|The Packers' offense has struggled this season, particularly after halftime. You better believe Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers are trying to figure out how to get on the same page. (US Presswire)|
Last year, it was an automatic decision, another part of the Green Bay Packers pregame routine. If the Packers won the coin toss, they'd elect to defer, and kick-off to begin the game to get the ball in the third quarter.
Green Bay was so confident that its dynamic offense would score to open the second half, they chose nearly every time to kickoff and defend first. The offense did not disappoint after halftime. Over the 16 regular season games, the Packers scored 150 points in the third quarter, averaging 9.4 points in that quarter.
Contrast that with their offensive ineptitude coming out of halftime this season. Green Bay has scored just six points in five games in the third quarter. They've been shutout in four of those five frames. In 2011, they were only held scoreless twice in the third quarter.
Opponents are taking advantage of the sluggishness. They've scored 36 points in the third quarter, six times the number the Packers have tallied.
Whether it's a bad coincidence, poor coaching or coming out of halftime flat, the Packers just haven't been good offensively in the third quarter this year. The one game in which they did score in the third, at Seattle in Week 3, reflected conscious and proactive coaching adjustments made after the first half.
The main adjustment, running the ball.
"We have to make sure we're able to run the ball," said G Josh Sitton. "We have to have that variety. We're not the same team as last year, obviously. We can't sit back there and throw the ball 20 times in a row to be successful.
The Packers ran the ball just three times in the first half against the Seahawks and went into halftime down 7-0. On the first drive of the second half, they made a concerted effort to establish the ground game. Green Bay rushed the ball seven times on that opening possession, which ultimately yielded a field goal. On their next offensive series, they ran it three times, mixing in short and intermediate pass plays, and got another field goal.
In Sunday's 30-27 loss to the Colts, the Packers offense was abominable in the third quarter. Their four drives in that frame resulted in two punts, a missed field goal and an interception, their fourth third-quarter turnover in five games.
Despite a 21-3 lead to start the second half, the Packers came out with four straight pass plays, the last one resulting in the Aaron Rodgers interception. After the Colts scored to cut the lead to 21-10, the Packers went three-and-out on three pass plays and were forced to punt. The Colts followed with a field goal to make it 21-13. Green Bay rushed just four times total in the third quarter, allowing Indianapolis to sit back and defend the pass, while chipping away at what had been an 18-point lead to get within 21-19 by the end of the quarter.
"We have to run the ball and have the confidence in the play caller to call the run," Sitton said.