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Monday, September 16, 2013
Long and short of Rodgers' productivity

By Rob Demovsky

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There’s no denying that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers let his receivers do a good portion of the work in Sunday’s 38-20 win over the Washington Redskins.

That was evident in the team’s monstrous yards-after-catch (YAC) numbers that we examined on Sunday as part of Rodgers’ 480-yard passing performance -- a mark that tied the franchise record.

With 283 yards worth of YAC -- the most by any team since the start of the 2008 season, according to ESPN Stats & Information -- the Packers receivers deserved their share of the credit.

Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers got 283 of his 480 passing yards after the catch according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Perhaps more importantly, it also showed the diversity in Rodgers’ game and in coach Mike McCarthy’s play calling.

Remember how they did things back in 2011, when Rodgers won the NFL’s MVP award and the Packers had the NFL’s highest-scoring offense and No. 2 passing game? The Packers burned opposing defenses on shot plays -- play-action fakes where Rodgers took shots down the field. On throws that traveled 21-yard or more in the air, Rodgers completed a league-best 56.6 percent in 2011, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Last year, Rodgers wasn’t as successful throwing deep, completing only 37.5 percent of his passes that were thrown 21 yards or more in the air.

So perhaps it should not have been a surprise that the Packers focused on quick-hitting throws against the Redskins. On Sunday, Rodgers attempted only four passes that traveled 21 yards or more in the air, completing three of them for 121 yards. His other 38 throws traveled less than 21 yards in the air. In fact, 35 of his 42 attempts went fewer than 15 yards in the air.

“We always have shot plays in our game plan,” Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements said Monday. “It’s just that we didn’t get to them yesterday. And we were having success getting the ball out of our hand quickly and getting it to the receivers hands and letting them run.”

In fact, McCarthy had a shot play called on the first snap of the Packers’ second series on Sunday, but Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo blew it up and sacked Rodgers.

“Part of our plan is, we have a three-step drop package in every game,” McCarthy said. “That’s something we do very well. The ability to push the ball vertically and some other things based on the way they played, the defense has something to say about the way we attack them.”

McCarthy said he expected the Redskins to play more two-deep safety coverage but instead Washington played three-deep coverage, leaving the short routes open for the receivers do their work. And that’s an area those receivers, especially James Jones, set out to improve upon this season. As we discovered earlier this month, Jones’ YAC numbers dropped from an average of 7.15 yards per catch in 2011 to 3.44 last season.

Against the Redskins, Jones had a team-high 90 yards after the catch as part of his 11-catch, 178 yards performance.

“We just took what they gave us,” Jones said. “We didn’t know what type of defense they were going to come in here and play. We had a game plan, they played a lot of off coverage and we were able to get the quick game going.”