Press the urgency button for the Green Bay Packers, because if they start Sunday’s game at Seattle the way they started last week against Atlanta — in slow motion — the playoffs will get further and further away in that rear-view mirror.
Green Bay limped into the locker room last week, trailing the surprising Falcons 17-7, and although they rallied to tie the game, the result was a 27-24 loss. Afterward, the Packers talked about the first-quarter woes, when they were outgained 147-10.
Fast-forward to this week, and no question some of the focus was on starting faster, especially at Qwest Field, one of the toughest and loudest places to play on the planet for a visiting team.
“When you go on the road in a tough environment, the biggest thing is you've got to start fast,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who knows the Packers didn’t record a first down on their first two series against the Falcons. “We need to put together a four-quarter game, and that starts with the first drive.”
Seattle is 37-13 (74 percent winning percentage) at Qwest and enters the game more desperate than the Packers, who are 2-3 and one game behind NFC North-leading Chicago. The Seahawks are 1-3 and are coming off a 44-6 drubbing at the Giants, coach Mike Holmgren’s worst loss of his career.
Both teams will enter the game hoping to start fast, but part of starting fast is playing smart. Last week, the Packers had three points taken off the board early on a holding penalty on a 43-yard field goal. Mason Crosby then tried a 53-yard field goal and missed.
For the season, the first quarter is Green Bay’s lowest-scoring quarter with just 17 points. By comparison, the fourth quarter (59 points) is the biggest scoring period for the Packers.
Apparently, the urgency is good then.
The Packers need to transfer some of those points to earlier in the game, which will take the pressure off them later in games.
“We've been hurting ourselves with penalties,” wide receiver Donald Driver said. “We’ll start and have a big play, and then it gets called back for whatever reason. Our biggest thing is to start fast and not have those pre-snap penalties.”
Part of the Packers’ problem early has been balance. The running game has been slow to get going, with Ryan Grant nursing a hamstring injury early in the season. Furthermore, the offensive line just hasn’t played well enough.
It’s tough to get going when you can’t get going.
Then, you have Rodgers in his first year as a starter, so is starting slow a surprise?
“We realize we’ve got to play well, and it starts now,” Rodgers said. “We realize we have 11 games left, but it’s time to start playing the way we feel we’re capable of playing.”
The Packers can’t take their time anymore entering games. Including Sunday, the Packers’ next three games are against 2007 playoff teams — Seattle, Indianapolis and Tennessee. Then, they play Minnesota, Chicago, New Orleans and Carolina — potential playoff teams this season.
How the Packers playing during this stretch of games will determine if they make the playoffs this season.
If they continue to start games like their car is running in neutral, it’ll be a lost season. Therefore, the Packers need to put their car in drive and start driving for touchdowns, and the sooner it happens in a game, the better.
Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. He has covered the Packers since 1993. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.