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Green Bay Packers establish consistent pattern in losses

Oct. 18, 2010
 
Take away an 86-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings and the Green Bay Packers' gaudy 6 yards-per-play average drops to under 5.
Take away an 86-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings and the Green Bay Packers' gaudy 6 yards-per-play average drops to under 5. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

Deep six

Consecutive losses in which the Packers have averaged six or more yards a play in each game.

No. Year
3 1984 (Weeks 6-8)
2 2010 (Weeks 5-6)
2* 1951 (Weeks 9-10)

*From 1947 to 1951, yards lost attempting to pass were not figured into net passing yardage. These two games would not qualify for this list by today’s standards.

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“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of losing teams.”

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That’s not quite Ralph Waldo Emerson, but the Green Bay Packers aren’t quite Super Bowl material. Judging from their last two outings, much of the consistency they’ve produced is negative in nature and has contributed to their letting slip two games that were ripe for the taking.

For a second week in a row, Green Bay stumbled in overtime, this time succumbing 23-20 to the visiting Miami Dolphins. For the second week in a row, the Packers lost on a field goal after their opposition had a short field to negotiate. And for the second week in a row, the Packers averaged better than six yards a play but came up lacking on the scoreboard.

It’s becoming a familiar story.

With its defense limping because of injury, Green Bay is leaning more than usual on its offense. That unit again generated lots of yards, but not enough points.

Sunday at Lambeau Field, Aaron Rodgers called 59 plays resulting in 359 yards for an average of 6.08 yards per play. While the Dolphins generated more offense (381 yards), their average per play on 78 snaps was not as explosive (4.88).

A week ago in Washington, Rodgers directed 67 plays that led to 427 yards (6.37 yards per play).That average was also better than what the competition could do as the Redskins picked up 373 yards on 75 plays (4.97).

Averaging better than six yards a pop usually leads to victory. Prior to these last two games, Mike McCarthy’s Packers were 21-6 in games in which they equaled or surpassed that number.

Packers statistics  |   Other NFL statistics  |  Standings  |  Matchups/Odds

More than 25 years have passed since the Packers lost consecutive games in which they averaged better than six yards a play. In 1984, Forrest Gregg’s club lost three in a row despite a proficient offense: 34-28 to the Chargers (7.55 yards per play), 17-14 to the Broncos (6.22) and 30-24 to the Seahawks (6.22).

So on paper, Green Bay’s average appears good. A closer look reveals the numbers might be inflated.

Against the Dolphins, Rodgers and wide receiver Greg Jennings hooked up for an 86-yard touchdown and a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter. It was the longest pass and catch of either player’s professional career.

In Washington, running back Brandon Jackson ripped off a 71-yard run that set up the game’s first touchdown. It was 25 yards longer than any other carry during his four years in Green Bay.

Take away Jennings’ score and the Packers averaged 4.71 yards per play. Erase Jackson’s gain and Green Bay managed 5.39 yards per play.

Big plays (20 or more yards) have not been lacking; the Packers got five against both Washington and Miami. But big plays can lead to quick scores and put a defense back on the field.

An inability to convert on third down will do that as well. Green Bay’s success rate on third down Sunday (3 of 13) was 23.1 percent. It was 15.4 percent (2 of 13) at FedEx Field.

For Mike McCarthy, it’s the first time his team has fallen below 25 percent in back-to-back weeks in 70 games as coach.

Rodgers, whose 133.5 passer rating on third down led the league last year, has been well below that lately. He’s compiled a 50.0 rating in his last two starts and earned a mark of 31.5 against the Dolphins.

The Packers gained just 63 yards on 13 third-down plays. It was even worse in Washington where the team managed 21 yards on third down.

With Green Bay’s offense spending more time than usual on the sidelines, the Dolphins reeled off 78 plays and the Redskins ran 75. Throw in the Lions’ total (78 plays) from Oct. 3 and the Packers have allowed three consecutive opponents to run 75 or more plays for the first time since 1991.

Yes, the Packers have created a consistency of sorts these past two weeks. It’s the kind of consistency that can make teams look foolish.

Eric Goska is a Press-Gazette correspondent, a Packers historian and the author of “Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness,” a statistical history of the Packers. E-mail him at aegoska@sbcglobal.net.

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