Case Study: Third Down (Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Rodgers)


Aaron Rodgers' 2009 season is fascinating me (so much so that this is my third Deep Dive about him - and I've only done 4 total Deep Dives).
  • He leads the league in the traditional passer rating, but is only 10th in my passer rating - which takes sacks (among other things) into account.
  • He leads the NFL in my 3rd down ratings, but is pretty pedestrian on other downs.  
  • He shaved the best QB porn mustache since  Jake Plummer.
Well, here's one more.

Rodgers' performance on third down has ranged from outstanding on third and less than 8 yards to 
putrid on third and long (including 5 sacks on 32 attempts).

I don't know the reason behind the disparity, but it could be a red flag given Rodgers' well documented propensity to take sacks and put his team in 3rd and long situations.

Below are the yards per attempt for several top QBs (adjusted for sacks) on 3rd and long (8+ yards) vs. 3rd and less than 7 yards to go.  Rodgers' is the worst in 3rd and long and the best on other 3rd downs.

Below the tables, I dig into his statistics from the two defining games against the Vikings.



3rd and 8+ Yards
3rd and Less Than 8 Yds
Rank
Player
Y/A
Rank
Player
Y/A
1
Eli Manning
12.61
1
Aaron Rodgers
14.5
2
Peyton Manning
9.17
2
Philip Rivers
9.0
3
Drew Brees
8.53
3
Matt Ryan
7.4
4
Carson Palmer
8.12
4
Drew Brees
7.3
5
Philip Rivers
8.11
5
Brett Favre
7.2
6
Joe Flacco
8.10
6
Eli Manning
7.0
7
Brett Favre
7.57
7
Peyton Manning
6.7
8
Tom Brady
7.30
8
Tony Romo
6.4
9
Matt Ryan
7.15
9
Matt Schaub
5.9
10
Jay Cutler
6.36
10
Carson Palmer
5.6
11
Tony Romo
6.22
11
Jay Cutler
5.5
12
Matt Hasselbeck
6.05
12
Ben Roethlisberger
5.5
13
Matthew Stafford
5.89
13
David Garrard
5.2
14
David Garrard
5.88
14
Matthew Stafford
5.2
15
Kyle Orton
5.67
15
Kyle Orton
5.1
16
Matt Schaub
5.66
16
Joe Flacco
4.8
17
Donovan McNabb
5.44
17
Tom Brady
4.6
18
Kurt Warner
5.00
18
Kurt Warner
4.4
19
Ben Roethlisberger
4.52
19
Matt Hasselbeck
3.3
20
Aaron Rodgers
3.51
20
Donovan McNabb
3.0


Two Games Against The Vikings


Third downs against the Vikings were a microcosm of Rodgers' season.  The following tables are Rodgers' third down stats in the two games against the Vikings. (Full tables at the bottom)

Down and Distance
Att
Comp
Yards
TD
Sack
YrdLost
Adj Y/A
First Downs
3rd and Less Than 8 Yards
11
12
173
3
2
10
11.64
7
3rd and Long (8+ Yards)
8
2
41
0
3
7
3.09
1

The third and long is actually skewed by a 34 yard completion with 2 minutes left in the November 1st game.  Without that completion, Rodgers has 0 yards net passing (7 passing yards and 7 sack yards lost).

I hope to be able to dig into this a little further, but I don't know what data would provide insight. Is Rodgers holding the ball an extra second on 3rd and long?  Is he trying higher risk passes?

Regardless of the reason, he and the team would benefit greatly - more so than most teams - from staying out of 3rd and longs. 







Packers' third down plays in 2009 Packers - Vikings games.
October 5th
Down and Distance
Quarter
Time Remaining
Play
3rd-5, GB40
1
12:56
A. Rodgers passed to D. Driver to the right for 20 yard gain
3rd-17, MIN47
1
11:51
A. Rodgers incomplete pass down the middle
3rd-13, GB17
1
7:25
A. Rodgers incomplete pass to the left
3rd-5, MIN16
1
5:42
A. Rodgers sacked by R. Edwards
3rd-1, GB24
2
15:00
A. Rodgers sacked by R. Edwards
3rd-18, GB15
2
9:23
A. Rodgers incomplete pass to the right
3rd-3, GB15
2
4:39
A. Rodgers passed to D. Driver down the middle for 6 yard gain
3rd-3, GB15
2
4:39
A. Rodgers passed to D. Driver down the middle for 6 yard gain
3rd-12, GB19
2
2:36
A. Rodgers incomplete pass to the left
3rd-5, MIN35
3
11:21
A. Rodgers rushed to the right for 7 yard gain
3rd-4, MIN4
3
9:05
A. Rodgers sacked by J. Allen
3rd-4, MIN5
3
1:57
A. Rodgers passed to S. Havner to the right for 5 yard touchdown.
3rd-5, MIN10
4
10:26
A. Rodgers passed to G. Jennings to the right for 10 yard touchdown.
3rd-8, MIN33
4
5:49
A. Rodgers incomplete pass to the left
3rd-6, GB30
4
3:16
A. Rodgers passed to G. Jennings to the right for 7 yard gain
3rd-10, GB37
4
2:59
GB committed 10 yard penalty
3rd-20, GB27
4
2:51
A. Rodgers incomplete pass down the middle





November 1st
Down and Distance
Quarter
Time Remaining
Play
3rd-7, MIN42
1
10:07
A. Rodgers passed to J. Finley to the right for 18 yard gain
3rd-5, GB38
1
2:16
A. Rodgers passed to J. Finley down the middle for 62 yard touchdown. M. Crosby made PAT
3rd-5, GB30
2
4:50
A. Rodgers sacked by J. Allen
3rd-6, GB27
2
0:15
A. Rodgers passed to D. Wynn to the right for 11 yard gain
3rd-7, GB21
3
9:28
A. Rodgers passed to J. Nelson to the right for 10 yard gain
3rd-2, GB39
3
7:27
A. Rodgers passed to D. Driver down the middle for 24 yard gain
3rd-1, MIN1
3
3:04
A. Rodgers passed to J. Finley to the right for no gain
3rd-6, MIN14
4
1:07
A. Rodgers incomplete pass to the right
3rd-10, MIN43
2
13:40
A. Rodgers passed to D. Driver to the left for 7 yard gain
3rd-10, GB1
4
7:21
A. Rodgers sacked by J. Allen. A. Rodgers sacked for a safety
3rd-12, GB26
4
2:12
A. Rodgers passed to J. Jones to the right for 34 yard gain

1 comment:

Packer Pete said...

A couple of points about Rodgers. In the early half of the season, the Packers seemed to go to a more vertical game, throwing less slants and quick drop routes. McCarthy tried to compensate for his porous offensive line by often keeping a back AND a tight end in to block, or chip and release. That left Rodgers waiting for deeper routes to develop with 7 on 3 coverage downfield and no check down. He certainly held on the ball too long often, but he didn't chuck the ball into coverage for picks, either.

Also, Rodgers didn't always put himself into third and long by taking sacks. The less than dominant running game, headed by Ryan "Second And Eight" Grant, left Rodgers with a whole lot of second and longs, often leading to third and longs, this season.

Rodgers will be fun to watch for years to come. We fans in Titletown are fortunate to have two high caliber QBs whose tenures will span a quarter-century.

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