Monday, September 24, 2018

Forgettable First Half Dooms Green Bay in Washington

By Eric Goska

In 1951, Detroit became the first team to amass more than 300 yards
and more than 25 points against the Packers in a first half.
Sunday, the Redskins became the latest.

Only one quarterback ever led the Packers to victory under conditions similar to those Green Bay faced at halftime in Washington.

That player has been out of the league for years.

The Redskins came out firing Sunday with one of their best offensive first halves in years. A score on their opening possession produced a lead they never relinquished as they pounded Green Bay 31-17 at FedExField.

The Redskins were looking to take control from the get-go. The team plays better with an early lead as a number of graphics during the television broadcast attested to.

Washington delivered and more. The team scored touchdowns on four of six first-half possessions and built an 18-point advantage at halftime.

In dominating play in the opening two quarters, two numbers stood out for the Redskins: 323 yards and 28 points. That’s more yards (160) and points (17) than the Bears accumulated in their first half hour of play against Green Bay in the opener.

As a Packers fan, one longs to be a dentist in order to remove the bad taste that lingers from those two pathetic first-half showings.

Washington, on the other hand, must have been downright giddy. In five seasons under head coach Jay Gruden, the Redskins had never scored 28 first-half points. Only once had they gained more than 323 yards in the opening two quarters.

The Redskins’ first-half scoring drives measured 75, 79, 98 and 74 yards. Except for the second advance, each touchdown took fewer than 200 seconds (3 minutes, 20 seconds) to materialize.

Translation—the Redskins wasted little time in dissecting Green Bay.

Long-distance plays accounted for more than half of the first-half haul. Vernon Davis (50 yards), Paul Richardson (46) and Jordan Reed (34) stretched the field with receptions. Adrian Peterson ripped off a run of 41.

The Redskins welcomed ineptitude on another front. They accepted three pass interference penalties on Green Bay – Jaire Alexander (22 yards), Tramon Williams (8) and Davon House (7) – on their second touchdown drive.

Figuratively speaking, Washington nearly made the equivalent of a first down every time it touched the ball. The team averaged 9.8 yards per play in the first half. Quarterback Alex Smith earned 21.4 yards with every completion.

Washington displayed balance. It had 109 yards rushing and 214 yards passing in assembling a 28-10 first-half lead.

For Green Bay, it was ugly, but the final result hardly surprising. The team is 1-12 when surrendering 300 or more yards and 25 or more points before intermission.

Fortunately, these stinkers don’t show up often. When they do, reach for the mouthwash.

Green Bay first performed a 300/25 pratfall against the Lions in a 52-35 loss on Thanksgiving Day 1951. Until Sunday, the most recent face-plant had occurred in Nashville where Green Bay was overwhelmed 47-25 by the Titans (351/35) in 2016.

Mike McCarthy endured his first in his inaugural year as Packers head coach in 2006. The Jets beat Green Bay 38-10 after piling up 340 yards and 31 points in the first half.

To Green Bay’s credit, it finally clamped down on Washington. Its defense surrendered just 63 yards and three points in the second half.

The Redskins gained six yards passing in Quarters 3 and 4 combined. That’s the fewest the Packers have allowed after the break since holding the Eagles to minus-1 in 2000.

Green Bay forced Washington to punt on four consecutive possessions while giving up just 31 yards and one first down. That lone chain-mover resulted from a highly questionable roughing the passer call on linebacker Clay Matthews.

But Aaron Rodgers and the offense couldn’t rise to the occasion. Aside from a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive at the start of the third quarter, the Packers were held scoreless.

Drops on fourth down by Randall Cobb and third down by Lance Kendricks proved costly. The game effectively ended after cornerback Fabian Moreau ripped the ball from Cobb’s grasp with 5 minutes, 23 seconds remaining. Fellow defensive back Josh Norman recovered.

Someone, please text Matt Flynn. After the Cowboys piled up 332 yards and 26 points in erecting a 26-3 first-half lead in 2013, Flynn coolly led Green Bay to a 37-36 victory. His second-half passer rating that day (136.7) was far better than that of Rodgers (85.3) in Washington.

Better yet, Green Bay could emulate the Bears and Redskins. Both teams came ready to play, something that needs to happen week in and week out in the National Football League.


The 13 regular-season games in which the Packers surrendered 300 or more yards and 25 or more points in the first half.

Date                      Opponent        Yards     Points     Final
Sept. 23, 2018       Redskins          323         28           GB lost, 17-31
Nov. 13, 2016       Titans               351         35           GB lost, 25-47
Dec. 15, 2013        Cowboys         332         26           GB won, 37-36
Dec. 3, 2006          Jets                  340         31           GB lost, 10-38
Dec. 5, 2004          Eagles              302         35           GB lost, 17-47
Oct. 11, 2004        Titans               310         27           GB lost, 27-48
Sept. 26, 2004       Colts                328         35           GB lost, 31-45
Dec. 16, 1956        Rams                349         35           GB lost, 21-49
Nov. 11, 1956       Bears               319         28           GB lost, 14-38
Nov. 6, 1955         Bears               313         28           GB lost, 31-52
Dec. 5, 1954          49ers                320         28           GB lost, 0-35
Dec. 12, 1953        Rams                335         26           GB lost, 17-33
Nov. 22, 1951       Lions                325         31           GB lost, 35-52

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