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Kicking it: Packers prefer to defer opening possession

The SportsXchange

Wide receiver Jordy Nelson spoke for his teammates after practice Thursday when he proclaimed, "Guys are ready to go."

With the bulk of their prep work and three days of practices behind them, the Packers will hop their chartered plane Friday afternoon and fly to San Francisco. Once there, they will have about 24 hours of downtime before having to arrive at Candlestick Park for the NFC divisional playoff game against the 49ers on Saturday night.

"Obviously, we played them Week 1 (a 30-22 win by the 49ers at Green Bay), so it's been a long time from there," Nelson said. "They gave us our first loss, so we want to get that back and keep it moving forward. We're getting closer and closer to the goal. As that comes, the energy and anticipation builds."

Depending on how the toss of the coin at midfield goes moments before the game, Nelson and his comrades with Green Bay's offense may have to wait a little longer to start playing.

The Packers' captains will get to make the call of "heads" or "tails" with them as the visiting team. Should they make the right call, the probability is head coach Mike McCarthy will put his defense on the field first.

Through 17 games this season, Green Bay has won the coin toss eight times. In all but one of those instances, the Packers deferred taking the football until the second half.

"To defer, there's a couple elements to it," McCarthy said. "Number one, you obviously look at the first drive but hopefully have the opportunity to score going in(to halftime) and you obviously have the ball coming out (for the second half)."

Akin to the two-for-one situations basketball teams sometimes look to get in maximizing possessions with the shot clock at the end of tight games, the Packers have been highly effective with how they have played with the football in hand going into halftime and coming out of the break.

They have deferred after winning the coin toss three times in their last four games.

Green Bay strung together touchdowns late in the first half and in the first series of the second half in the Dec. 16 victory at Chicago that clinched the NFC North title for the Packers. They did the same in last Saturday's wild-card game against Minnesota, forging a 24-3 lead in an eventual 24-10 win.

"Scoring going in and going out helped," McCarthy said of the last game.

The previous week in the regular-season finale at Minnesota, a 37-34 Vikings win, the Packers kicked a field goal to end the first half and started the second half with a touchdown drive.

Even if the 49ers win the coin toss Saturday and decide to take the ball right away, as they did in their Week 1 triumph at Lambeau Field, the Packers won't mind waiting to get the offense on the field.

Green Bay has struggled out of the gate anyhow, scoring all of 21 points (three touchdowns) in its first possession of games. The Packers have been shut out from scoring in initial drives the last five games, during which they produced only six first downs and 101 yards.

In sharp contrast, Green Bay has scored 48 points (six touchdowns, two field goals) in its first series of the second half. The Packers offense has put points on the board in its first possession after halftime the past six games - and scored a touchdown in each of the last five outings, during which it amassed 21 first downs and 373 yards.

"The ability to score going in and coming out, that's a huge momentum swing and, obviously, statistically holds up to be a very favorable situation offense that you want to convert," McCarthy said.
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