Slow starts on offense need to change for Packers

Lack of early production is the opposite of last season

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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

467 yards, 31 points, four passing touchdowns, 7-of-11 on third down – there was a lot to like about the Packers' offense on Sunday against the Vikings.

But following the walk-off 34-31 loss at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Packers couldn't help but lament a sluggish start that prevented them from possibly winning what turned into a shootout.

The Packers scored just three points on their first four possessions of the game, bogging down in scoring territory twice and then making just one of two field goals. The other two early drives produced just two total first downs.

It led to a 16-3 deficit by the middle of the second quarter before the offense hit its stride.

"I would have liked to start faster than what we did," said receiver Davante Adams after a 115-yard, two TD performance.

Eleven games into the season, slow starts offensively have become the rule more than the exception, which is a complete turn of events from a year ago, when the Packers were historically strong out of the gate.

In 2020, Head Coach Matt LaFleur's offense scored on the opening drive 13 times in 16 regular-season games, nine of them going for touchdowns. The 73 points on opening drives was the most in the NFL dating back to 2000, according to Sportradar.

The Packers ended up scoring a total of 80 points in the first quarter last season, finding an early rhythm that led to a blockbuster second quarter that produced 219 points, most in NFL history, per the Elias Sports Bureau.

This season has been an entirely different story.

So far in 2021, the Packers have scored on their opening drive just three times, with two touchdowns, and not since Week 7 vs. Washington. The first-quarter point total is just 27, less than half of their point total in any other quarter this season (they've scored 87 in the second, 55 in the third and 75 in the fourth).

"At times the last couple years we've been so good in the first 15 to 20 plays that we script, and scoring on opening drives, touchdowns," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose final numbers Sunday were season-bests. "Hasn't really been the case this year. We've been a lot slower starting, so we gotta look at that."

Green Bay's defense certainly had more breakdowns than the offense in Minnesota, but none of the Packers' offensive players were going to pass off the responsibility for the loss.

Football games are like this sometimes, and making every possession count is the key to coming out on top. Not including a kneel-down on the final play of the first half, the Packers scored touchdowns on their final four possessions of the game on drives that covered 74, 75, 94 and 75 yards.

But when it's not enough, the lingering question is why it took so long to get going, and the lack of points early was especially frustrating when the game started with a 37-yard completion to Adams.

"Some days you have to outscore teams that get hot on offense," Rodgers said. "We had an opportunity to score 40 points today, and when you're playing an offense that's hot, that has a hot quarterback, and stud receivers and a stud back, you gotta keep scoring.

"We've had a couple games like this over the years, thinking about 2012 especially, where we gotta outscore them at their place. We didn't do that today."

The Green Bay Packers faced the Minnesota Vikings in a Week 11 matchup on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021.

That regular-season finale at the Metrodome in 2012 was a 37-34 Minnesota triumph that got the Vikings into the playoffs and cost the Packers a first-round bye.

All the implications of this one remain to be seen, and an even bigger game in the NFC playoff picture looms next week with the 7-3 Rams, coming off their bye, visiting Lambeau Field.

Rodgers emphasized after the game that for the Packers to reach their peak during the stretch run, the offense needs to start clicking from the get-go like it did so often a year ago.

"We gotta start faster," he said. "We gotta score touchdowns on those opening plays, so I know Matt will be looking at that this week and dial up some good stuff for LA."

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