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Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons feature pair of dynamic duos

Jan. 14, 2011
 
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) celebrates with quarterback back Matt Ryan after White's touchdown in the final minute of their Nov. 11 game against the Baltimore Ravens in Atlanta. Atlanta won 26-21.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) celebrates with quarterback back Matt Ryan after White's touchdown in the final minute of their Nov. 11 game against the Baltimore Ravens in Atlanta. Atlanta won 26-21. / File/AP
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CONNECTING FLIGHTS

Quarterback-receiver tandems that have teamed up for at least 20 TD receptions since 2008.
No. Tandem
26 Matt Ryan-Roddy White
26 Philip Rivers-Antonio Gates
24 Aaron Rodgers-Greg Jennings
23 Kurt Warner-Larry Fitzgerald
22 Matt Schaub-Andre Johnson
21 Drew Brees-Marques Colston
21 Peyton Manning-Reggie Wayne
20 Drew Brees-Lance Moore

More

Saturday night’s divisional playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons will showcase two of the top scoring quarterback-receiving combinations of recent years.

Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings of the Packers and Matt Ryan and Roddy White of the Falcons are among the best at teaming up to find the end zone. Both duos set their career high in that regard this season.

Each of those four athletes is talented in his own right. But having that special connection with an equally gifted teammate makes each all the more dangerous.

Ryan at quarterback and White at receiver have been dissecting secondaries since Ryan arrived as a first-round pick in 2008. The pair has hooked up for 26 regular-season touchdowns.

Rodgers and Jennings aren’t far behind. The two have combined for 24 touchdowns over the same span.

Those totals rank first and third among NFL teammates. San Diego’s Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates (26 touchdowns) round out the top three.

White has been well utilized since the Falcons selected him in the first round in 2005. His 430 career catches are second behind the 573 of Terance Mathis on the team’s all-time receiving list.

For as well as he has played, his three best years (88, 85 and 115 receptions) have been his most recent, those with Ryan at the helm. White finished among the top 10 receivers in both 2008 and 2009, and this year he led the league.

Jennings has caught his share of passes since arriving in Green Bay as a second-round draft choice. He emerged as the Packers’ deep threat during the team’s playoff run in 2007.

But he, like White, has seen his career take off with a young quarterback behind center. With Rodgers throwing to him, Jennings has gone over 1,000 yards receiving in each of his last three seasons.

Receivers are ranked in a number of ways: catches, yards, average per reception. Quarterbacks are slotted as well: yards, completions, passer rating.

But in a year in which the NFL set a record for touchdown passes thrown (751), lighting up the scoreboard can’t be overlooked as a measure of effectiveness.

The end zone has been a second home to White and Jennings with Ryan and Rodgers at the controls. In the last three years, Ryan and White have collaborated on 7, 9 and 10 touchdown passes. Rodgers and Jennings have teamed up for 9, 4 and 11.

Season by season, those numbers may not appear so great. In fact, neither pair has ever led the league in touchdown production in a single season. (The Chiefs’ Matt Cassel and receiver Dwayne Bowe were No. 1 in 2010 with 15 TDs.)

But the four who will take the field Saturday night show up week in and week out. Combined they’ve missed just three games since 2008 (Rodgers 1; Ryan 2).

Consistency is on their side. It’s one reason their output stands among the best.

These two sets of touchdown twins have met twice during the regular season, once in 2008 and once this season. In the first go-round, both White (8 catches-132 yards) and Jennings (4-87) snagged a touchdown pass as Atlanta edged Green Bay 27-24. In the second encounter, Jennings had better production (5-119) than White (5-49), but neither scored and the Falcons again prevailed in a close one, 20-17.

Perhaps the most significant difference between these pass pals is the record of their teams in games in which they join forces for a touchdown. The Packers are merely 10-10 when Rodgers-Jennings score, but the Falcons are an impressive 17-4 (11-1 at home) when the combo of Ryan and White strikes pay dirt.

Extra point

Since 2008 the top touchdown scoring receivers (regardless of quarterback) are Larry Fitzgerald (31 TDs), Randy Moss (29), Calvin Johnson (29), White (28), Bowe (26), Gates (26), Andre Johnson (25) and Jennings (25).

Postseason series

Overall: Series tied 1-1

At the Georgia Dome: First meeting

Starting quarterbacks

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (1-1 overall; 0-0 vs. Atlanta)

Falcons: Matt Ryan (0-1; 0-0 vs. Green Bay)

Once a Falcon, now a Packer

Safety Charlie Peprah (2009) is a former Falcon. Running back Dmitri Nance was on the Falcons’ practice squad earlier this season.

Once a Packer, now a Falcon

There are no former Falcons on the Packers’ roster.

Eric Goska is a Green Bay 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 egoska@sbcglobal.net.

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