GREEN BAY, Wis. – Offensively, the Green Bay Packers entered this season like a lamb but are trekking toward the playoffs like a lion.
With a 31-30 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, the Packers topped 30 points for the fourth consecutive game. Led by MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers and devised by Coach of the Year candidate Matt LaFleur, the Packers have by far the league’s hottest offense.
Over the last four games (not weeks), Rodgers has gotten one of those legendary rolls. Among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts during that span, Rodgers is:
– No. 1 with a passer rating of 127.7. The Rams’ Matthew Stafford is second with a mark of 114.4.
– No. 1 with 13 touchdown passes. Stafford is second with 11.
– No. 1 with 1,301 passing yards. The Buccaneers’ Tom Brady is second with 1,171.
– No. 1 with 8.91 yards per attempt. The 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo is second with 8.93.
– No. 1 with a 13-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Only two other quarterbacks have zero interceptions, and they’re both fill-in starters: the Browns’ Tyler Huntley (three touchdowns) and the Cardinals’ Colt McCoy (two touchdowns).
– No. 3 with a completion rate of 70.6 percent. That trails McCoy (77.4 percent in two starts) and the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa (75.6 percent).
As Rodgers rolls, so rolls the rest of the offense. Green Bay is the only team in the league with four consecutive games of 30-plus points. During that stretch, the Packers are:
– No. 1 with 143 points (35.6 per game). Indianapolis is second with 130 points (32.5 per game).
– No. 1 in total offense with 1,651 yards. With 412.8 per game, they are the only team averaging 400-plus yards.
– No. 1 with just one giveaway. The Jets and Cardinals are next with three.
Why is the offense so much better now than when it failed to top 27 points for seven consecutive games?
One: It always starts with the quarterback. Rodgers and the Colts’ Carson Wentz are the only quarterbacks this season with a four-game streak of two-plus touchdowns and zero interceptions. Rodgers is the only quarterback with a four-game streak of two-plus touchdowns, zero interceptions and 260-plus passing yards. Over the last decade, only Peyton Manning (five games with Denver spanning the 2012 and 2013 seasons) has a longer streak.
Two: When Robert Tonyan suffered a torn ACL at Arizona, the production at tight end predictably vanished. The last two games, it’s returned – a big deal as the Packers try to burn defenses too preoccupied with Davante Adams. Against Chicago, Marcedes Lewis and Josiah Deguara combined to catch all seven targets for 95 yards, with both players catching a pass of 20-plus yards. Against Baltimore, Lewis, Deguara and Tyler Davis combined to catch 7-of-9 passes for 78 yards, with Lewis and Davis having catches of longer than 20 yards.
“Those guys have done a great job,” LaFleur said. “Nathaniel Hackett and the rest of our offensive staff have done a really nice job of trying to incorporate those guys more into the passing game, whether it’s with some of our play-actions or keepers that we’ve been doing. Aaron’s done a great job of going out there and executing, and it comes down to our O-line and backs just providing the time for him to be able to progress through his reads.”
Three: Green Bay’s big bugaboo to start the season was third down and the red zone. Before the game against Minnesota that jump-started the offense, Green Bay was 12th on third down (40.5 percent conversions) and 25th in the red zone (53.9 percent touchdowns). The past four games, Green Bay is sixth on third down (46.9 percent) and fifth in the red zone (70.6 percent).
“I would say it’s a combination of play-calls and execution,” LaFleur said of the critical improvement in the red zone. “That’s usually what it is. Our guys have done a really nice job of going out there and converting in some of those goal-to-go situations and hopefully we can continue that.”
Four: Third down has been an improvement. That means better execution not just on third down but on first down. Green Bay’s first-down win rate – meaning 40 percent of the required yards are gained – has soared. The first 10 games, the Packers ranked 26th at 48.4 percent. The last four games, the Packers have a league-best 60.2 percent win rate.
Rodgers is unconscious on first down the past four games, with a near-perfect 156.1 passer rating on the strength of 77.6 percent accuracy, six touchdowns and 12.0 yards per attempt. The first 10 games, Rodgers’ passer rating was a 19th-ranked 93.6 with 66.4 percent accuracy, four touchdowns vs. one interception, and 6.7 yards per attempt.
Fifth: It’s not just Rodgers that makes the passing game tick, as shown by these numbers from SportRadar. In the first 10 games of the season, the pressure rate was a 15th-ranked 23.6 percent. The last four games, even with continued injuries, the pressure rate was a ninth-best 20.0 percent. Meanwhile, the Packers have improved upon two strengths. The first 10 games, Green Bay ranked fifth with 5.88 yards after the catch per catch and third with a drop rate of 2.7 percent. The past four games, Green Bay is second in YAC (6.44) and first in drops (zero).
With surprisingly strong pass protection and sure-handed receivers routinely adding extra yards, Rodgers has rounded into MVP form at the perfect time.
“I think he’s the ultimate multitasker in terms of just being able to play the position at the highest of levels, but also take in so much information at the same time I’m giving him a play call,” LaFleur said on Tuesday. “It’s one of the more impressive things I’ve ever seen, just the way he’s able to go out there and perform and how the game is almost in slow motion for him. It’s so impressive. I haven’t seen anybody be able to do it to his level.”