. While they have struggled in their first and second possessions this season, the third time has often been the charm.

Through 13 games, the Packers have scored one touchdown and one field goal among their opening drives, while their second drives have netted three field goals and one touchdown.

But on the third drive of the game the Packers have been dominant, posting one field goal and seven touchdowns.

"I know we haven't necessarily scored on our first drive, but I believe we have scored on our first couple possessions," Sherman said. "The second quarter has been our best quarter of the year. Obviously in the last two weeks we've done better in the second half.

"I can't explain why that is. I wish I knew. If I knew, we'd play every quarter perfectly, but we don't."

That the Packers have rallied to win the last two weeks despite lackluster beginnings is a credit to their character, not to mention ability.

Favre said he was "amazed" that the Packers were able to recover against Minnesota, considering they fell behind 13-0 and trailed by as many as 15. But even if the Packers have comeback potential, falling behind can be like playing with fire.

"I know from a Packers point of view, if we're playing someone here and we go out and score in the opening drive and then they go three-and-out and then we score, it's over," Favre said. "We've made it as tough on us as we could possibly make it the last two weeks at our place. But that's how important it is to get something going offensively, home or away."

On the road this weekend against the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers, it's not about to get any easier. And as has been the case so many times, how things begin for the Packers, could very well indicate how they'll end.

First Three Drives, Last Four Games - How They've Ended

(FG - field goal, TD - touchdown, P - punt, TO - turnover)

FG - 1

TD - 1

P - 7

TO - 3

2002 Season Early Drives - How They've Ended

(FG - field goal, TD - touchdown, P - punt, TO - turnover)

First Drive -

FG - 3

TD - 1

P - 6

TO - 3

Second Drive -

FG - 1

TD - 2

P - 6

TO - 4

Third Drive -

FG - 1

TD - 7

P - 3

TO - 2

2002 Early Drives - Complete List

(1stD - first downs, ftc. - failed to convert)

vs. Atlanta

  1. 5 1stD, field goal
  1. 0 1stD, fumble
  1. 3 1stD, touchdown

at New Orleans

  1. 2 1stD, interception
  1. 5 1stD, field goal
  1. 0 1stD, fumble

at Detroit

  1. 0 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-10)
  1. 1 1stD, fumble
  1. 4 1stD, touchdown

vs. Carolina

  1. 4 1stD, field goal
  1. 0 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-15)
  1. 1 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-8)

at Chicago

  1. 1 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-10)
  1. 1 1stD, touchdown
  1. 5 1stD, touchdown

at New England

  1. 2 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-5)
  1. 0 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-1)
  1. 6 1stD, touchdown

vs. Washington

  1. 4 1stD, touchdown
  1. 1 1stD, downs*
  1. 4 1stD, touchdown

vs. Miami

  1. 4 1stD, interception
  1. 1 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-8)
  1. 4 1stD, touchdown

vs. Detroit

  1. 4 1stD, field goal
  1. 0 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-1)
  1. 5 1stD, touchdown

at Minnesota

  1. 0 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-1)
  1. 0 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-6)
  1. 1 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-17)

at Tampa Bay

  1. 2 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-2)
  1. 3 1stD, touchdown
  1. 1 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-4)

vs. Chicago

  1. 0 1stD, fumble
  1. 0 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-2)
  1. 1 1stD, field goal

vs. Minnesota

  1. 0 1stD, punt (ftc. 3-1)
  1. 2 1stD, fumble
  1. 0 1stD, interception

* Packers lined up for field goal, but bad snap led to incomplete pass by holder Doug Pederson

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