Packers’ red zone woes curious

Play inside 20 not holding team back, yet
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Riding a four-game winning streak, there’s not a lot the Green Bay Packers are doing wrong.

Averaging 438.9 yards and 30.3 points per game has the Packers ranked near the top in most offensive categories.

The defense is not far behind, ranking 11th overall and fourth against the rush this season.

All that success makes one statistic more glaring: the Packers are bad in the red zone.

The red zone offense is getting touchdowns 50 percent of the time, tied for 18th in the league. The defense, meanwhile, is dead last in the league, giving up touchdowns 72.7 percent of the time.

While red zone statistics may not directly correlate to wins and losses, it suggests something is not clicking with the offensive and defensive units.

The Packers’ offense finished the 2011 and 2012 seasons ranked third overall in the red zone, converting 66.2 and 68.1 percent of the time, respectively.

After starting this season going four-for-four in the red zone against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, the Packers have since fallen way down in the statistic.

Why is Mason Crosby getting more opportunities this year?

A lot of it has to do with the injury problems. The Packers’ offensive red zone efficiency went way down with the loss of receivers James Jones, Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finely.

The Packers should improve in the red zone as players get healthy and return to the field. The emergence of rookie running back Eddie Lacy will also help, once coach Mike McCarthy adjusts his play calling to match his new weapons.

The red zone defense has been more of a systemic, long-term problem. The Packers’ defense finished the 2011 season ranked 20th in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 55.4 percent of drives that reached the 20-yard line. In 2012, the unit fell to 29th in the league, allowing touchdowns 61.7 percent of the time.

The Packers are dead last this year.

Some of the blame has to go to the pass defense. Over the last two seasons the Packers have given up about twice as many touchdowns passing as rushing. In 2011, it was three-to-one.

The Chicago Bears, for comparison sake, are about even between rushing and passing.

Teams are looking to exploit the Packers’ pass defense when they get near the goal line.

It’s hard to imagine the Packers having a lot of success in the postseason until the red zone defense improves, either by changing what it does or who does it.

For his part, McCarthy isn’t worried about it yet.

“At the end of the day, we’re playing damn good football,” McCarthy said Monday. “We’re winning games. We’re getting better as a football team. Our football team got better last night in Minnesota. We’re aware of the negative statistics, but we’re focused on the mounting positive statistics for our football team.”