Monday, September 18, 2017

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


  1. Nice article! I would have thought Lynn Dickey would have been higher on the list.

  2. That goes to show what you know, O'Connor!
    Bob D.