Rodgers nearing NFL record for avoiding pick-6
Aaron Rodgers continues to shun the pick-6.
The Packers quarterback has thrown just one in 11 years, and his steadfast refusal to engage in a second has him on the cusp of NFL history.
Rodgers’ play has invited scrutiny in recent months. His completion percentage has taken a dive, downfield connections have diminished and his league record of six consecutive seasons with a passer rating above 100 may come to an end.
One aspect of his game hasn’t changed. The two-time MVP still steers clear of interceptions as well as anyone.
Rodgers has thrown five in 461 pass attempts this season. His interception rate of 1.08 is second only to the 1.00 of Kansas City’s Alex Smith.
His career mark of 1.58 remains the league record. That equates to a mere 62 picks in 3,936 attempts.
If there is anything Rodgers avoids more than interceptions, it’s the pick-6. He hasn’t tossed one in his last 3,086 pass attempts.
Rodgers needs 28 additional attempts without one to break Randall Cunningham’s NFL record of 3,113 straight. And if the Raiders — who haven’t returned an interception for a touchdown at home since 2006 — continue their drought, the record will be his.
Best guess: If the record falls it will tumble as the third quarter gives way to the fourth. The game won’t be stopped, the announcers will remain mum and the Packers won’t make note of it in their postgame notes ... but it’s a big deal.
Few plays in football can be as deflating as a pick-6. It’s essentially a double whammy: The victimized team not only gives up a quick score, it also squanders what may have been a promising drive of its own.
Since 1998, teams that throw at least one pick-6 in a game have a winning percentage of just .233, according to Dave Archibald of Inside the Pylon. That’s 212 winners versus 694 losers.
Spend time in research and it becomes evident that the pick-6 can bite anyone at any time. Johnny Unitas threw 16, Dan Marino 25 and Peyton Manning 27. Troy Aikman tossed 11, Drew Brees 22 and Tom Brady an even dozen.
Oilers rookie Ed Baker flipped three in the fourth quarter of a 61-17 loss to the Bengals in 1972. Matt Schaub of the Texans threw one in four consecutive games in 2013.
Even Joe Montana, the George Washington of Mount Rushmore quarterbacks, sprinkled in five among his 5,391 regular-season pass attempts.
So, those who can best avoid them deserve some recognition. Kudos to Cunningham and Rodgers.
Cunningham threw his first pick-6 as a rookie with Philadelphia in 1985. Johnnie Poe of the Saints intercepted his pass intended for wide receiver Gregg Garrity and raced 40 yards for a TD.
His second pick-6 came courtesy of the Broncos’ Mike Harden on Sept. 21, 1986. The theft occurred on the quarterback’s first pass attempt of the game.
It would be Cunningham’s last pick-6 until 1994.
The third-leading passer in Eagles history finished 1986 (his final 202 attempts) without a pick-6. From 1987 through 1993 he fired 406, 560, 532, 465, 4, 384 and 110 passes without one.
Cunningham almost added another year to his total, but Darren Woodson got to him on his 451st attempt in 1994. The Cowboys defensive back wheeled 94 yards with a fourth-quarter steal to seal a 31-13 Dallas victory on Dec. 4.
Cunningham threw two more pick-6’s to give him five in a 16-year career. Both happened in 1999 while with the Vikings.
Rodgers didn’t get stung until his fifth season. His first 849 passes as a pro were pick-6 free.
That streak ended during a 38-28 loss to Tampa Bay in November 2009. Green Bay lost in part because Rodgers (57.6 passer rating) threw an uncharacteristic three interceptions, including a fourth-quarter pick-6.
Tanard Jackson produced the gift touchdown. With less than a minute remaining, the safety waylaid a pass intended for receiver Donald Driver and returned it 35 yards for a score.
As any good quarterback would, Rodgers shrugged it off. None of his final 286 attempts that season found their way to the wrong end zone.
Rodgers has not encountered a pick-6 since. In his last six seasons, he has tossed 475, 502, 552, 290, 520 and 461 passes without incident.
That’s 3,086 and counting. He needs 28 more for the record.
The Raiders might cooperate. They haven’t produced a pick-6 on their home turf since Nnamdi Asomugha and Chris Carr both grabbed one in a 20-13 triumph over the Steelers on Oct. 29, 2006.
Randall Cunningham threw 146 TD passes during his run of 3,113 attempts without a pick-6. Rodgers has tossed 209 TD passes since his only pick-6.
Overall: Green Bay leads 6-5.
At O.co Coliseum: Tied 1-1.
Packers: Aaron Rodgers (79-37 overall; 1-0 vs. Oakland).
Raiders: Derek Carr (9-20; 0-0 vs. Green Bay).
Eric Goska is a Packers historian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.