No Answers on Long Distance

The Packers converted only 2-of-9 third down opportunities, and faced only one play of less than third-and-5. That's an enormous issue with the Vikings — and their top-ranked third-down defense — on the schedule next week.

With a showdown looming against Brett Favre and the Vikings next Monday in Minneapolis, Green Bay has one danger area that must be improved immediately: third-down production.

Green Bay has converted only 33 percent of its third-down opportunities through three games, including 2-for-9 in Sunday's 36-17 victory at St. Louis.

The story on Sunday was the same as the last two weeks. A combination of an ineffective running game, dropped passes, penalties and suspect pass protection continually is putting Green Bay in third-and-long situations.

Just how long has third-and-long been?

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has said the tipping point is third-and-5. On third-and-5 or less, offenses are far more likely to convert than on third-and-6 or longer.

Against the Rams, the Packers incredibly faced just one third down of less than 5 yards, and that came in the final 2 minutes, when Ryan Grant converted third-and-3 with a 7-yard run.

If the Packers can't get more consistent production on first and second down, they're going to be in for a long night at Minnesota, which uses its deafening home-field edge to rush the passer better than practically any team in the league. The Vikings have allowed opponents to convert only 22 percent of their third downs this season, tops in the NFL.

The formula on Sunday will be a recipe for disaster for the Packers next Monday.

First drive: Third-and-18, after Ryan Grant lost 1 yard on first down and Aaron Rodgers was sacked on second down. Rodgers scrambled for 4 yards on third down.

Second drive: Third-and-8, after Grant ran for 2 yards on first down and Rodgers overthrew an open Donald Driver in the end zone on second down. On third down, Rodgers was sacked.

Third down: Third-and-14, after Grant gained 1 yard on first down, Josh Sitton was called for a false start and Rodgers threw incomplete. On third down, Rodgers hit Donald Lee for 8 yards.

Fourth drive: The Packers never faced a third down, thanks to first-down gains of 4 yards (setting up a 46-yard completion on second-and-6), 12 yards, 12 yards and 5 yards (to the Rams' 1). The touchdown made it 16-0.

Fifth drive: Third-and-7, after Grant had runs of 1 and 2 yards. Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for 50 yards to convert, then connected with Driver on first down for a 21-yard touchdown and a 23-7 lead.

Sixth drive: Took a knee to end the half with a 23-14 lead.

Seventh drive: Third-and-10, after no gain by Grant and a deflected pass on second down. On third down, Rodgers threw incomplete to Driver.

Eighth drive: Third-and-10 after drops by James Jones and Jordy Nelson. On third down, Rodgers was rushed into an incompletion.

Ninth drive: Third-and-15 after holding on Scott Wells, a short completion to Grant and an incompletion. On third down, Rodgers threw incomplete to Jennings on a bomb in which it appeared the Rams should have been flagged for illegal contact.

10th drive: The Packers didn't face a third down. Back-to-back 7-yards by Grant set up a 53-yard completion to Jennings to the Rams' 17-yard line on play action. Grant was stopped for no gain on first down, and Rodgers scrambled for 12 to the Rams' 5 on second down. Grant ran for 1 yard on first-and-goal, and Rodgers scored on a quarterback draw to make it 29-17.

11th drive: Third-and-10 after a loss of 1 yard by Grant and a gain of 1 yard by DeShawn Wynn. On third down, Rodgers scrambled for 9 yards.

12th drive: The Packers didn't face a third down on a 26-yard scoring drive. Driver ran for 13 yards on an end-around, Grant ran for 3 and Rodgers hit John Kuhn for a 10-yard touchdown on second-and-7.

13th drive: Third-and-3 after runs of 2 and 5 yards by Grant. On third down, Grant ran for 7 and the first down. Runs of 3 and 8 yards by Grant picked up another first down, and the Packers ran out the clock.

In all, the Packers third-down plays averaged 10.5 yards on Sunday. Rodgers passed five times but converted only one, making him a woeful 10-of-28 (35.7 percent) for the season, according to STATS. He entered the weekend ranked 19th out of 19 quarterbacks who had at least 3.125 third-down passing attempts per game with a conversion rate of 39.1 percent (9-of-23).


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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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