Packers Training Camp Countdown: 3 Days

Every day until the start of camp on Friday, we'll provide one juicy nugget to whet your appetite for the return of football. We'd give you more but the CBA forbids two-a-days. Sorry. While the offense has been tremendous on third down, the defense has struggled — particularly on third-and-long.

Third down is the money down.

Offensively, it means at least another three plays, meaning more chances to get into scoring position or hit on a big play.

Defensively, it means regrouping after a missed opportunity to get off the field.

Offensively, the Green Bay Packers are about the gold standard when it comes to third-down success. From 2007 through 2012, the Packers, Saints and Patriots are the only teams with six consecutive top-10 performances. They finished ninth last season, and its third-ranked performances in 2011 (48.1 percent) and 2009 (47.0 percent) rank second and fourth in franchise annals since the 1970 merger.

Rodgers was the league's top-ranked passer on third down in 2012 — and that doesn't take into account his converting 10-of-11 scrambles on third-and-8 or less — and he's also the league's top-ranked third-down passer over the last four seasons.

In 2012, according to, Rodgers ranked ninth with a third-down conversion rate of 43.2 percent. That figure includes passes and scrambles.

Good, however, isn't good enough.

"Sacks are a part of it, but we need timely conversions in third down when you start to move the ball, so you don't fizzle out on your drive," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "We need to be better running the ball, we need to be better with yards after the catch, there's a lot of things we can do to improve."

Defensively, the Packers haven't been as consistent on third down.

In Dom Capers' four years as coordinator, the Packers finished ninth in 2009, ninth again in the championship season of 2010, 26th in the record-setting debacle of 2011 and 15th in 2012.

That's especially true with their pass defense, as the following data demonstrates.

Inexplicably, the Packers were stronger on third-and-4 than practically any other situation in 2012, according to data from the NFL's media-only stats site. Talking passes only, they allowed 33.3 percent conversions on third-and-4, compared to 38.9 percent on third-and-5, 43.8 percent on third-and-6, 38.9 percent on third-and-7, 37.5 percent on third-and-8, 38.5 percent on third-and-9 and just 15.0 percent on third-and-10.

Worst, the defense allowed 39.1 percent conversions on third-and-11 through third-and-15. Rodgers, by contrast, converted just 14.3 percent of the time in that situation.

The defense allowed the sixth-most passing first downs on third-and-7, fifth-most passing first downs on third-and-9 and third-most passing first downs on third-and-11 through third-and-15.

Last year's struggles hit home in the playoff loss at San Francisco, when the Packers allowed the 49ers to convert, in chronological order, on third-and-10 (45-yard pass to Frank Gore), third-and-8 (20-yard touchdown run by Colin Kaepernick), third-and-12 (12-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree), third-and-9 (15-yard run by Kaepernick) and third-and-10 (Kaepernick runs for 18). Also, a 14-yard completion on third-and-15 allowed the Niners to convert a fourth-and-1.

"You don't ever expect this type of thing, but I've been around the league long enough to know that when you're in a big game like that and you don't make the plays, the momentum gets rolling against you and you have a hard time in those situations," Capers said a day after the game. "That's kind of what happened to us. When you get teams in third-and-10, third-and-13, third-and-15 in this league, you've got to find a way to get off the field. It gets amplified a little bit when you've got a quarterback that can run around and buy time because that gives a chance to uncover, which happened on that first long play (to Gore)."

Packers on third down: McCarthy era

2006 - 12th on offense; fourth on defense.

2007 - Eight on offense; third on defense.

2008 - Fifth on offense; 14th on defense.

2009 - Third on offense; ninth on defense.

2010 - Eighth on offense; ninth on defense.

2011 - Third on offense; 26th on defense.

2012 - Ninth on offense; 15th on defense.

Last 10 Super Bowl champions on third down

2003 - New England (15th on offense; seventh on defense).

2004 - New England (fifth on offense; 21st on defense).

2005 - Pittsburgh (23rd on offense; 20th on defense).

2006 - Indianapolis (first on offense; 32nd on defense).

2007 - N.Y Giants (12th on offense; fifth on defense).

2008 - Pittsburgh (14th on offense; first on defense).

2009 - New Orleans (sixth on offense; 14th on defense).

2010 - Green Bay (eight on offense; ninth on defense).

2011 - N.Y. Giants (14th on offense; 17th on defense).

2012 - Baltimore (T-20th on offense; seventh on defense).

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

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