GREEN BAY – The narrative surrounding the Packers’ offense is that it’s not operating at playoff-caliber.
But just how close is it to getting there?
Over the final four regular-season games, Green Bay scored 87 points, or 21.8 per contest. The chances to score so much more were evident, though.
In those four games, the Packers had 12 – count ’em, an even dozen – possessions that died in opponents’ territory without any points being scored. Those do not include one kneel-down series.
The promising drives ended fruitlessly for all sorts of reasons. Most of the time the offense stalled, or lost yardage due to penalties or sacks, leading to eight punts. Twice the Packers went for it on fourth down and were stopped. There was also one turnover and one missed field goal.
Having the ball across midfield always has a team thinking points. The offense is on the edge of field-goal range, often just one first down (or maybe only 7-8 yards) from getting a chance to score.
If the Packers had managed just a field goal on half of those 12 possessions in enemy territory – which still isn’t great, but a considerable improvement – their scoring average over the last four games would have jumped from 21.8 to 26.2. That’s a much more satisfying number to take into the postseason.
The point is, it doesn’t seem like it would take much, though it’s always easier said than done.
“I’ve said it a million times, a lot of it comes down to staying on the grass, moving the sticks on third down, being in those manageable situations,” Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. “(We have to) take advantage of those plays where … you’re in that fringe field-goal range and you’ve got to make sure you’re getting those five, six yards so you can have an opportunity at points.”
So there are two ways to look at it. The Packers have been blowing chances they can’t afford to squander in the playoffs, because a quick exit could result. Or they’re on the verge of putting up a lot more points than they have with a timely, positive play here or there, which could help chart an extended postseason path.
Interpreting some of LaFleur’s and quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ comments during the playoff bye week, it sounds as though the approach for January is to zero in on what the Packers have done well to get to 13-3, and scale back on the portions of the playbook that haven’t produced as many desired results.
The Packers held short practices on Thursday and Friday last week, and they’ll work out again Monday before embarking on the traditional three-day on-field game prep from Wednesday through Friday this week heading into Sunday’s NFC Divisional playoff against the Seahawks at Lambeau Field.