Thursday, December 30, 2010
Packers-Bears II: Getting downfield (or not)
By Kevin Seifert
Just four days ago, the Green Bay Packers rode their downfield passing game to the doorstep of the playoffs. Given their recent history against the Chicago Bears, however, it's fair to ask if the Packers will need to find another avenue to take that final step.
Like many quarterbacks, the Packers' Aaron Rodgers hasn't had much success with deep throws over the past three seasons against the Bears' Tampa 2 defense. As the chart illustrates, Rodgers has relied primarily on passes that travel 10 yards or fewer past the line of scrimmage and has thrown only one downfield scoring pass against the Bears. (A 50-yard touchdown to Greg Jennings in Week 1 of the 2009 season.)
Those numbers account for Rodgers' five career games against the Bears. For context, consider that this season he has thrown 13 touchdown passes in 14 games that traveled at least 11 yards in the air.
As always, we use these numbers for background and a fuller understanding of the dynamics at play as a game approaches. If history is a guide, Rodgers might have to find other ways to move the ball Sunday against the Bears at Lambeau Field.
For what it's worth, the Packers did just that in the teams' Week 3 meeting. If you recall, Rodgers shifted into a quick-drop, short-throw strategy that resulted in him completing 34 of 45 passes for 316 yards. Against good Cover 2 defenses like the Bears', that strategy is usually preferable to forcing passes downfield.