The Packers are off to a glorious start to the 2011 season. A lot of elements help account for this most notably, of course, the play of Rodgers and the offense. But another key part of the Packers 7-0 start this season has been how badly they have outscored and outplayed opponents in the third quarter. In fact through these seven games, the Packers have outscored their opponents 69-10 in the third quarter.
The only team to score on the Pack in the third quarter this season was in the opener against the Saints. So in the other six games, the Packers have blanked their opponents while scoring 62 points in the third quarter.
The Packers have been most impressive in the games they trailed in at halftime. Against the Vikings, Panthers and Falcons, the Pack went into halftime with a deficit. Then they came out and outscored these three teams by a total of 45-0 in the third quarter.
What’s to account for this? Do the Packers change strategies in the second half and come up with something the other team is not prepared for? Are there adjustments made in schemes or personnel that result in such a big edge coming out of the locker room after halftime? Or are they just getting their butts chewed for poor performances in the first half, and they come out for the second half focused and hungry?
It is hard to point to any obvious changes in personnel or scheme that contribute to this fantastic performance in the third quarter. Against the Panthers, the Pack came out with the second-half kickoff and scored. Then they got a quick turnover and scored again. Then they got another turnover and scored again. And yes, yet again they got another turnover and scored again. The score went from a 13-7 deficit to a 23-13 lead within the first 10 minutes of the third quarter.
Against Atlanta, it was a 70-yard bomb to Jones that ignited the offense. Similarly, against the Vikings, Rodgers threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Jennings on the second play of the third quarter that set off the big third quarter where the Packers went from four points down to 16 points ahead.
Offensively, the Packers do like to take a few deep attempts per game to loosen up the defense. Rodgers rolls out to one side or the other as the line sets up a wall and he lets a long one fly to one of his speedy targets. This season many of those attempts have been made and completed during the third quarter.
Defensively, the Packers have been struggling a bit to pressure the quarterback and consistently stop the other team. But during the third quarter, the defense has created six turnovers in the seven games played. Conversely, the Packers have not committed a turnover in the third quarter this season.
Perhaps, there is some subtle shift in coverage schemes or defensive play-calling that has resulted in this large advantage the Packers have observed in the third quarter. The Packers coaching staff has proven it can adjust to injuries and adjust defensive and offensive strategy to the talents of the personnel in the game. Perhaps, they are also showing that even in a season where there has been some struggles overall, that the third quarter belongs to them.
Shutting out six out of seven opponents in the third quarter is an amazing record thus far. Let’s hope this trend continues and that the Pack continue to dominate the third quarter.