Packers with zero answers for first half struggles and none appear to be coming

DENVER, COLORADO - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Matt LaFleur looks on in the second half of the game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field At Mile High on October 22, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Matt LaFleur looks on in the second half of the game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field At Mile High on October 22, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

For the last four games now, the Green Bay Packers offense has put itself in a first half hole that, outside of a miraculous fourth quarter comeback against New Orleans, they’ve been unable to dig themselves out of.

In the last four first halves of action, the Packers have been out scored 63 to 6, which includes being shutout in Denver by what is statistically the league’s worst defense this season.

"“I think critical errors in these situations,” said Jordan Love postgame. “It’s on everybody. Not starting the game fast. Not putting up points quickly, it comes back to bite us in the end. We’re trying to do everything we can to fight and claw and I think everyone does that. The effort is always there. Everybody’s fighting. Everybody’s straining. But, like I said, not putting up points in the first half is coming back to bite us.”"

The Packers lead the NFL in average second half points per game with 17.3. It’s that ability to somewhat turn things around that has even put them in a position to win their matchups against New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Denver. However, as Love pointed out, the first half deficits that they are putting themselves in are proving to be too much to overcome, especially for the youngest offense in football.

Obviously, only putting up six points in the span of 120 game time minutes is a huge red flag. But the truly concerning aspects of this that illustrates that things may not be turning around any time soon are that the same issues which have plagued the Packers for a month are largely still there and, unfortunately, so many things are going wrong right now that there isn’t just one or two things to focus on.

When Matt LaFleur stands at the podium and says all 11 players have to be better and he has to do a better job as a play caller of putting his players in a position to be successful, to a degree, that is coach speak. However, it’s also the Packers’ current reality.

Outside of the Denver game, the run game has failed to get going this season and the offensive line in pass protection has been trending downwards the last three weeks. Pass catchers are running the wrong routes, struggling with physical play and not making contested catches. Love has been inaccurate and his decision-making is regressing, as he looks more like a quarterback who is pressing trying to make a big play.

"“It’s never just one thing,” said LaFleur, “in terms of you could look at a lot of things. Are we getting the stuff dialed up at the right time versus the right looks? There’s a lot of factors that go into. Are we getting the protection that we need when the looks are there? And ultimately, are we winning on routes? So it’s never just one man’s fault. As a play caller I feel 100 percent responsible for when it’s not working. So obviously very disappointed with just the whole process.”"

As a result of all these issues, along with self-inflicted penalties being a factor, the Green Bay offense is routinely facing long down and distances, which puts them in predictable passing situations. When one-dimensional, the defense has the advantage. There is also only so much that can be done from a play call standpoint, and the passing game isn’t anywhere near consistnet enough to shoulder this playmaking burden.

Another contributor to the Packers’ offensive woes are that without defenses fearing the deep ball, they are shrinking the field and playing closer to the line of scrimmage. This then makes moving the ball through short area throws or over the middle all the more difficult for the offense. Against Denver, we saw a greater emphasis from Green Bay on these shorter throws, which led to competed passes, but the conservative approach did not help with moving the ball and scoring points. With limited YAC potential, it’s a tough way to live when the 10-plus play drives are regularly required to get into the red zone.

Some of it is execution and some of it is play calling, but LaFleur has been unable to find ways to make this group consistently competitive.

It’s pretty easy to see what the problems are, and at the root of it all, there is zero consistency from snap to snap on this Packers’ offense—which, in part, is what you sign up for with such a young unit. The big question, however, is how does Green Bay fix this? But that answer continues to elude LaFleur and Co.

When asked after the game what progress was made coming out of the bye week, LaFleur replied with “obviously zero.” Then when asked why that’s the case, he said “that’s a great question.”

Right now, this is a coach and a team searching for answers. One of either having a strong run game to lean on or a downfield passing attack that can help spread the defense out will go a long ways in creating opportunities elsewhere for the offense, and potentially give them something to hang their hat on, so to speak.

However, it’s not as if LaFleur and the Packers don’t know this. Again, the question goes back to how do they get consistent execution from all 11 players on the field? Until then, things aren’t going to improve, or at least not for an extended period of time.

"“There’s a lot of things to takeaway,” said Love. “Offensively, it’s execution. Limiting the penalties. We’ve got to find a way to limit those penalties. A lot of it is pre-snap stuff. A couple false starts. I think we’ve just got to have more urgency to start the game. And we’ve got to find a way to put up points. We’ve got to find a way to be better, honestly.”"