With Mike McCarthy coaching and Aaron Rodgers quarterbacking, the Green Bay Packers have fielded one of the best offenses in the NFL.
A major reason for that success has been the Packers’ success on third down.
Last season, Green Bay ranked third in the NFL with a third-down success rate of 47.2 percent. It was the fourth-best conversion rate in franchise history. Rodgers has been the quarterback for three of the top five.
As you’d expect, that success showed up on the scoreboard. The Packers led the NFL with 30.4 points per game.
For the Packers, “third-and-long” was a meaningless phrase. On third-down plays requiring 6 or more yards, the Packers converted a league-high 39.6 percent of the time. On third-down plays requiring 10-plus yards, a circumstance in which many teams are content to run a screen or draw and punt, Green Bay moved the chains a league-high 36.5 percent of the time. That was better than six teams’ overall third-down rate.
It helps, obviously, to have Rodgers running the show. He’s got the accuracy to fit the ball into a tight window and the mobility to either extend the play or simply scramble to get the required yardage. Because of that, the Packers have been a top-10 team on third down in each of his seasons as the starter.
Last season, Rodgers completed 81-of-134 passes for 1,228 yards with 15 touchdowns, two interceptions and a league-high 121.7 passer rating on third down. Even by his standards, that was big-time production. Since 2009, he’s been the NFL’s best third-down quarterback with a top-ranked 112.7 rating (Tom Brady’s a distant second at 101.2), second-ranked touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4.77-to-1 (62 touchdowns, 13 interceptions) and a top-ranked 9.15 yards per attempt.
As went Rodgers, so went the Packers. In games in which he had a third-down passer rating of at least 104.0, the Packers went 10-0. He riddled the Bears with three third-down touchdown passes in Week 10 and went 10-of-13 for 184 yards and a touchdown in the marquee victory over New England.
It’s not just passing in which Rodgers has made a difference. On third-down runs requiring 2 or more yards (filtered that way at Pro-Football-Reference.com in hopes of weeding out most of the quarterback sneaks), only Carolina’s Cam Newton (14) and Seattle’s Russell Wilson (11) picked up more first downs than Rodgers (nine) among all players (not just quarterbacks) last season.
Dating to 2008, when Rodgers moved into the starting lineup, Newton has a league-high 69 conversions on third-and-2-plus, with Rodgers next with 53 and nobody else with more than Maurice Jones-Drew’s 40. Extending it to third-and-5-plus, Newton leads with 37 conversions, followed by Rodgers with 33. Jay Cutler is a distant third with 26 as only five players had more than 20 conversions. Only Colin Kaepernick (four) has more third-and-5-plus rushing touchdowns than Rodgers (tied with four others with three).
Third-and-5-plus runs in 2014
|Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay||7|
|Colin Kaepernick||San Francisco||6|
|Alex Smith||Kansas City||5|
|Geno Smith||N.Y. Jets||5|
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.