Monday, October 16, 2017

Fourthfully Working in Minnesota

Fourthfully Working in Minnesota
By Eric Goska

For the sake of Packers fans everywhere, let’s hope Green Bay’s fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium doesn’t come to define the remainder of the team’s 2017 season; that is, a flurry of activity that leads nowhere.

Dealt a major blow with the loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay’s offense went into hiding. That finally changed in the fourth quarter when the unit, led by backup Brett Hundley, generated more yards than what the team had produced in the first 45 minutes.

Was this late movement that added nothing to the scoreboard just sound and fury signifying nothing? Or was it an indication that Hundley can guide the team in the right direction in the coming weeks?

As might be expected, the Packers were not themselves in falling 23-10 to the Vikings Sunday in Minnesota. Losing a two-time MVP, such as Rodgers, is sure to stagger any team’s resolve.

Once again, the fourth quarter figured prominently for Green Bay. This time, though, it earned notice not for the rally it inspired, but for the workload that accompanied it.

Twice this season had the Packers rallied late. In Week 3, Rodgers engineered a 27-24 overtime win over the Bengals. In Week 5, he orchestrated a 35-31 fourth-quarter comeback in Dallas.

But against the Vikings, Rodgers was in no position to work such magic. The veteran quarterback broke his collarbone when tackled by linebacker Anthony Barr with six minutes, 57 seconds remaining in a scoreless first quarter.

The highest rated passer in NFL history might miss the remainder of the season.

Enter Hundley who had thrown but 11 passes in his three-year NFL career. In previous appearances, the 24-year-old had been called upon to either protect a lead or close out a lost cause.

This time, he had more than three quarters with which to work. This time, he was expected to have a say in the outcome.

Not counting a hand off to Aaron Jones that was followed by a Justin Vogel punt, Hundley presided over six drives prior to the fourth quarter. The 24 plays that composed those advances accounted for just 72 yards and three first downs.

The Packers did score 10 points during this stretch. A 63-yard fumble return by linebacker Clay Matthews set up Hundley’s first NFL touchdown pass, a 14-yarder to receiver Davante Adams that tied the score at 7. Cornerback Damarious Randall then intercepted Vikings quarterback Case Keenum to set the stage for Mason Crosby’s 26-yard field goal that pulled Green Bay to 14-10 late in the second quarter.

That’s 10 points scored as the result of turnovers. The last time the Packers won a game in which all of their points were set up in such a manner came against the Cowboys in 1965.

Not only have 52 years passed since that 13-3 triumph, but then-coach Vince Lombardi, who could conjure victory under some of the most trying of circumstances, is long gone. In the intervening years, the team has always had to manufacture at least one score without the aid of the defense in order to win.

Producing points under its own power was too much to ask of Green Bay’s offense against the Vikings. But the unit did move the ball in the final 15 minutes.

The Packers gained 125 of their 227 yards in the fourth quarter on 32 plays. Eleven of those offerings, or two more than in the first three quarters combined, began on Minnesota’s side of the field.

Hundley moved the team 84 yards (15 plays) on its final possession. Cornerback Trae Waynes’ interception with 15 seconds left ended the threat.

Aaron Jones, the Packers’ leading rusher with 41 yards, gained 24 in the fourth quarter. Adams, who scored the team’s lone touchdown, accumulated 40 of his 54 receiving yards in the period.

The fourth quarter was the only in which Green Bay had the greater time of possession (9:13 to 5:47). The team moved the chains nine times to the Vikings’ zero.

For the Packers, this was only the sixth time since 1954 in which it ran 30 or more plays in the fourth quarter. The team is 1-4-1 in those games.

There is something to be said for being forced to work so often so late. Time doesn’t look favorably on a team that requires so many steps to achieve its goal.

Only once before has Green Bay been so busy so late against the Vikings. The Packers ran 30 fourth-quarter plays in a 26-26 tie on Nov. 24, 2013.

Green Bay’s only 30-plus fourth quarter win came against the 49ers at Lambeau Field in 1996. Brett Favre threw 24 passes in the final 15 minutes of regulation, then lobbed another five as the Packers edged San Francisco 23-20 in overtime.

Fourthfully Working
Since 1954, the six regular-season games in which the Packers ran 30 or more fourth-quarter plays.

  4Q Plays   4Q Points    Opponent        Result                   Date
       34               6           49ers                GB won 23-20       Oct. 14, 1996
       32               0           Vikings             GB lost 10-23        Oct. 15, 2017
       31              14          Seahawks         GB lost 14-20        Dec. 9, 1990
       31              16          Vikings             26-26 tie                Nov. 24, 2013
       30              17          Browns            GB lost 24-26        Sept. 18, 2005
       30              13          Lions                GB lost 16-18        Nov. 15, 2015

1 comment:

  1. Surprised that a team in the 60's was not on the list. Nice story!