Third-Rate Performance on Third Down Doomed Offense

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers’ offense had hit its stride.

From Game 5 through Game 8 – the so-called second quarter of the season – it scored 130 points. With that 32.5-point average ranking second in the NFL, the Packers went 4-0 under first-year coach Matt LaFleur.

Then, it mostly fell apart. Starting with a 26-11 loss at the Chargers in Game 9, Green Bay ranked 23rd with merely 20.1 points per game during the second of the season. It surpassed 24 points only once during those final eight regular-season games. After averaging a fourth-ranked 6.47 yards per play during the second quarter of the season, it plunged to a 27th-ranked 4.93 during the second half.

How can Green Bay field that second-quarter offense more in the second season under LaFleur?

“First of all, I think we have a better understanding of who we are, of what our players can do really well. And then it’s just striving for that consistency,” LaFleur said on Sunday. “We always talk about, it’s the greatest measure of performance. And unfortunately for us, like you mentioned, we did have a pretty good stretch for a few games where we played really consistent football and then it was kind of hit-or-miss from there on out for the rest of the season. If we can put together and string together consistent performance from the offensive side of the ball, we’re going to be a lot happier where we end up.”

A key will be performing better on third down. During the second quarter of the season, Green Bay ranked 11th in third-down efficiency at 44.7 percent. During the second half of the season, it plunged to a 27th-ranked 33.9 percent.

“We’ve got to be better in situational football,” LaFleur continued. “And specifically on third-down situations, in order to stay on the field. That’s going to be a big emphasis throughout this entire training camp.”

The starting point of those third-down woes was first down. For the season, the Packers were a dreadful 25th with 5.20 yards per first-down play. That, in turn, led to difficult-to-pick-up third-and-longs. The Packers faced third-and-6-plus a staggering 8.9 times per game, the sixth-most in the league. Their average third-down play required 7.8 yards, the third-longest distance in the league.

LaFleur is hoping the solution to what went wrong on Sundays can be found in what happened during Monday’s game-planning.

“Obviously, you have a different game plan each and every week, but we really took a good, hard look at our pass game this offseason and tried to carry more universal concepts so that there’s more carryover on a week-to-week basis,” LaFleur said. “I think it’s tougher on our players when you’re changing your whole playbook or a bunch of concepts each week. The more that we can carry over, it will help benefit us.”

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