Offense Provides Fireworks in Domes

Playing inside a dome is supposed to be a challenge ... unless you're Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Green Bay's offense thrives in the great indoors, as evidenced by his 13-game numbers and last year's playoffs. Rodgers does his best to explain why.

There's no place like ... dome?

If road games are supposed to be hard on a visiting quarterback, dome games should be downright impossible.

Instead, Aaron Rodgers plays as if a game in a domed stadium is nothing more than a seven-on-seven drill inside the Don Hutson Center.

In 13 career games in domed stadiums (including playoffs), Rodgers' numbers are practically off the charts. His passer rating is 111.5, well ahead of second-place Drew Brees (102.8), since Rodgers took command of the Packers' offense in 2008. He's thrown for 3,738 yards — an average of 287.5 per game despite sustaining a concussion during the second quarter at Detroit last season — on 67.9 percent accuracy. He's thrown 28 touchdown passes against six interceptions, with his interception percentage of 1.4 also topping all quarterbacks in dome games since 2008.

"No wind and good tack on the ball, comfortable footing. I think all three of those things really help," Rodgers said on Wednesday.

Rodgers has topped 300 yards in eight of his 13 indoor starts, including 366 yards at Atlanta in the divisional playoffs and 304 yards against Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl, with three touchdowns and no interceptions in each game.

Of his top four single-game yardage totals, two have come in domes: 423 yards in the 2009 playoff loss at Arizona and 384 yards in a loss at Minnesota about three months earlier.

The same factor that Rodgers cited — footing — helps his receivers, too, allowing them to run precise routes and get in and out of their breaks with explosiveness.

"I think we're a team that has a lot of speed," Rodgers said. "I wouldn't say we're built for an indoor team because we play outdoors, but we have a lot of speed at our skill positions."

The numbers transcend Rodgers. While Rodgers is 7-6 in dome games, coach Mike McCarthy is 12-6 — a perfect 5-0 under Brett Favre, with Rodgers' win at Detroit in his second professional start making the coach a perfect 6-for-6.

While dome stadiums are notoriously loud and make any verbal communication at the line of scrimmage practically impossible, the Packers have performed at an exceptional level. Under McCarthy, the Packers average 30.7 points and 379.2 yards in domes compared to 25.0 points and 360.3 yards in all outdoors games.

"We better be good on Sunday," Rodgers said of the execution. "That's a loud place to play, especially early in the game. I remember last season down there, the first possession — actually the play that I hit Greg kind of back to the goal line and he ran for about 30 yards and fumbled — that was about as loud as I've heard. That was right up there with any third down in the Metrodome. We know it's going to be tough. we're just going to have to have good communication with our interior three guys and hope the tackles get off on the snap count, as well."

One of those guards, T.J. Lang, started at left tackle during the 2009 game at Minnesota and played the second half of the 2010 game at Detroit at left guard.

"I think Atlanta's the loudest environment," Lang said. "For me, the first series out there, it's making sure I get settled in nicely and don't jump offsides," Lang said. "Make sure the communication is there and the focus level is there and the concentration. I'm not real worried about it right now. We just want to nip it in the butt early in the game. Don't give the crowd anything else to cheer about."

Doing his best to get the offense ready, McCarthy has crowd noise blaring through speakers in the Hutson Center during some of the 11-on-11 drills.

"We played down there in the regular season last year and then went back for the playoff game, and it was significantly louder," McCarthy said. "You could tell the first series, it was probably close to the Metrodome — and that's about as loud as it gets. That's what we're preparing for. We're preparing for the playoff-type noise level. So, it definitely effects the way you prepare. We did crowd noise today in our third-down period."

Really, though, the Packers' dome success parallels their road success. Under McCarthy, the Packers rank eighth in the NFL with a winning percentage of .548 in road games. Of that 23-19 record, the Packers are 2-0 this season — not to mention 3-0 in last year's playoffs.

"t's a road mentality, which I think Mike has always set a good schedule and a good frame of mind for the players for those road trips," Rodgers said, "approach it like a business trip and giving us time kind of to ourselves, but also keeping us focused. Other than that, I think it's just execution."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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