Goska: Passer ratings soaring vs. Packers

Eric Goska
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Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) attempts a pass against the Green Bay Packers during the second half at FedEx Field.

A fever of 105 is a sign that something is wrong.

So, too, is a defensive passer rating elevated to that level.

The Green Bay Packers have been stricken with the latter two games into their brutal November road trip. Exposed first in Tennessee, the Packers again had no antidote for a quarterback compiling an impressive passer rating against them in Washington as it succumbed 42-24 Sunday night.

Green Bay, shorthanded due to injury, has endured alarming back-to-back breakdowns in pass defense. Near-record yields to Tennessee and Washington have propelled its defensive passer rating (DPR) to an unhealthy 105.5.

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Being exploited to that extent is a relatively recent development. Entering this season, only six teams had given up a rating of 105 or more in one season. All had losing records.

The 1982 Houston Oilers (107.3) were the first. The team went 1-8 during that strike-shortened season.

The 2015 New Orleans Saints (116.1) were the most recent. They managed seven wins despite a DPR that swelled beyond the previous record (110.9) of the winless 2008 Detroit Lions.

The three others subjected to high ratings were the 2009 Lions (109.0), the 2013 Oakland Raiders (105.1) and the 2014 Washington team (108.3).

For the time being, at least, Green Bay can throw in with that motley crew. This season, the Packers and Lions (108.5) bring up the rear.

Tennessee and Washington were anything but hospitable to Green Bay. Both took full advantage of the Packers' banged-up secondary.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota (19 of 26 for 295 yards and four touchdowns) generated a passer rating of 149.8 in Tennessee’s 47-25 victory. Quarterback Kirk Cousins (21 of 30 for 375 yards and three scores) compiled a mark of 145.8 at FedEx Field, where Washington won by 18.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) throws a pass against the Green Bay Packers at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.

Together, they compiled a completion percentage of 71.4, an average gain per attempt of 12.0 and a touchdown percentage of 12.5 for a passer rating of 151.0. That’s not too far south of the NFL-maximum 158.3.

Though both Mariota and Cousins came up short of 150, their combined total exceeded that number. Limits built into the passer rating system make it possible for the composite to exceed the sum of its parts.

Only twice before have quarterbacks in consecutive games hit the Packers harder. Both were low points in team history.

The first occurred in 1980. Gary Danielson (127.7) made good on 11 of 17 throws for 246 yards and a TD as Detroit cruised 29-7. Then, fresh off a Super Bowl appearance, Vince Ferragamo (150.6) hit on 15 of 19 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns as the Rams romped 51-21.

Danielson and Ferragamo combined for a passer rating of 151.2. That served as the record for 18 years.

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On Oct. 5, 1998, Randy Moss visited Lambeau Field for the first time. The rookie plucked five passes out of the night sky for 190 yards and two scores as he helped Randall Cunningham to a rating of 145.8 in Minnesota’s 28-14 win.

Ten days later, Charlie Batch riddled the Packers in the Silverdome. He completed 16 of 19 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns to earn a rating of 149.6 as the Lions prevailed 27-20.

Cunningham and Batch combined for a record 152.2. Even so, if either Mariota or Cousins had thrown one fewer incompletion, they would have surpassed it at 153.0.

Passers have earned ratings of 100 or more against the Packers (minimum 15 attempts) for decades. John Robbins of the Cardinals (105.2) was the first to do so on a Wednesday in Buffalo in September 1938.

In all, the feat has been accomplished 195 times by 125 passers. Fran Tarkenton (six) had the most 100-plus outings.

While attaining a rating of 100 becomes more common, pulling off a 140 remains noteworthy. Only 18 passers have done it against the Packers with no repeat offenders.

By becoming the latest to better 140, Cousins boosted his season’s rating by about four points. Mariotta increased his by more than five.

Mariota launched four completions that measured more than 30 yards. He spread the wealth as tight end Delanie Walker (41), running back DeMarco Murray (35) and receivers Tajae Sharpe (33) and Rishard Matthews (32) each nabbed one.

Cousins and his receivers probed deeper. He had three completions of more than 40 yards with Pierre Garcon (70) and Jamison Crowder (53, 44) each stretching the field.

Mariota and Cousins excelled on third down. Mariota (154.4) was 8 of 11 for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Cousins (158.3) connected on 8 of 10 for 197 yards and two scores.

Their accuracy helped Tennessee (7 of 14) and Washington (9 of 14) consistently convert on third down.

How much damage did the two quarterbacks inflict? Before hitting the road, Green Bay’s DPR was 94.3. Now, it’s 11.2 points higher.

The Packers have never been in this position so late in a season. Their closest call was a 104.6 after 10 weeks in 1986.

Thirty years ago, Green Bay rebounded from that to post a DPR of 85.4. This year, the team has six games left in which to regroup and avoid breaking the franchise record of 99.1 set in 2004.

Fever pitch

Highest defensive passer ratings surrendered to opposing quarterbacks (minimum 15 attempts each) in consecutive regular-season games by the Packers.

Year (Gs)        QB-Rate                      QB-Rate                Comb. Rate

1998 (5-6)       Cunningham-145.8     Batch-149.6          152.2

1980 (2-3)       Danielson-127.7         Ferragamo-150.6  151.2

2016 (9-10)     Mariota-149.8             Cousins-145.8       151.0

1980 (3-4)       Ferragamo-150.6        White-145.2          151.0

2008 (11-12)   Brees-157.5                Delhomme-104.3  143.6

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