Packers’ passing futility nearly unprecedented

Eric Goska
For Press-Gazette Media
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The term mismatch implies the presence of two parties.

Football fans could be forgiven for believing only one team took the field Sunday night in Denver, so one-sided was the affair.

The Denver Broncos demonstrated their superiority at nearly every turn in defeating the Green Bay Packers 29-10 at Sports Authority Field. Most noticeable was the disparity between the passing attacks, a difference so vast as to be nearly unmatched in Packers history.

Payton Manning passed for 340 yards on 29 attempts and wasn’t sacked. Aaron Rodgers threw for 77 yards on 22 attempts and was dumped three times for 27 yards in losses.

For Denver, that equated to a robust net average per pass play of 11.7 yards. For Green Bay, a paltry 2.0, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in Titletown since 1991.

Packers need to adjust on the fly

The difference between the two numbers (9.7) is huge. Only twice in the last 82 seasons had the Packers been on the short end of a larger gap.

Readers of this column knew Denver’s defense was holding opponents to a league-low 4.67 net yards per pass play. What no one could have known was the extent to which Denver would neutralize one of the league’s better passing offenses.

Only two of Rodgers’ 14 completions gained 10 or more yards. His long was a 17-yard connection with Randall Cobb late in the third quarter that resulted in the Packers’ third and final first down by passing.

After Mason Crosby’s 56-yard field goal cut Denver’s lead to 17-10, the Broncos sacked Rodgers once on three straight drives. The second sack resulted in a safety that gave Denver its final two points.

Rodgers became the 23rd Packers passer — and the first since Brett Favre in 2003 — to attempt 20 or more passes in a game and fail to break 100 yards. If it’s any consolation, his rating of 69.7 is the best in team history for such an unproductive outing.

Meanwhile, 16 of Manning’s 21 completions went for 10 or more yards. He struck six times for 20 or more.

Manning’s two longest throws — a 47-yarder to Demaryius Thomas and a 32-yarder to Virgil Green — together gained more yards than Rodgers managed all night.

Sunday was Manning’s second outing of more than 300 yards against the Packers. He had 393 in a 45-31 win with the Colts in 2004.

The passing game always has been a hallmark of the Packers. With Favre and then Rodgers at the helm, it has seen far more ups than downs.

Frustration builds for Packers offense

In each of the last eight seasons, Green Bay has finished with a higher net yards per pass than its opponents. Only the Steelers (11) have a longer streak.

Since the arrival of Mike McCarthy in 2006, the Packers have produced the better rate in 101 of 151 regular-season games. The team has won 87 of those contests.

Before Sunday, a McCarthy team never had been outperformed by more than 5.9 yards. That occurred during Rodgers’ first year as a starter when he was upstaged by Drew Brees, who threw for 323 yards on just 26 attempts.

The 11.36 yards per attempt by the Saints that day (Brees was sacked once for five yards and Lance Moore also had an attempt) had been the greatest by an opponent during the McCarthy era. Manning and the Broncos (11.72) changed that.

Only twice before have the Packers been subjected to an imbalance greater than the 9.7 that resulted in Denver. On Oct. 5, 1941, the Cardinals’ Ray Mallouf, Johnny Clement and Marshall Goldberg combined for 195 yards passing on just eight attempts (24.37 yards per attempt). Green Bay’s Cecil Isbell, Tony Canadeo and Hal Van Every teamed for 71 yards passing on 18 tries (3.94), a difference of 20.43.

Fourteen years later, Otto Graham, George Shaw and the Browns stormed to 229 yards on 17 pass plays (14.65). The Packers, behind Tobin Rote and Charlie Brackins, mustered but 22 yards on 24 plays (0.92), outgunned by 13.73.

Extra point

Denver’s defense is allowing 4.42 net yards per pass play, a rate that, if it stands, would be the fifth best of the 16-game era behind the 1982 Dolphins (4.03), the 2008 Steelers (4.30), the 1992 Saints (4.35) and the 1979 Buccaneers (4.36).

Passed by

Since 1933, the seven games in which opponents have outperformed the Packers by more than eight yards in net yards per pass play.

Diff. ... Team ... Date ... Result

20.43 ... Cardinals ... Oct. 5, 1941 ... 14-13 win

13.73 ... Browns ... Oct. 23, 1955 ... 41-10 loss

9.72 ... Broncos ... Nov. 1, 2015 ... 29-10 loss

8.84 ... Vikings ... Oct. 5, 1998 ... 37-24 loss

8.11 ... Chiefs ... Dec. 10, 1989 ... 21-3 loss

8.07 ... Buccaneers ... Sept. 13, 1992 ... 31-3 loss

8.01 ... Cowboys ... Nov. 26, 1970 ... 16-3 loss

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