The Green Bay Packers (1-1) and the Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) will square off this weekend in the Jungle, and the points of emphasis for the Packers in practice this week are mental and fourth quarter production.
“Two weeks in a row, we haven’t performed in all three phases [in the fourth quarter],” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said after the team’s 38-20 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday. “Our defense didn’t allow the Redskins’ offense to convert on a third down until it was 31-0. To play at the level we performed at for a large part of the game looks worse on the stat sheet than how the football game was dictated. That is why we play four quarters and that is why we finish. I feel our football team has a lot of growth, but our mental performance isn’t close to what it needs to be.”
In two games this season, the Packers have been outscored 26-7 in the fourth quarter. The Bengals have kept games close all season, as they have failed to trail by no more than seven points at any moment this season. The Packers must perform well in the fourth quarter, because the odds are that Sunday will be a tight game all the way until the very end.
To echo McCarthy’s words, he is absolutely correct that the Packers need to finish games in prettier fashion. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has had another fantastic start to the season, completing 69.6 percent of his passes for a league-best 813 yards, throwing seven touchdowns and one interception while compiling an astonishing 127.2 passer rating. In the fourth quarter, however, Rodgers has been a different quarterback through two games, completing 53.3 percent of his passes for 154 yards while compiling an 89.3 passer rating.
The Packers didn’t trail once against the Redskins on Sunday, but they trailed often in the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. When trailing at Candlestick Park, Rodgers completed only 54.5 percent of his passes for 261 yards, threw three touchdowns and one interception, while compiling a 102.7 passer rating.
Rodgers’ lone start against the Bengals in his career was one he’d probably like to forget, as he completed only 21 of 39 passes for 261 yards and threw one touchdown, while compiling an 83.4 passer rating in a 31-24 loss at Lambeau Field.
If the Packers want to improve in the fourth quarter, their defense will have to limit their opponents’ scoring opportunities. If the defense does its job, the fate of Sunday’s game will rely heavily on the shoulders of Rodgers, as usual.