Monday, December 20, 2021

Packers Air on the Side of First Downs in Baltimore

 By Eric Goska

Don Horn, in 1969, was the first Packer
to pass for 20 first downs in a game.

If you knocked back a shot for every Packers’ passing first down against the Ravens, you might be contemplating going alcohol-free in the new year.

Green Bay traveled by air to Baltimore and that mode of transportation more than sufficed in moving the chains for the team Sunday. The Green and Gold racked up five times as many passing first downs as they did rushing in shading the Ravens 31-30.

The Packers didn’t abandon the run at M&T Bank Stadium. They rushed 25 times for 96 yards.

But with Baltimore entrenched as the league’s top run defender, turning to the air made sense.

Green Bay produced a season-high 20 passing first downs. All 20 arrived during a roughly 36-minute stretch that started late in the first quarter and ended with too much time remaining in the fourth.

Had the team tacked on one more – instead of kicking a field goal – the Raven’s likely would not have been in position to take the lead with 42 seconds remaining on what turned out to be a failed two-point conversion.

In today’s NFL, passes get bandied about like holiday candy. Even so, Green Bay came away with more than its customary share of chain-advancing throws.

Since 1921, Green Bay has amassed 20 or more passing first downs 14 times in regular-season games. Its record when doing so is 8-5-1.

In Baltimore, eight Packers caught at least one pass that reset the down marker to one. Six helped themselves to two or more.

Getting that many players involved to that extent has proven effective. The Packers are 10-2 in games in which at least six players chipped in multiple first-down receptions.

Against the Ravens, Davante Adams (5), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (5), Josiah Deguara (2), Aaron Jones (2), Allen Lazard (2), and Marcedes Lewis (2) were multiple go-getters. A.J. Dillon and Tyler Davis each had one.

Eighteen of the first downs were registered as Green Bay helped itself to four touchdowns. The two that occurred elsewhere – a 24-yard grab by Valdes-Scantling and a 23-yarder by Lewis – were followed by a punt and Mason Crosby’s 29-yard field goal.

That three-pointer put the Pack up 31-17 with nine minutes, 26 seconds remaining. Had Aaron Rodgers not overshot Lazard in the end zone one play earlier, Green Bay would have led by more.

Five Packers passers – Don Horn, Lynn Dickey, Brett Favre, Matt Flynn, and Rodgers – threw for 20 or more first downs in a single game. Rodgers and Favre each did so five times.

Sunday, Rodgers and the Packers tied the team record for the fewest pass plays (sacks included) needed to reach 20 first downs through the air. The 31 pass plays they required matched the number Horn used to light up the St. Louis Cardinals 45-28 in the 1969 regular-season finale.

Horn attempted 31 passes – he was not sacked – and completed 22 for 410 yards, five TDs, and 20 first downs. Just two of his completions failed to yield first downs.

Rodgers (23 of 31 for 268 yards and 3 TDs) was nearly as efficient. Only three of his connections came up short.

The last of those – a toss to Adams that lost six yards – came one play before his overthrow intended for Lazard in the end zone.

This season, four teams – the Buccaneers (225), Chiefs (221), Chargers (204) and Cowboys (200) – have manufactured more passing first downs than have the Packers (193). But Green Bay’s rate of one passing first down every 2.65 pass plays is No. 1 in the league, ahead of the Chiefs (2.67) and the Rams (2.68) and 29 other teams.

Flying First Class
Since 1921, regular-season games in which the Packers needed 45 or fewer passing plays (sacks included) to produce 20 first downs passing.

   Plays    Quarterback          Opponent                   Date                        Result
      31            Don Horn                 Cardinals              Dec. 21, 1969          GB won, 45-28
      31       Aaron Rodgers              Ravens                 Dec. 19, 2021           GB won, 31-30
      40       Aaron Rodgers               Saints                 Sept. 30, 2012           GB won, 28-27
      41          Lynn Dickey                Broncos             Oct. 15, 1984            GB lost, 14-17
      44          Brett Favre                Panthers               Sept. 27, 1998           GB won, 37-30
      45          Brett Favre                 Jaguars                Dec. 19, 2004            GB lost, 25-28
      45          Brett Favre                  Vikings               Nov. 11, 2007            GB won, 34-0

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