Monday, December 9, 2019

Packers Stake Out Washington Territory in 20-15 Win

By Eric Goska
Fans pose for a faux Lambeau Leap ahead of Green Bay’s win.
The Washington Redskins were the visiting team Sunday at Lambeau Field.

But in the first half, at least, it was the hometown Green Bay Packers who spent a lot of time visiting Washington territory.

Aaron Rodgers and company all but set up shop on the other side of the 50 in producing a 14-6 halftime lead. That development proved fortuitous – even if it was not fully taken advantage of – as the team did little offensively in the final two quarters yet still squeezed out a 20-15 win.

Offenses love short fields. The Packers had one on three of their four first possessions.

One could even argue it was four-for-four. Running back Aaron Jones ripped off his longest run of the season – a 42-yard scamper – that pushed Green Bay beyond the 50 as the team set sail for a fourth time.

Not counting Rodger’s kneel-down to end the half, the Packers (on average) began five first-half drives from roughly their own 39-yard line. Why the team didn’t tally more points is a concern the coaching staff needs to address or this club will be one-and-done in the playoffs.

Green Bay’s first three drives were set up by newcomer Tyler Ervin. The fourth-year running back – who played six games for the Jaguars earlier this season – joined the team on Dec. 2 as a waiver wire acquisition.

Erving resurrected a punt return game that had netted negative-8 yards through 11 games. He set the team long with each of his first three returns: 10, 12 and 18 yards.

Green Bay started from the 50, the Washington 48 and its own 43 as a result. The journeys concluded with an Aaron Jones rushing touchdown, a J.K. Scott punt and a Rodgers-to-Robert Tonyan scoring pass.

Scott’s punt followed a 7-yard sack of Rodgers. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan dropped the quarterback after the Packers had moved to the Redskins’ 42.

As Green Bay opened its fourth drive, Jones’ 42-yard run carried the Packers to the Washington 46. Four plays later, Scott punted for a second time as the team again sputtered.

Green Bay’s fifth advance began at its own 25. The team cruised past midfield to reach the visitor’s 27-yard line. Once there, a strip-sack of Rodgers by linebacker Ryan Anderson resulted in the Packers’ only turnover.

Rodgers kneeled from his own 27 to end the half.

Lambeau Field has its Christmas Tree.
In all, the Green and Gold ran 21 of 29 first-half plays on the Redskins’ side of the field. That percentage (72.4) was the club’s highest since Rodgers became a starter in 2008.

It ranks as the team’s 11th best outing since the NFL-AFL merger of 1970.

Such a marked takeover of the opposition’s territory – even if only for the initial 30 minutes – has often been followed by victory. Green Bay has been above 70 percent on 25 occasions in the first half since 1970, and its record in those games is 20-5.

The team has been there seven times since 2008. Its only loss over that span was a 30-34 setback to the Bengals in 2013.

Given such prime real estate Sunday, the Packers lacked killer instinct. The 21 plays they ran from beyond the 50 in the first half produced 73 yards. The other eight yielded 120.

Had the team finished what it started by finding the end zone each time out, the score at halftime could have been 35-6.

Green Bay was even less effective in the second half. Seventeen of its 31 offensive plays were initiated in enemy territory, yet the team managed but six points on two Mason Crosby field goals.

That won’t cut it come January. Failing to take advantage of excellent field position against the likes of San Francisco, Seattle or New Orleans will almost assuredly lead to an early Packers’ exit.

But Green Bay’s effort – unimpressive as it was – sufficed against the 3-9 Redskins. Green Bay shut the door on Washington when Rodgers kneeled twice – from the Redskins’ 47- and 48-yard lines – to run out the final 77 seconds.

Extra point
Green Bay’s best first-half beyond-the-50 showing of the last 50 years occurred on Dec. 5, 1982. On that day against the Bills at Milwaukee County Stadium, the Packers ran 22 of 23 plays (95.7 percent) in Buffalo territory en route to a 33-21 win.

Enemy Territory
The seven times Green Bay has run more than 70 percent of its first-half offensive plays from beyond the 50-yard line.

Date                   Opponent        Pct.          Plays        Result
Dec. 8, 2019       Redskins          72.4        21 of 29     GB won 20-15
Dec. 8, 2014       Falcons            72.1        31 of 43     GB won 43-37
Sept. 22, 2013    Bengals            71.9        23 of 32     GB lost 30-34
Dec. 13, 2009     Bears               71.0        22 of 31     GB won 21-14
Oct. 24, 2010     Vikings             71.0        22 of 31     GB won 28-24
Dec. 29, 2013     Bears               70.7        29 of 41     GB won 33-28
Dec. 11, 2011     Raiders             70.6        24 of 34     GB won 46-16

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