Whatever happened to the screen pass?

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
9:20
AM ET
At some point earlier in the season, I remember touching on how the screen pass wasn't a big factor in the NFC South this season.

I just looked at some numbers from ESPN Stats & Information on screen passes and that's more true than ever. In fact, with three games left in the season, none of the NFC South starting quarterbacks has had a screen pass go for a touchdown.

In fact, some other general trends have emerged. NFC South teams aren't throwing a lot of screen passes and, when they do, they're not having all that much success. The best exhibit of that latter I can give you is New Orleans' Drew Brees.

Find me another stat where Brees ranks anywhere near as low as No. 26 in the league? Well, that's precisely where Brees ranks when it comes to passer rating on screens. His rating there is 87.8 and perhaps the saddest thing about that is no other NFC South quarterback is even close to him.

For the record, Brees has thrown way more screens than any other division quarterback. He's attempted 41 and completed 38, but it's amounted to a total of 208 yards off screens for the Saints and that's pretty ordinary compared to the rest of the league.

Then again, Brees has more than four times as many passing yards off screens than Atlanta's Matt Ryan, who has 51. After losing Jerious Norwood to injury early in the season, the Falcons have pretty much wiped the screen from their playbook.

Atlanta has attempted only 13 screen passes and Ryan has completed 10 of them, while compiling an 82.5 passer rating, which ranks No. 29.

The Buccaneers have been a little more active on screen passes. Josh Freeman has completed 17-of-20 for 171 yards, but also has had one screen intercepted. Freeman ranks No. 32 with an 81.5 passer rating on screens.

But you have to go below No. 32 to find the lowest-rated passer in the league when it comes to screens. According to the list, there are 35 quarterbacks who have attempted a minimum of 10 screen passes this season.

Carolina's Jimmy Clausen has completed 11 of 13 screens for 99 yards and had one intercepted. Clausen's 66.3 passer rating on screens comes in at No. 35.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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