Rodgers connecting with Nelson downfield

October, 20, 2012
10/20/12
2:28
PM ET

Brett Davis/US PresswireAfter last week, Aaron Rodgers (left) and Jordy Nelson appear to be back on the same page.
Not many people saw Aaron Rodgers' six-touchdown performance coming in Week 6 against a Houston Texans defense that had the lowest Total QBR allowed (11.6) in the NFL. Rodgers finished with only the fifth game in NFL history with at least 330 passing yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. Three of Rodgers’ six touchdowns went to Jordy Nelson, who has 19 TD receptions since the start of last season. (Only Rob Gronkowski has more, 20.)

Rodgers opened up the scoring by connecting with Nelson on a 32-yard touchdown down the right sideline. Nelson beat cornerback Johnathan Joseph on the play, and Rodgers took advantage of single-safety coverage as safety Danieal Manning was not able to give help over the top in time. (Single-safety defense is defined as one safety deep in pass coverage, usually down the middle of the field.)

On Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, how much will Rodgers try and target Nelson deep down the sidelines? Although the two had success against the Texans, Rodgers numbers are down considerably from last season on throws to Nelson outside the numbers that traveled more than 10 yards downfield.

On such throws in 2011, Rodgers completed 20-of-27 attempts to Nelson, the third-best completion percentage among any QB-WR duo in the league (minimum 10 targets). This season, Rodgers is just 5-of-13 on such throws to Nelson.

Against the Texans, Rodgers took advantage of single-safety defense to find Nelson down the sidelines with no help over the top. That’s something Rodgers struggled to do in the first five weeks of the season. Against Houston, Rodgers completed 10-of-14 attempts for 159 yards and three touchdowns against such coverage on throws outside the painted numbers, including five completions to Nelson.

In the first five weeks on throws outside the numbers against single-safety coverage, Rodgers was 19-for-39 (48.7 percent) on throws and averaged less than four yards per attempt.

Rodgers and Green Bay will face an improved Rams secondary. St. Louis has held opponents to a completion percentage of 33.3 down the sidelines on throws more than 10 yards downfield -- that’s the fourth lowest completion percentage in the league. In fact, the Rams have allowed only one pass play of at least 30 yards outside the numbers.

Also, the Rams have sent at least five pass rushers on 40.9 percent of opposing QB dropbacks over the last two weeks. That indicates Rodgers could see more single-safety defense and opportunities to attack the sidelines.

Rodgers will have to stay upright, however, as the Rams have a league-high eight sacks with such pressure in the last two weeks.

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