Monday, September 23, 2013
Rodgers and fourth-quarter comebacks
By Rob Demovsky
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It’s hard to find fault with most things that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers does.
But be honest, who among us was convinced that he would lead the Packers on a game-winning drive when the Packers got the ball back with 3 minutes and 47 seconds left in Sunday’s 34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals?
Surely not Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, who broke down Rodgers’ fourth-quarter comeback opportunities and game-winning drive situations in an Insider piece for ESPN.com .
In the piece, Kacsmar’s research indicated the Packers dropped to 5-24 in games when Rodgers had the ball in the fourth quarter and trailed by eight points or less. Among active NFL starters, only Carolina’s Cam Newton (2-16) has a worse record in such situations. The research also showed that Rodgers has a 9-26 record in games where it was tied in the fourth quarter or overtime.
It’s worth noting that seven times in those 26 losses, Rodgers had led a fourth-quarter scoring drive that put the Packers ahead only to see the lead slip away, according to Kascmar’s research. In Week 1 at San Francisco, Rodgers put the Packers ahead 28-24 on an eight-play, 76-yard touchdown drive with 8:26 remaining only to see the 49ers score the last 10 points.
Rodgers is 49-5 in games where the Packers don’t have to score the winning points in the fourth quarter or overtime, Kascmar discovered.
The Packers did not score in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Bengals, and Rodgers turned it over on downs with 1:21 left in the game after rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari's missed cut block allowed defensive end Michael Johnson to bat down Rodgers’ fourth-and-5 pass attempt from the Bengals’ 20-yard line.
In games Rodgers has started since he took over in 2008, the Packers are 5-17 in games decided by four points or less. For an MVP-quarterback like Rodgers, it’s a surprising and perhaps even confusing statistic.
If the blame is largely to be placed on Rodgers -- something that is certainly disputable -- then perhaps the only way to explain it is that his aversion to turnovers could make him too conservative at times when he needs to take chances late in games.
The Packers say they have studied what has happened to them in close games -- not necessarily just from the quarterback’s perspective.
"Trust me, we have a director of research and development in Mike Eayrs that I’d put up against anybody," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "We feel like we’re in tune with what we need to work on and the things we need to get better at. You can throw a bunch of numbers into a can and sort them different ways and come up with strengths and weaknesses, and you can believe what you want to believe. I think you really have to stay in tune with individuals, especially in a team sport where you have 11 people on the field at once. We're definitely aware of that."