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Green Bay Packers, opponents put on air show in 2011

Sep. 18, 2011
 

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Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson (87) is congratulated by teammate Greg Jennings (85) after Nelson made a reception for an 84-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

Grossed out

The six times Green Bay and its opponents have amassed more than 1,000 gross passing yards (yards lost to sacks not counted) in the first two games of a season.

Yds Year
1,471 2011 (GB=620; Opp=851)
1,195 1983 (GB=657; Opp=538)
1,137 2006 (GB=526; Opp=611)
1,067 1999 (GB=621; Opp=446)
1,061 1989 (GB=574; Opp=487)
1,046 2005 (GB=543; Opp=503)

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The Packers and their opponents are winging it.

Two weeks into the 2011 season it’s obvious that air traffic doesn’t cease with the conclusion of the stadium flyover, at least not in games involving Green Bay. No, planes merely give way to footballs which stay aloft long enough to warrant frequent flier miles for passers and receivers alike.

Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton of the Panthers combined for more than 700 passing yards in Green Bay’s 30-23 victory over Carolina. The aerial display came 10 days after Rodgers and Saints quarterback Drew Brees lit up the skies of Lambeau Field with 700-plus yards.

Joe Philbin (Green Bay) and Rod Chudzinski (Carolina) arrived at Bank of America Stadium armed with game plans. The offensive coordinators undoubtedly spent much of the past week determining how to best exploit the competition.

Perhaps both came to the same conclusion. Better to just wing it.

Green Bay and Carolina fired 76 passes at each other. This after the Packers engaged in an 84-attempt shootout with the Saints.

Rodgers completed 19 of 30 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns. Newton, a rookie making his second NFL start, hit on 28 of 46 throws for 432 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.

That’s 740 passing yards. Throw in the 731 Rodgers and Brees combined for in the opener and the resulting 1,471 yards is easily the highest total by Green Bay and its opponents in the first two games of a season.

Attempts and completions are also at an all-time high. The 160 passes attempted in the first two games is a record (154 in 2003), and the 106 completions (95 in 2005) is a new standard as well.

But yardage – rainbow spirals and deep throws – gets the blood pumping. As in Green Bay’s opener, there were a double-digit number of completions Sunday that stretched to at least 20 yards.

Rodgers and Newton nailed 11 throws of that length with Newton responsible for 8 of them. Rodgers had the longest completion, an 84-yard scoring strike to Jordy Nelson in the fourth quarter.

Five Panthers had at least one catch of more than 20 yards beginning with tight end Jeremy Shockey on the game’s opening play. Steve Smith bagged four including a 62-yarder in the fourth quarter that set up the Panthers’ final touchdown.

Seven of those long completions occurred on five drives that pierced Green Bay’s red zone. The only catch that didn’t was Smith’s 25-yarder that he fumbled away in the third quarter.

Rodgers’ other deep balls went to Greg Jennings (49 yards) for a touchdown and to tight end Jermichael Finley (39) on Green Bay’s first scoring drive.

Together the two teams averaged 8.6 yards per pass play.

Newton’s biggest two quarters were the first and fourth. He completed 10 of 12 passes for 151 yards in the opening 15 minutes and 11 of 17 for 189 yards in the closing period.

Rodgers threw for 112 yards in the third quarter when leading the Packers to 16 points. His touchdown toss to Jennings early in the second half gave Green Bay its first lead at 14-13.

When the NFL releases its statistics Wednesday, these two quarterbacks are sure to be among the leaders in passing yards. With back-to-back 300-yard outings, Rodgers has amassed 620 yards. Newton, with consecutive 400-yard efforts, has passed for 854 yards.

Rodgers’ total, while impressive, isn’t out of the ordinary. He surpassed 300 yards passing five times last year.

Newton’s take, however, is nothing short of amazing. Last year the Panthers were six games into the season before they secured 800 passing yards.

Extra points

Sunday was just the third time since 1954 that Green Bay was held to three plays in an opening quarter. The last two teams to hold them to that number were the Rams (Sept. 21, 1980) and the 49ers (Oct. 21, 1962).

Mason Crosby has made at least one field goal in each of the team’s last 10 regular-season road games. Crosby was 3-of-3 against the Panthers connecting from 37, 19 and 34 yards.

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. Email him at aegoska@sbcglobal.net.

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