Monday, January 4, 2021

Second to None: Green Bay's Record-Setting Quarter

 By Eric Goska

Tight end Dominique Dafney (49) scored Green Bay's 30th and final
second-quarter touchdown of the season against the Bears Sunday.
(screen shot from NFL Game Pass)

For 100 seasons, the barrier had held firm.

Then along came the Packers of 2020 to smash through the ceiling.

Green Bay rolled up three second-quarter touchdowns to forge a lead it never lost in downing the Bears 35-16 at Soldier Field. The scores were the latest in what has been a record-setting 15 minutes before halftime for the Packers.

Producing points has been a storyline for the Green and Gold all season. By counting five touchdowns in Chicago, the Packers finished with an NFL-best 509 points.

While impressive, getting to 500 is nothing new. Twenty-six teams have hit or surpassed that mark, led by the 2013 Denver Broncos (606), the 2007 Patriots (589) and the 2018 Chiefs (565).

No, what is unique to Green Bay is the damage it inflicted in the second quarter. The team registered 219 points in the period to become the first team to crash 200 in NFL history.

For a century, 200 had been sacrosanct for any quarter in any season. No longer.

A few teams – the 1980 Chargers (190 in 2Q), the 2013 Broncos (183 in 4Q) and the 1986 Jets (181 in 2Q) – came within shouting distance. Not surprisingly, the Patriots surpassed 175 in six different quarters this century, getting to within one point (199) in the second period during their run to perfection (16-0) in 2007.

Green Bay’s assault on the Patriots’ record began on opening day in Minnesota. Cornerback Jaire Alexander sacked Kirk Cousins for a safety, Mason Crosby toed a 43-yard field goal and Aaron Rodgers fired a pair of touchdowns as Green Bay put up 19 in their 43-34 victory over the Vikings.

In the weeks that followed, Green Bay hit up the Lions, Texans, 49ers, Eagles and Panthers for 14. They dinged Jacksonville for 17.

The team unleashed 21 against the Colts and the Bears (twice). Only once – in Tampa – were they shut out in the second quarter.

The period has been a hotbed of activity. Nearly a third (110) of the Packers’ 358 first downs originated there. Nearly half (30) of the team’s 66 touchdowns were birthed there.

Green Bay spent more time on their opponents’ side of the field than they did their own. They ran 159 of 274 offensive plays (58 percent) from beyond the 50, the only period in which they bettered 50 percent.

Rodgers’ production led the charge. His stat line is impressive: 113 completions in 158 attempts for 1,370 yards, 25 touchdowns, and two interceptions. That equates to a passer rating of 132.1.

Those 25 touchdown passes are the most by any player in any quarter in NFL history. Miami’s Dan Marino had held the record with 21 in the second quarter in 1986.

Fueled by Rodgers, Green Bay amassed 1,739 second-quarter yards. Only the teams of 1997 (1,853), 2004 (1,809), 2007 (1,768) and 2011 (1,767) accumulated more.

But Rodgers wasn’t alone. This was a shared experience.

A whopping 15 players lit up the scoreboard in one manner or another. Crosby set the pace with 37 points followed by Davante Adams, Robert Tonyan, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling with 30 each.

Receivers Equanimeous St. Brown, Malik Taylor, and tight end Dominque Dafney scored their first NFL touchdowns in the period. In early December, linebacker Preston Smith returned a Mitch Trubisky fumble for six points.

Smith’s rumble was only one of many defensive highlights. Half of the 18 turnovers Green Bay forced occurred in the second quarter. The nine takeaways were converted into 59 points.

Surpassing 150 points in a quarter had been rare for the Packers. The club had done so previously on only five occasions: 1997 (151-2Q), 2009 (154-2Q), 2011 (154-2Q) and 2014 (151-1Q; 159-2Q).

Each of those teams reached the playoffs.

Thanks in no small part to their point production, the Packers of 2020 now head into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They might take comfort in knowing that their record in the postseason when scoring more than 10 points in the second quarter is 15-2, with their only losses coming in San Francisco in 1999 and in New York in 1938.

Game of Quarters
Teams that scored 180 or more points in a single quarter in one season.
  Points         Team                   Quarter        Record
     219            2020 Packers          2nd               13-3
     199            2007 Patriots          2nd               16-0
     190            1980 Chargers        2nd               11-5
     183            2013 Broncos          4th               13-3
     183            2009 Patriots          2nd              10-6
     183            2014 Patriots          2nd               12-4
     181            1986 Jets                 2nd               10-6
     180            1961 Oilers             2nd               10-3-1

Note: The 1950 Rams, who played 12 games in the regular season, scored 169 points in the third quarter for an average of 14.1 per game. Whether they could have sustained that pace through 16 games will never be known.

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