Instincts compelled him to jump back into position, and while he was retreating, the Green Bay Packers snapped the football. A few seconds later, Packers receiver Jordy Nelson had a 52-yard reception from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Long had suffered one of those palm-to-forehead moments sure to linger in his mind.
"All week, I knew that he was going to take a shot if we got offsides or jumped offsides and then lined up and got back," Long said after the game. "What you need to do is keep rushing because that’s what he does."
But does he? Long's comments led me to ask ESPN Stats & Information whether Rodgers had indeed been proficient at exploiting such opportunities. The info wasn't readily available, but NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert followed up. Sure enough, Rodgers has thrown the ball a league-high 14 times since 2011 after officials flagged opponents for jumping across the line early.
Rodgers is one of 13 quarterbacks with at least five such attempts (or non-attempts in cases where the penalties were accepted). Rodgers has two touchdowns, more than any other player. Two of the "free" passes would have been intercepted, tied with Arizona's John Skelton for most in the NFL (not a bad thing, as these passes were thrown without consequence).
Rodgers has completed five of the offside-enabled attempts for a league-high 128 yards. His passes on these throws have traveled 25.8 yards past the line of scrimmage on average, longest in the NFL by 7.4 yards. Long was right. Rodgers does go deep when opponents jump early.
These plays do not include situations when the offside penalty was declined in favor of another penalty, John McTigue of ESPN Stats & Information notes.
For the Rams in Week 7, the stat sheet says they committed six penalties for 30 yards in their 30-20 defeat. Long and the Rams know better. They know the most damaging penalties can be the ones opponents decline.
"Both those two long balls would probably not have been thrown had we not jumped in the neutral zone," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.