By Eric Goska
|Green Bay's offense was as dark as the night sky|
in the second half of its game with Carolina Saturday.
(photo by Colin Schmenk)
The Packers’ offense went as dark as the night sky Saturday at Lambeau Field.
As a result, Green Bay had to sweat out a 24-16 decision over the pesky Carolina Panthers, a club going nowhere with a record of 4-10.
The Packers bolted to a 21-3 halftime lead on the strength of 242 yards. They scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions.
In the second half, Green Bay earned a paltry 49 yards. It put together just one drive of more than four plays, and J.K. Scott punted four times.
The Packers’ running game, so effective early on, performed a disappearing act worthy of the legendary Harry Houdini. The team’s passing attack went missing as well, but the difference was not as pronounced.
Sparked by Aaron Jones, Green Bay amassed 159 first-half rushing yards. That’s the 16th highest total in the opening two quarters by the Green and Gold in a regular-season game since 1948.
Jones reeled off 114 yards on 12 totes. His first carry went for 46 on an advance capped by a 1-yard TD pass to tight end Robert Tonyan. His 14-yard burst helped pave the way for Aaron Rodgers’ 6-yard dash that gave Green Bay a 14-3 lead.
On Green Bay’s third possession, Jones carried five straight times (31 yards). He danced into the end zone from eight yards out late in the second quarter to give Green Bay its 18-point advantage.
Only four other Packers have gained more first-half rushing yards than did Jones: Ahman Green (133; 122), Gerry Ellis (124), Ty Montgomery (123) and Jim Taylor (115).
For Jones, it was the second time he has bettered the century mark in the opening two quarters. He got 101 in a 31-12 win over the Dolphins in 2018.
Green Bay’s ground game accounted for seven first-half first downs. It was the more effective mode of transportation as Rodgers and his receivers generated just 83 yards through the air.
Nothing came easily after the break. The 49 yards Green Bay produced was its lowest second-half total under head coach Matt LaFleur.
Aside from a 10-play, 42-yard advance capped by Mason Crosby’s 51-yard field goal, the Packers couldn’t sustain anything. Jones remained the best weapon with 31 rushing yards on eight carries.
Throw in two runs for five yards by Rodgers, and the Packers wound up with 36 yards rushing on 10 carries. That’s 123 fewer than they gained in the first half.
On only once before in the last 72 years has the team fallen off that badly. Not surprisingly, that drop-off came in a losing effort.
On Nov. 5, 1961 against the Colts, Taylor, Paul Hornung and Bart Starr led a charge that churned out 153 first-half rushing yards. Vince Lombardi’s minions then produced a scant eight yards on four attempts in the final two quarters as Green Bay stumbled 45-21 in Baltimore.
Certainly no one expected the Packers to run as freely in the second half as they did in the first against Carolina. The team has gained 100 or more yards rushing in both halves of a game just 29 times since 1948.
But to be slowed so abruptly after such an outstanding start has to be disconcerting. Should another team do the same, one with more firepower than Carolina, Green Bay will be fortunate to escape with a win.
Since 1948, regular-season games featuring the largest drop-off in second-half rushing yards as compared to first half rushing yards in Packers history.
Diff. Att.-Yds Att.-Yds. Date Opponent Result
-145 18-153 4-8 Nov. 5, 1961 Colts GB lost, 21-45
-123 17-159 10-36 Dec. 19, 2020 Panthers GB won, 24-16
-121 17-169 19-48 Dec. 17, 1989 Bears GB won 40-28
-116 22-118 11-2 Nov. 17, 1957 Rams GB lost, 27-31
-116* 24-143 14-27 Oct. 24, 1948 Redskins GB lost, 7-23
-116 24-144 14-28 Oct. 25, 1987 Lions GB won, 34-33
*the numbers for the game of Oct. 24, 1948 are unofficial