The Green Bay Packers have the NFL’s top-ranked scoring offense through 13 game of the 2020 season and they are second overall in yards gained per game. They have accomplished this on the strength of an MVP-caliber season by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and an All-Pro level campaign from wide receiver Davante Adams. The offensive line is also playing at an extremely high level despite numerous injuries and the running game is getting the job done when called upon.
But there is one statistic that shows the great difference for the Packers offense this season as compared to last and it demonstrates the extreme efficiency, consistency and explosiveness of the Green Bay offense in 2020: 3rd down conversions.
The Packers are hitting on a remarkable 49.7 percent of their third down conversion attempts for the season which ranks them second in the NFL, just a hair behind the Las Vegas Raiders who are presently converting 50 percent of their third down conversions.
Rodgers spoke about the big improvement the Packers have shown on third downs this season after the Packers win in Detroit this past Sunday. “Little different efficiency this year,” Rodgers explained. “Last year, we weren’t great on third down. We didn’t start games out like we did this year. Obviously, I’ve been pretty efficient through the air and taking care of the football but being aggressively opportunistic is definitely how I feel like my approach has been this season.”
The win in Detroit showcased the Packers strengths on third down this season. The Pack went 8-of-11 on third down attempts, an almost unheard of ratio of success. One big reason for the team’s success is that most of the time, the Pack finds themselves in manageable third down situations.
Of the 11 third down attempts the Packers had against the Lions, only three of the attempts were of nine yards or more. The first was a third and 10 situation and Rodgers threw an incomplete pass. The second was a third-and-14 which Rodgers converted by finding Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 21 yards. The final of the three was a third-and-nine which also resulted in an incomplete pass.
The Packers had seven chances where they needed five yards or less to pick up a first down. On those plays, third and very manageable, the Pack turned six of them into first downs that kept the drive alive.
The offense picked up first downs in several ways which is easier to accomplish in manageable situations. On third-and-four, Rodgers scrambled for five. On third-and-one, Jamaal Williams ran for two yards. On third-and-four, Rodgers found Allen Lazard for five. On third-and-goal at the six, Rodgers escaped pressure and ran for a touchdown. On third-and-three, Rodgers found tight end Robert Tonyan for 11. On third-and-one, Williams ran for four yards. And finally, on a third-and-five, Rodgers found Tonyan for six yards.
That equals two planned runs, two scrambles by the quarterback and three pass completions on the seven successful third down conversions.
The Packers offense has been diverse and varied on first-and-10 and that helps create the more manageable third-down chances. Part of the reason the Green Bay offense is coming up with third and manageable situations is a reliance on shorter passes with quicker releases. Another factor is a good mixture of runs and passes.
On 28 plays against Detroit that were first-and-10 (excluding a kneel-down at the end of the game), the Packers ran the ball 17 times for 80 yards, a healthy 4.7-yards per carry. The passing game was all short passes although a handful of them resulted in big gains like Rodgers 56-yard touchdown pass to Adams. Overall, Rodgers was 7-of-11 for 141 yards when passing on first-and-10 and one touchdown. The 28 first-down plays resulted in 221 yards or an average gain of 7.9-yards per play. Even without the 56-yard touchdown pass, the Pack still averaged 6.1-yards per play on first-and-10.
Davante Adams demonstrated the confidence the offense has right now in his postgame press conference. “I feel like we had a really good idea of how they were going play on these third downs,” Adams told reporters. “So, it was really just about executing, Aaron seeing it and getting us to plays that were really good for us. I felt like we did what we had to do and everybody made sure that they handled their part. So, when we do that, we’re pretty tough to beat.”
Head coach Matt LaFleur pointed to the ability of his players to win their matchups for keeping the offense out of third-and-long situations. “I think our guys are just doing a great job when given their opportunities to win one-on-one and they’re going out there and doing that,” LaFleur said. “I don’t think it’s just one guy. It’s been multiple guys. That’s encouraging, because if a defense wants to, they can really target and try to take an individual away and a lot of times that happens to be the guy wearing No. 17 [Davante Adams]. So, it was really encouraging to see other guys step up and make key catches and able to get first downs.”
If the Packers can keep this up, their offense will continue to efficiently gain yards and score points. And the Packers are hoping that means more wins, both in the regular season and in the playoffs.
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