Friday, September 29, 2017

Jordy Nelson: Thousandaire Extraordinaire

Jordy Nelson: Thousandaire Extraordinaire
By Eric Goska
Don Hutson: The Original Packers-Bears Thousandaire
Jordy Nelson has been collecting receiving yards against the Bears for years.

Thursday at Lambeau Field, the Packers wide receiver was productive enough to move into an exclusive club, one that has yet to admit a member from Chicago.

Nelson amassed the most receiving yards of any player Thursday night as Green Bay upended the Chicago Bears 35-14 at Lambeau Field before 78,362 fans. He had the evening’s longest reception as well.

Just as a shopper can be rewarded with cash back or rewards for purchases, Nelson has earned enough yardage to gain entry into a select group. The 32-year-old is the latest to attain 1,000 yards receiving in the Packers-Bears rivalry.

Playing in his 125th regular-season game, Nelson caught four passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns. All four catches brought first downs.

With 75 yards, Nelson boosted his career total to 1,040 regular-season receiving yards against the Bears. That haul includes 65 receptions and eight touchdowns.

Nelson was quiet in the early going Thursday. He was targeted just once in the first quarter and a half, and he dropped that throw after getting smacked hard by safety Eddie Jackson near the sideline.

Given a second chance, Nelson didn’t disappoint. The receiver turned a 44-yard throw into a 58-yard gain after cornerbacks Marcus Cooper and Kyle Fuller knocked each other to the ground near the Chicago 15-yard line. Safety Adrian Amos tackled Nelson at the 2, but Packers rookie Aaron Jones barreled into the end zone on the next play and Green Bay went up 21-0.

Nelson gained only 17 yards on his final three catches, but all advanced the Packers’ cause. His 5-yard, fourth-down reception kept alive a 13-play drive that he capped with a 4-yard TD reception to put the Pack up 28-7. His 8-yard grab on third down to open the fourth quarter propelled Green Bay to its biggest lead at 35-7.

Seventy-five years have passed since Don Hutson started the 1,000-yard Packers-Bears receiving club. The incomparable end surpassed 1,000 yards in 1942, and he remains the leader with 1,465 yards.

In addition to Hutson and Nelson, three others are in the group: Sterling Sharpe (1,134), James Lofton (1,127) and Donald Driver (1,082).

There’s not a Bear among them. The closest, according to Pro Football Reference, is Curtis Conway at 687 yards.

Since 2008, Nelson’s rookie year, only Calvin Johnson of the Lions has been a more productive receiver against the Bears. Johnson caught 94 passes for 1,436 yards and 11 TDs from 2008 until he retired after the 2015 season.

The Bears are the first team that Nelson has clipped for 1,000 yards. Up next are the Vikings (863) and Lions (724).

Extra point
Nelson’s most productive season against the Bears was 2014 when he caught 16 passes for 260 yards and four TDs. Nelson has surpassed 100 yards receiving five times against Chicago.

Thousandaires
Packers who caught 1,000 or more yards worth of passes in the Green Bay-Chicago regular-season series.

Yards  Player                   Years
1,465   Don Hutson            1935-1945
1,134   Sterling Sharpe       1988-1994
1,127   James Lofton          1978-1986
1,082   Donald Driver         1999-2011
1,040   Jordy Nelson          2008-2017

Thursday, September 28, 2017

FROM THE DELTA TO THE BIG APPLE: Jimmy Patton

LOOKING BACK
By T.J. Troup
Jimmy Patton and Emlen Tunnell defend a pass versus teh Steelers
Raised in a small town of Greenville, Mississippi Jimmy Patton played football at Ole Miss. When the Giants hierarchy sat down at the Warwick Hotel in late January of 1955 for the NFL draft they knew they needed depth and speed in the secondary.

So, with the 92nd pick in the draft (Unitas was 102) Jimmy joined the Giants. His rookie season was a learning process. He played some at corner, and some as a backup at right safety for starter Herb Rich. Jimmy had one of the most memorable kick return games in league history that season when he returned a Redskin kickoff 98 yards for a score, and a punt 69 yards for a score in the 35-7 shellacking.

The returns showed excellent speed and vision. Jimmy also intercepted the first pass of his career in that game. New York had started 1-4 but became a force down the stretch to finish 6-5-1. That momentum served them well as the Giants began the 1956 campaign with a record of 4-1. Herb Rich had played well in his career with the Colts, Rams, and now New York due to his savvy and experience. His injury set the stage for Patton to become the starter for the division champions that year. New York, with Jimmy playing a strong game, defeated Pittsburgh 17-14 at Forbes Field (Giants had lost both games to the Steelers in 1955).

Memorable plays abound in league history, and when captured on film they sometimes take on a life of their own. November 25th the Bears rally in Yankee Stadium to tie New York as split end Harlon Hill makes an incredible catch with Jimmy Patton attached to him as he crossed the goal line. Since the Bears had won the Western Division crown, the rematch would be for the league title!

Patton contributed to the cause with a 28-yard interception return and a 22-yard punt return in the 47-7 victory. Jimmy was quickly learning the intricacies of the Giants defense under the tutelage of former left corner and now defensive coordinator Tom Landry. Patton was aligned at right safety thus his partner in crime in the deep secondary was the already legendary Emlen Tunnell. His best friend on the team though was starting right corner, Dick Nolan. The two of them roamed the streets of New York. Imagine for a moment the adjustment for this young man; from the Mississippi Delta to the Big Apple.

Now after just two years in the league he was a champion. The 1957 season began well, and Jimmy scored against Pittsburgh on October the 20th on a 50-yard interception return. The Giants faded down the stretch and began slowly in 1958, yet once New York became injury free they began a winning streak. Led by a defense that allowed only 37 points the last four games of the season, New York tied Cleveland for first in the East. Beating Cleveland set the stage for what some call "The Greatest Game of All-time". The Giants and the Colts went to overtime to determine the league champion. Patton was selected First-team All-Pro and led the league in interceptions with 11. He had learned his lessons well and continued to play superb football over the course of the next three seasons—Jimmy was voted to the Pro Bowl each year and was also First-team All-Pro. He was regarded as the best deep defender in the game.
These seasons though did not bring another title to the Giants. The losses to Baltimore in 1959, Philadelphia in 1960, and Green Bay in 1961 were bitter to the New York veterans led by Robustelli, Huff, and Patton. Measuring a players greatness by using statistics can sometimes shed light on that man's consistency.

Over the course of 46 games, from the second game of 1958 through the first 12 games of 1961, Jimmy intercepted 30 passes. A remarkable achievement as only six other men before the merger have intercepted 30 passes over the course of four straight seasons. The men who accomplished this read like a who's who of defensive backs; Rich "Night Train" Lane, Emlen Tunnell, Jack Christiansen, Tom Keane, Bobby Dan Dillon, and Bobby Boyd.

A new resolve took over the Giants in 1962 as they overcame a sluggish 3-2 start to win nine straight and set up the rematch with Vince Lombardi and his champion Packers. This time though it would be at wind swept frigid Yankee Stadium. Since New York was now more of an offensive team led by the incomparable passing of Y.A. Tittle, the question on most folks minds was could the Giant defense stop the vaunted Packer attack. Green Bay's superb defense shut down the high powered Giant offense, but the Giant defense played an inspired game allowing only one touchdown. Patton was again First-team All-Pro.

The New York defense still played solid football, yet was not the same dominant force of the late 1950s under Landry. New York again earned an eastern division title in '63, and played a strong defensive game in Wrigley Field against the Bears. The Bear defense was not to be denied as Chicago gave New York a third straight championship loss. Patton received some All-Pro recognition, yet the new safety in town in the east was rough-hewn Larry Wilson of the Cardinals, and in the west Wood of the Packers, and the Bear duo of Taylor & Petitbon. When a team becomes old that is an aspect that must be overcome with an abundance of new talent.

That just did not happen in New York. The Giants defense in Patton's last three years just did not play well most of the time. A change in philosophy, and now Jimmy was player coach helping his teammate Andy Robustelli attempt to put a strong defense on the field. Thus in his last game on December 18th, 1966 Jimmy intercepted his final pass. He had intercepted at least once in all twelve seasons.

Patton, instead of playing deep centerfield, would now take the back out of the backfield man to man, or even blitz on occasion. Jimmy Patton had done it all as a player. He missed only three games in twelve seasons. Jimmy at 5' 10" and 183 lbs. had taken down many a bigger running back. He was a strong tackler, and feared no one. His savvy and excellent speed took him across the field to intercept time and time again.

He had returned kicks and punts early in his career. Pete Privite ("clubhouse special") designed a play in '61 with Erich Barnes and Jimmy as the ends on the punt team going downfield as receivers against the Eagles—and the play worked as Barnes scored in a key victory. June of this year my story entitled "nemesis" detailed defensive backs that intercepted at least 10 passes against a specific opponent. Jimmy Patton ranks second to all-time great Emlen Tunnell in this category as he pilfered 14 Redskin passes. He also intercepted the Steelers 12 times. Jimmy Patton is not in the Hall of Fame and of course due to his tragic death in a car accident in 1972 he would not be at his enshrinement, yet he must be viewed as a man who gave all he had to his team. Allie Sherman said it best; "he had the three qualities you want, consistency, top performance, and great heart".

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Pick Six; Pack Stix

By Eric Goska


It is doubtful anyone on the field knew the long odds the Packers faced after being subjected to a pick-6 Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Perhaps that was best.

For just the second time in his career,  Aaron Rodgers threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. This time it was the Bengals who snagged this rarest of turnover, a steal that forced Green Bay to rally for a 27-24 overtime victory before 78,323 fans at the historic stadium.

The pick-6 was the first Rodgers has thrown in a home game.

Rodgers has been tossing passes for the Packers since connecting with Vonta Leach in a 52-3 blowout of the Saints in 2005. In the years since he’s taken a liking to this line of work, and his regular-season total had swelled to 4,749 forward passes prior to the meeting with Cincinnati.

As with Seattle and Atlanta, Rodgers generated little excitement early against the Bengals. He completed four of six passes for a scant 13 yards but did find Lance Kendricks for a 1-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter that evened the score at seven apiece.

Then, for the third game in a row, Rodgers threw a first-half interception. William Jackson III undercut an out intended for Jordy Nelson, and the cornerback raced 75 yards the other way.

Jackson’s TD return came with just under 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter, and it pushed the Bengals ahead 21-7. Earlier in the period, Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton and halfback Giovani Bernard combined on a 6-yard scoring pass.

As with any turnover, there is no good time for a pick-6. More problematic are those that occur when the team that gives up the six is already trailing on the scoreboard.

The Packers have thrown 120 pick-6s in 111 different regular-season games since 1921. Their record in those contests is 27-81-3 (.257).

Just over half of those pick-6s (62) added to an opponent’s already existing lead. The Pack is 6-53 (.102) when throwing a pick-6 from behind.

The five previous wins came courtesy of Bart Starr (1965), Zeke Bratkowski (1967), David Whitehurst (1979), Brett Favre (2003) and Matt Flynn (2013). In overcoming such an ill-timed turnover, Rodgers boosted membership in this group to a full Pack six.

Quarterbacks, of course, get credit for a win. But, as always, many players contribute to a comeback.

In the case of the Bengals, Green Bay’s defense tightened. After giving up 145 yards and 11 first downs in the first 17:31, the unit surrendered 156 yards and 10 first downs the rest of the way.

Of note, the Packers did not allow the Bengals to convert a third down (0-for-7) once behind by 14 points.

Rodgers, too, played better. His passer rating, a paltry 44.9 after the interception, was a more robust 120.1 on his final 33 attempts.

Kendricks, one of three Packers tight ends to see action, chipped in 34 yards after the catch on a 51-yard reception to open the second half. His long gainer set up a 1-yard TD throw to Nelson that pulled Green Bay to 21-14.

Nelson hauled in a second touchdown pass as well. His 3-yarder – a bullet that narrowly missed the outstretched arms of cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick – tied the score at 24-all with 17 seconds left in regulation.

In overtime, Geronimo Allison added a highlight of his own. He turned a 36-yard, third-down throw into a 72-yard sprint that reached the Cincinnati 7-yard line.

Mason Crosby completed the comeback with a game-winning, 27-yard field goal with four minutes, 34 seconds of the extra period having elapsed.

The numbers that surround Rodgers and his lack of pick-6s are eye-opening. They include Packers records and at least one NFL best.

In between his two pick-6s – Tanard Jackson of the Buccaneers had the first in 2009 – Rodgers attempted 3,907 regular-season passes without one. That’s an NFL record, far better than the previous best of 3,113 by Randall Cunningham (1986-94).

But don’t go spreading that around. It’s not worth the trouble.

Rodgers’ streak of 3,907 is nearly twice the length of the previous record by a Packer. Brett Favre once lobbed 1,974 regular-season passes (1993-97) without one.

Again, keep that to yourself. We wouldn’t want anyone to know.

Eight years ago, Tanard Jackson nicked Rodgers in Raymond James Stadium. Sunday William Jackson caught him at Lambeau.

The latter Jackson became the fourth Bengal to record a pick-6 against the Packers (Tommy Casanova and Ken Riley in 1976 and Lemar Parrish in 1971), and he put an end to Rodgers’ string of regular-season passes at home (2,323) without a pick-6. That long run is the best start to a regular-season career at Lambeau Field, well ahead of the previous record by Starr who attempted 573 at the stadium before Lem Barney put on the skids in the 1967 season opener.

Pick-Six or Pick-Sick?
The 13 Packers passers who attempted 500 or more regular-season throws and how often they were pick-sixed.

Pct.          Atts.      No.         Passer
0.04        4,791          2         Aaron Rodgers
0.19           537          1         John Hadl
0.20        1,006          2         Arnie Herber
0.25        3,149          8         Bart Starr
0.27        8,754        24         Brett Favre
0.31        1,607          5         Don Majkowski
0.37           818          3         Cecil Isbell
0.39           519          2         Irv Comp
0.41           980          4         David Whitehurst
0.45        1,119          5         Randy Wright
0.46        2,831        13         Lynn Dickey
0.59        1,854        11         Tobin Rote
0.66           602          4         Babe Parilli

Guess Again Mr. Romo

LOOKING AHEAD
By John Turney
By all measures, Tony Romo is doing well as a color analyst for CBS Sports. Well, maybe not all measures, Brent Musburger isn't a impressed with Romo's booth work just yet.

Romo has been touted as correcting predicting plays, blitzes, and defenses which he does do quite often. But, he's not yet perfect.

In overtime (about 9:19) in Sunday's Bengals at Packers game, Romo said (right before the snap), "Here comes some sort of Dom Capers 2-man coverage".

Well, the first shot shows just that. Two deep and the five short defenders lined up over a man. 
BUT it was just window dressing. They played Tampa-2. You can see the four short zones and the "hole" in the middle where the Mike 'backer is roaming. The far corner lets his man go so the safety on his side can cover him. It's clearly not man-under Cover 2.
Tony, you gotta do the post-snap read for us.... that is the coverage.

Earlier in the game, at the 10:00-minute mark of the 3rd quarter, on a Packers TD pass, Romo said (again before the snap), "Cincinnati is playing coverage here, they're not going to blitz a lot of guys."

We don't know what he means by "a lot" but we do think three blitzers is "a lot" but we could be wrong.
The Bengals did blitz three and Rodgers rolled right— away from the pressure and threw a touchdown as he is apt to do. 

Look, we've enjoyed Romo very much and will listen to him all season and we will learn lots, we already have. But, dare we say he's not 100% *there* yet?

Just Your Basic, Everyday Quadruple-Team

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney

In Week Two of this NFL season, the Houston Texans travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals on Thursday Night Football. While it wasn;t the most exciting game of the season there were some interesting things.

One was a play in the third quarter, at around the 2:30 mark, where Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, this time playing right end, had four hats on him, which is coach-speak for having four blockers on him. A quadruple-team.

Don't believe us? Count 'em:
This is the television view. Credit:  NBC

This is the All-22 overhead view. Credit NFL Game Pass.
 The following are the end zone view from All-22 tape. Credit: NFL Game Pass
Eifert motioned from the right side of formation to outside of Watt
Eifert (the left end) and the left tackle, left guard and center converge on Watt


And they converge tighter

Eifert breaks off leaving a triple-team

Tackle steps out to help leaving a double as Watt deflects the pass.
Yes, it's true that all four blockers didn't block him for the entirety of the play, but we think it's pretty impressive to have a center, a guard, a tackle, and a tight end assigned to you at the outset of a play.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

History: Steelers vs Bears in Chicago

LOOKING BACK
By Chris Willis, NFL Films

Not one of the more heated or intense rivalry in the NFL, but for week 3 in 2017 we have the Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the Chicago Bears for just the 13th time. To say the Bears own this series in the Windy City is an understatement. They’ve only lost to the Steelers once at home- owning a 11-1 mark.

Steelers at Bears
Series History in Chicago
Bears lead 11-1

1936 Bears 26-7
1941 Bears 34-7
1945 Bears 28-7
1947 Bears 49-7
1949 Bears 30-21
1959 Bears 27-21
1969 Bears 38-7
1971 Bears 17-15
1986 Bears 1-10 (Overtime)
1992 Bears 30-6
1995 Steelers 37-34 (Overtime)
2009 Bears 17-14

In those twelve games, the Steelers have been outscored 343-159 (28.5 points per game to 13.2 points per game).

The Steelers only win in Chicago was a 37-34 overtime thriller in 1995

November 5, 1995
Solider Field
Chicago, Illinois
On November 5th the Steelers (4-4 record), traveled to Chicago to face the Bears (6-2 record) at Soldier Field. The temperature was only 37 degrees as 61,838 fans took their seats.

Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell and Bears quarterback Erik Kramer dueled it out on a cold and breezy day. O’Donnell set a Steelers team record for completions with 34- breaking the old mark held by Joe Gilliam of 31 in 1974 against the Broncos- while attempting 52 passes for 341 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Kramer went 15 of 28 for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns that would give the Bears a 20-24 lead entering the 4th quarter.

Then the two squads traded scores:

Bears- Kevin Butler 27 yard FG
Steelers- Eric Pegram 6 yard TD run
Bears- Barry Minter 2-yard INT TD
Eric Pegram run against Bears, 1995
With 3:53 remaining Butler missed a 44-yard field goal- wide right- that would’ve increased the Bears lead to ten points. Setting up the Steelers final drive in regulation. O’Donnell picked apart the Bears prevent defense going 7 for 10 for 76 yards. One completion went for 27 yards to Ernie Mills and another 17 yards to Andre Hastings put the ball at the Bears ten-yard line. From there, with just 1:06 left, O’Donnell hit Mills again for the tying touchdown.

The Bears won the toss in overtime but only gained one yard on three plays. The Steelers took over at their own thirty-one yard line. O’Donnell needed only one drive. He completed four straight passes for 43 yards to put the Steelers in field goal position. On second down from the Bears, six-yard line Norm Johnson converted a 24-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 37-34 hard fought win.

Still the only Steelers win in the city of Chicago.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Decade-and-a-Half of Lost First-round Picks

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
Watching the Monday night game of the Lions at the Giants we took some time to watch Greg Robinson (who Jon Gruden panned during the telecast) the Lions left tackle. Sometimes he was okay, others not okay, to say the least.

Robinson is one of a long line of Rams first-round draft picks that got dumped for late-round picks or players who were, shall we say, not blue chippers. Robinson, of course, was the second overall pick in the 2014 draft and on July 15, 2017, he was traded to Detroit for a sixth-round pick.
The 2009 second overall pick Jason Smith had issues with concussions and was unloaded on August 28, 2012, in a trade with Jets for Wayne Hunter who had been, essentially, a career backup for the Jets.
The Rams 2007 First-round pick was Adam Carriker. On draft day, 2010, the Rams sent him to the Redskins for a swap of fifth- and seventh-rounders. When one applies the Jimmy Johnson draft value chart is applied, essentially it boils down to a net seventh-round pick for the Rams in exchange for Carriker though this trade chain is a bit complicated due to secondary trades.
Prior to Carriker, the Rams took Tye Hill in the First round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He played 28 games with 21 starts for the Rams in three years and GM Billy Devaney and Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo shipped Hill to the Falcons for a seventh-round pick.
In 2005 the Rams #1 choice was Alex Barron. Barron was a five-year starter but was not highly regarded by Devaney and Spagnuolo (and likely few others). In the Summer of 2010 he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for  Bobby Carpenter, himself a former first-round pick who had no amounted to much in his Cowboy career.
In 2003 the Rams took Jimmy Kennedy with their top pick. In 2007 they traded him to the Broncos for a  2008 conditional sixth-round pick. It was contingent on Kennedy making the Broncos roster, which he did so the Rams got their sixth-round pick in 2008.
UCLA's  Robert Thomas was the Rams 2002 #1 pick. he played middle linebacker, outside linebacker but could not make impact plays, or even average plays at times. On September 3, 2005, the Rams traded him to the Packers for  Chris Johnson. No, not that Chris Johnson. This Chris Johnson played defensive back for the Rams for a season and returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Which, by the way, was the last time the Rams returned a kick for a touchdown. It's true, you can look it up.
In 2000 the Rams raised eyebrows when they took Trung Canidate with the final pick in the first-round. Three years later they shipped him to the Redskins for David Loverne and a 2003 fourth-round pick.

In all that is eight first-round picks the Rams traded away plus a fifth-rounder, a sixth-rounder and a seventh-rounder.The fifth-round pick they received from Washington in the Carriker deal was moved to Atlanta for a fifth- and sixth-round pick. The sixth they received for Kennedy was paired with another sixth to obtain a 2008 fifth-round pick that turned out to be Roy Schuening.

So, included the details in the previous paragraph we ask—What did the Rams get for 8 first-rounders and three late rounders?

Here is the list:
David Loverne (played one game with the Rams)
Chris Johnson (played one year with Rams)
Bobby Carpenter (never played with Rams)
Wayne Hunter (played one year with Rams)
2003 fourth-round pick (DeJuan Groce) Played 52 games with the Rams.
2008 fifth-round pick (Roy Schuening) Played one game for the Rams
2010 fifth-round pick (Hall Davis) Never played for the Rams
2010 sixth-round pick (Eugene Sims) Played 99 games for Rams
2010 seventh-round pick (Marquis Johnson) Played 5 games for Rams
2010 seventh-round pick (George Selvie) Played 16 games for Rams
2018 sixth-round pick   

The best player is Eugene Sims was stated some when Robert Quinn was hurt, but made his mark as a nickel rusher, often as a defensive tackle in a four DE set and also as someone who spelled Quinn at right defensive end. Not tons of value for so many high picks.Maybe the Rams will find a Tob brady on the sixth round of the 2018 draft with the pick they received for Greg Robinson.

Safe Passage Revoked in Atlanta

By Eric Goska

Yes, the Green Bay Packers can and have won on the road when an Aaron Rodgers’ interception is converted into a touchdown by the opposition.

All that has been required is a heart-stopping comeback, one not soon to be forgotten.

Since no such finish was forthcoming by Green Bay in the Mercedes-Benz Dome Sunday night, the Packers succumbed 34-23 to the offensively-gifted Falcons before 70,826 fans. Atlanta built a formidable 24-7 halftime lead, the last seven points set up by cornerback Desmond Trufant’s interception of Rodgers just before the break.

First, the obvious. Rodgers, the Packers starting quarterback these past 10 seasons, doesn’t throw many interceptions. He’s been picked off 74 times in 144 regular-season games.

Second, more often than not, his throws to the enemy do not lead to touchdowns. Only 20 of the 74 interceptions he’s thrown have been turned into six-pointers by the other side.

Thirteen of those 20 occurred in away games. Green Bay’s record on the road when a Rodgers’ INT leads to a touchdown is 3-7.

Before highlighting those three wins and the lengths to which the Pack had to go to secure victory, let’s give Rodgers his due. Prior to Trufant’s steal, the resourceful quarterback broke his own franchise record for the most consecutive passes attempted on the road without an interception.

Rodgers avoided interceptions completely in closing out the 2016 regular season. His last 245 attempts were devoid of theft.

More than half – 154 of those throws – occurred on the road in places such as FedExField, Lincoln Financial Field, Soldier Field and Ford Field. It was in those settings that the Redskins, Eagles, Bears and Lions failed to pick Rodgers.

Before Trufant, the last opposing player to grab a throw by No. 12 away from Lambeau Field was Perrish Cox. The Titans’ cornerback came up with one in the fourth quarter of Tennessee’s 47-25 win over Green Bay on Nov. 13.

In Atlanta, Rodgers opened with a safe pass. He tossed to Davante Adams two yards behind the line of scrimmage and the receiver plowed ahead for a yard.

Shortly thereafter, Rodgers the quarterback connected with Richard Rodgers the tight end. The play gained 14 yards and a first down at the Atlanta 42-yard line.

That was Rodgers’ 157th consecutive interception-free throw away from home. With it, he tied Brett Favre for the second-longest streak in team history.

Rodgers reached 160 on a 5-yarder to Randall Cobb late in the first quarter. He got to 165 when attempting to connect with Martellus Bennett on a third-down pass that hit the turf midway through the second quarter.

Attempt No. 168 deflected off the arm of linebacker Deion Jones. No. 169 sailed over the head of Adams.

With that incompletion, Rodgers matched the team record he set in 2014-15.

Rodgers would better his mark by two. No. 170, the record breaker, was almost intercepted by safety Brian Poole. No. 171 saw Adams gain 8 yards to the Green Bay 13 with one minute, three seconds left in the half.

Trufant halted the run by intercepting a downfield throw. The pass, intended for Geronimo Allison, was too long and Trufant clutched it at the Green Bay 36.

For Rodgers, the 171 in a row was one of a number of 100-plus streaks he has forged. Getting to 100 has been accomplished 20 times in team history with Rodgers (9 times), Favre (6) and Bart Starr (2) the only players to do it more than once.

Rodgers’ numbers over this record-setting stretch were solid if not spectacular. He completed 114 out of 171 attempts for 1,312 yards and nine touchdowns. His passer rating was 107.2.

Of course, Rodgers’ streak may never have ended had a 36-yard throw to Cobb not been wiped out by a questionable penalty. The gain, to Green Bay’s 49, was erased by an offensive pass interference call on Bennett and backed the Packers up inside their own 10. Trufant struck seconds later.

Once Trufant came up with the game’s first turnover, the Falcons didn’t waste time. Quarterback Matt Ryan needed just four plays and 28 seconds to move Atlanta into the end zone. His 3-yard pass to running back Tevin Coleman pushed Atlanta’s lead to 17 points at halftime.

So, how did the Packers win three times on the road after interceptions by Rodgers were turned into touchdowns? The wins didn’t come easily, but they were memorable.

  • On Dec. 4, 2011, Rodgers completed four straight passes in the closing minute to set up Mason Crosby’s 31-yard, walk-off field goal that toppled the Giants 38-35.
  • On Dec. 29, 2013, the Packers converted three fourth downs on their final drive, the last by means of a 48-yard Rodgers-to-Cobb TD as the Packers stunned the Bears 33-28 and clinched a third straight NFC North Division title.
  • On Dec. 3, 2015, Rodgers’ launched a 61-yard Hail Mary that landed in the leaping arms of Richard Rodgers in the end zone on an untimed down, a play that shocked the Lions 27-23.
Back in Atlanta, Rodgers’ second-half numbers – 23 of 32 for 258 yards and two TDs (116.4 rating) – improved over what he had managed in the first half, but the Packers never got closer than 11 points. The team fell behind 31-7 on the second play of the third quarter after Vic Beasley sacked Rodgers and forced a fumble that Trufant returned 15 yards for a score.

Safe Passage
Packers quarterbacks who attempted the most consecutive passes on the road (regular season only) without an interception in team history.

No.   Player                Year(s)
171   Aaron Rodgers    2016-17
169   Aaron Rodgers    2014-15
157   Brett Favre          2003-04
148   Aaron Rodgers    2009-10
147   Aaron Rodgers    2011
146   Bart Starr            1964-65
144   Brett Favre          1992

Packers quarterbacks with the most streaks of 100 or more pass attempts without an interception in regular-season road games.

No.   Player
9       Aaron Rodgers
6       Brett Favre
2       Bart Starr
1       Tobin Rote
1       Lynn Dickey
1       Don Majkowski

Tom Brady Sits Atop Another Record

RECORDS
By John Turney
While dismantling the Saints defense Tom Brady threw for 447 yards which put him one yard past Brett Favre for the 40-and-over title of most passing yards in a game.It was also the third-most in his career. Amazingly, he did it with only three receivers on the active roster.
Click to enlarge:
Congrats.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

TOO MUCH AMMUNITION: Multiple Interception Touchdown Returns & Sacks

LOOKING BACK
By T.J. Troup

Years ago in Steve Sabol's office, we discussed titles for projects we were working on. The best example you ask? The best second place teams of all-time became "Missing Rings". Being a fan of Kipling, chose one of his famous quotes for the title of this story.

John Turney's interesting article on the Rams victory on Sunday inspired this—thanks, John. The criteria:  Team must return at least 2 interceptions for touchdowns, and record at least 4 sacks.

How many teams have accomplished this since 1960? Here is the list and a few notes on Charlie Stukes birthday (he is part of this story).
THE LIST:
Should a team win when they have such a dominating defensive performance? Well, in 54 of the 56 times a team has achieved the criteria they have won. It was amazing that the Patriots in '99 and Dallas in '01 lost! Teams on the list averaged 37 points, and of course, some of the scores were downright blow-outs.

No doubt many of you either attended some of the games listed above or watched them. We have expansion teams on the list, Super Bowl champions on the list, legendary defensive teams on the list, and even a team that needed "too much ammunition" to win their first game in franchise history (Tampa Bay).

The Texans/Chiefs with 6 have the most, while the Dolphins are second with five and the Rams and Bengals are tied for third with 4. Some teams have never accomplished this defensive feat (Detroit stands out), and some just once.

As for the teams victimized the most—Denver with 5 stands out, yet the Steelers with 6 lead in this dubious department. During the mid to late 1960s when Pittsburgh struggled each season they allowed four(6 overall). Cleveland in back to back games in 1960 begin our list, and the Jim Kearney led Chiefs in 1972 beat Denver both times to earn a place on the list.
Since Turney's story detailed the Rams, let's close out the story with the first time they did this. On October 18th, 1964 on a sunny afternoon in the Coliseum against the arch rival 49ers. The Rams led by half-time and as the game progressed each interception return gobbled up the turf as Los Angeles returned the pilfered passes 318 yards. Twice in the 4th quarter, Mira & Brodie threw towards the left sideline in Ram territory—Bobby Smith & Aaron Martin returned those thefts 97 and 71 yards for scores. The pass rush garnered 4 sacks; three by fourth-year pro David Jones as he began to dominate the pass pocket and become the "Deacon".

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Seattle’s Field Goals Come Up Short

By Eric Goska
Lambeau Field less than two hours before the Packers and Seahawks kicked off.
Short of pitching a shutout, holding an opponent to nothing but field goals often provides a path to victory.

The Green Bay Packers did just that Sunday at Lambeau Field. A strong defensive performance kept the Seattle Seahawks out of the end zone and on the short end of a 17-9 score before 78,381 fans in the season opener for both teams.

Green Bay allowed Seattle to mount just three drives that produced more than one first down. All three ended in field goals.

Blair Walsh capped the first, a 74-yard advance, with a 33-yard field goal that gave the Seahawks a 3-0 lead as time expired in the first half. Walsh hit a 21-yard chip shot to close to 7-6 in the third quarter. The former Viking then nailed a 41-yarder with six minutes, 21 seconds remaining for the final points of the game.

Seattle’s offense enjoyed its best moments during the time it spent setting up Walsh’s kicks. The unit amassed 197 of its 225 yards and 10 of its 12 first downs during the excursions.

The three advances were the only times Seattle got inside the Packers’ 40-yard line. In each case, Green Bay stopped the Seahawks cold on consecutive plays to force the kicks.

After reaching the Packers’ 15-yard line on a 29-yard scramble late in the second quarter, Wilson failed to connect on back-to-back passes. Cornerback Quinten Rollins nearly intercepted the second attempt intended for Tyler Lockett just four seconds before halftime.

In the third quarter, Seattle went nowhere after picking up a first down at the Green Bay 3. Safety Kentrell Brice held Chris Carson to no gain on first down, and Wilson again couldn’t connect on consecutive pass attempts, the second with defensive tackle Mike Daniels about to hit him.

Finally, in the fourth quarter, Wilson fired incomplete three times from the Packers’ 23. Paul Richardson, Amara Darboh and Jimmy Graham were his targets.

Allowing a team to score nothing but field goals is noteworthy. Last season, at least one touchdown was scored by both teams in 236 of 256 regular-season games.

Throughout history, the Packers have been successful when holding their opponents to nothing but field goals. The team has gone 63-12-3 (.827) in the regular season when doing so.

That record includes 25 straight wins. The last team to beat Green Bay on field-goal strength alone was Dallas which booted seven in a 21-6 win on Nov. 18, 1996.

The last team to beat the Packers with only three-field goals in the scoring column was the Bears. Bob Thomas was good from 18, 49 and 28 yards out as Chicago eked out a 9-7 decision at Lambeau Field on Sept. 16, 1984.

Triplets
The 10 regular-season games in which Green Bay’s opponents scored nothing but three field goals.

Date                      Result             Opponent
Sept. 10, 2017       W, 17-9           Seahawks
Dec. 17, 2007       W, 17-9           Lions
Oct. 20, 2002        W, 30-9           Redskins
Oct. 28, 1984        W, 41-9           Lions
Sept. 16, 1984        L, 7-9             Bears
Oct. 5, 1980          W, 14-9           Bengals
Nov. 16, 1969         L, 7-9             Vikings
Sept. 19, 1965       W, 41-9           Steelers
Nov. 23, 1961       W, 17-9           Lions
Oct. 2, 1960          W, 28-9           Lions

Opening Day Opponents
The 2017 opener was the 12th for Mike McCarthy as head coach of the Packers. Over the years, the league has been tough on him (and his team) when it comes to the season’s first offering.

On Sunday, the Seahawks became the latest opening-day challenge. Seattle was 10-5-1 a year ago and beat the Lions 26-6 in a wildcard playoff game before falling to the Falcons 36-20 in the divisional round.

The Seahawks are expected to again contend for an NFL championship this season.

McCarthy’s team got a stiff test in his first game as coach in 2006. The Chicago Bears, 11-5 in 2005, blanked the Packers 26-0 while keeping them out of the red zone.

Green Bay has faced similar tests since. In the last 12 years, no team has faced a more daunting opening-day lineup than have the Packers.

Nine of the 12 teams were winners the year previous. Eight won at least 10 regular-season games the year before opening against Green Bay.

Under McCarthy, the Packers have opened against the Bears (11-5), Eagles (10-6), Vikings (8-8), Bears (9-7), Eagles (11-5), Saints (11-5), 49ers (13-3), 49ers (11-4-1), Seahawks (13-3), Bears (5-11), Jaguars (5-11) and Seahawks (10-5-1). Add up the numbers and Green Bay’s opponents were 117-73-2 (.615) in the years prior to facing the Green and Gold.

No other team has been so tested. The closest is the Ravens at 108-83-1 (.565).

Green Bay has done relatively well with the hand it was dealt. The Packers are 8-4 in season openers under McCarthy. Only the Patriots (10-2), Eagles (9-3) and Broncos (9-3) have done better.

So which team or teams have had the easiest go of it? That would be the Cardinals and Seahawks, both at 77-114-1 (.404).

Arizona has opened against three teams with winning records from the previous year. Seattle has done so just twice: Green Bay in 2014 (8-7-1) and Green Bay in 2017 (10-6).

The Seahawks are 7-5 in openers since 2006.

Open to Adversity
Teams with the most difficult season-opening assignments (based on their opponents’ records from the previous year) since 2006.

Team               Opp. Records
Packers            117-73-2 (.615)
Ravens             108-83-1 (.565)
Chiefs               107-85-0 (.557)
Cowboys         107-85-0 (.557)
Bills                  106-86-0 (.552)
Giants               106-86-0 (.552)

Titans               105-87-0 (.547)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The L.A. Rams Tally Four Sacks, 2 Pick 6s and a Safety Versus Colts

PERSPECTIVE
By John Turney
Today the Los Angeles Rams scored a safety, had two pick 6s and sacked the Colts QB four times. Trumaine Johnson and  Lamarcus Joyner each took an interception to the house and Morgan Fox tackled Jacoby Brissett tackled in end zone for a safety. Additionally, the Rams sacked the Colts quarterbacks four times

It was the fourth time in their history (since 1963 when team sacks became official) they have done that, the last being September 21, 1980.
Today's feats were also just the second time in team history they had 3 or more sacks plus a safety and returning two interceptions for touchdowns. In 1983 Johnnie Johnson and Nolan Cromwell returned passes for touchdowns and Jack Youngblood sacked Ken Stabler for a safety.
In fact, only the Rams and Eagles have performed that feat. The Eagles did it in 1993 when Eric Allen score a pair of touchdowns on two picks. William Thomas had the safety when he sacked Mike Buck for a safety.
As for games with a safety and two pick 6s it was the seventh time it has happened since 1940. It was the first time it has happened on opening weekend (as if that matters). It seems some in the National media think that the week it happens matters one way or the other. The Rams mentioned it in their postgame notes "- The Rams are the first team in NFL history to record two interceptions returned for touchdowns and a safety in a season opener, per Randall Liu (NFL).".

Would love ask Mr. Liu why the week matters. In the 1983 instance of the Rams versus Saints it happened in a season finale. Does that carry extra meaning? Less?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Tale of Two Tackles Sources

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
This is one of those things that doesn't matter a lot, but since the information is out there and used in articles, press releases, Information Guides, Media Guides, etc., we thought we'd take a look at it anyway because there are some interesting differences.

The subject is individual tackles for defensive players. There are really, two sources for this statistic. One is the gamebooks or what used to be called a "play-by-play".  At the end of each of these games books is a tackle chart that denotes who made how many tackles. These go back to 1960 in the AFL (for some teams—not all). They became fairly standardized in 1970 and by 1977 all teams were using them.

Here is an example of an assisted tackle by Ray Lewis and then a solo tackle by him.


Here is the tackle total for that game:
The other source is coaches tallies. These are the numbers that are derived from the coaching staffs from many of the teams grading the film and releasing the information to the team public relations department which in turn releases them in weekly releases and/or yearly media guides.

Here is the tackle total from that same game according to the coaches. They have him with 7 total while the gamebook states five (three solo and two assists).
One would think the more accurate of the two is the coaches stats. But Nick Webster and I have found that the coaches stats are almost always higher in total than the gamebooks. They give out a lot of "assisted" tackles but they are never defined. Therefore, there is no way to compare apples to apples when looking at tackle numbers from team to team unless one uses the gamebooks numbers.

Here are a few examples:


The top chart is from the Ravens 2013 Media Guide and it shows his career tackles (as per the coaches film study to be 2,643. The lower chart is from ESPN.com and they use Stats, LLC. who uses the gamebooks for tackles. Their total is 2,050.

Next example is Brian Urlacher:


The top chart is from the 2012 Bears Media Guide and the lower on is his final season stats, we could not find one with a career total. Nonetheless, 1,179 is his career total when adding in the 2012 tackles to his previous total.

The chart below is from Pro Football Reference.com who, like Fox Sports.com and ESPN.com and NFLGSIS.com use the gamebook statistics and here his total tackles are 1,354.
This chart shows a slightly different total, but similar to Pro Football Reference.com. It's from ESPN.com and we attribute the slight differences to human error and we never really bother to look for the discrepancies.

Next up is London Fletcher. From the 2013 Redskins Media Guide we get a total of 2,450 tackles through 2,012 and from the 2014 Media Guide we add 145 from the chart below the "The Fletch File" to bring him to a total 2,595.


From ESPN.com:

This is a chart from the 2013 Redskins Media Guide. When his 111 tackles from 2013 are added in his career total is 2,040, similar to the 2,032 number in the ESPN.com chart.
Thus, using the gamebooks the total is 2,032, not 2,595.
Finally,  Patrick Willis:
Willis ended with 1,225 tackles according to the coaches stats, with his rookie year of 226. Below are NFLGSIS.com, Fox Sports.com and ESPN.com numbers are taken from gamebooks and give Willis a total of 174 his rookie season.


Now, there is one more wildcard on this and it's Pro Football Focus. They have their own film graders and part of what they do is tally tackles, assists and so on.
For Willis's career here are their totals
The PFF totals are 74 tackles less than the gamebooks and the gamebooks are about 275 less than the coaches totals.

Now these discrepancies go back to the 1960s and 1970s and what is interesting is that it has been consistent through time, the coaches tackles are always higher than the gamebooks. However, what is also interesting is that the coaches data is almost always more accurate in forced fumbles. The coaches have always had the luxury of replaying a play over and over since they do their film grading on Monday. The statisticians have to make up their mind on what happened on a bang-bang play on the spur of the moment. They may get a replay or two in the booth but if the play happened in a crowd then they may miss who forced a fumble altogether. It would just go as a team fumble.

So, we take the good and the bad and learn from it. But the answer to the question of "How many tackles did Ray Lewis have in his career? is "According to who? Gamebooks, his coaches, Pro Football Focus?"

Of those who is most "accurate"?  Well, we prefer the gamebooks, but we take them all with a grain of salt. It's really a stat that can. at times, mean little.

If a defensive team forces a lot of 3-and-outs then they will not have as many opportunities for tackles. If a team has a scheme that allows for a lot short completions then there will be more opportunities for tackles. What matters is that defenders are good, solid tackles, and don't miss many tackles. Sure, most schemes are designed for middle linebackers to make tackles, that's why Butkus, Nobis, Lambert and all the rest had high totals for their day and it continues until now.

So, now the information is out there it's up to writers and bloggers to use meaningful tackle totals and when reporting on Lewis or Urlacher at least being aware of the differences in totals depending on the source.