Explosive Plays & 3rd Down Efficiency Behind Offensive Success

There are several reasons behind the Green Bay Packers' offensive success this season, but two major factors are their increased efficiency on third-downs as well as their ability to hit the big play. 

No matter how you look at it, this Green Bay Packers' offense has been the most productive in the NFL through the first three weeks in most major categories. Their 459.7 yards per game ranks as the second most, their 40.7 points per game is the highest in football, while the unit also ranks first in DVOA. Certainly a stark contrast from the offense that we saw in 2019, where there were flashes, but by and large, it was a season filled with inconsistency.

So what's changed? Well, as is always the case, there are a myriad of reasons why. Including Aaron Rodgers playing at an elite level along with the unit taking a step forward in Year 2 of the Matt LaFleur offense. However, two other areas that we've seen the Green Bay Packers greatly improve in from last season is their efficiency on third downs as well as the fact that they are connecting on the deep ball at a much higher rate. 

Last season, the Packers' third-down conversion rate of 37.6 percent ranked 19th in the NFL and was the second-worst success rate out of all the playoff teams, ahead of only Buffalo by a few hundredths of a percent. This year, however, Green Bay has the fourth best third down conversion rate, moving the chains 50 percent of the time. 

Once again, there are always several factors contributing to this newfound success on third down, but perhaps the biggest factor is that the offense is putting themselves in more manageable situations than what they were a year ago. In 2020, the Packers are averaging 6.56 yards to gain on third down, which is a significant drop off from the 7.91 yards they had to gain in 2019. Not to mention that they are gaining 10.6 yards on third downs this season compared to only 6.83 yards from last year. That, of course, is going to help things as well.

The rushing attack led by Aaron Jones behind this stout offensive line has created more third and short situations, but the passing game is where we've seen the most significant difference as Rodgers is getting the ball out quicker, taking what the defense gives him, and LaFleur's ability to scheme players open has noticeably improved. 

Speaking of the passing game, while the Packers are more efficient on third downs, they've also been more efficient on deep throws. Earlier this offseason, LaFleur mentioned that creating more explosive plays was a must this season, and so far, we've seen Rodgers and his receivers do just that.

Through three weeks, Rodgers and company have recorded 12 plays of 20 or more yards, which is the sixth most in the NFL this season, and their five plays of 40 or more yards are tied for the most in the league. At Sharp Football, they measure explosive pass rate, which is the frequency at which a team completes a pass play of at least 15 yards, and the Packers' rate of 11 percent is the sixth-best rate in football and up two percent from 2019 when they finished 18th in this same category. 

A few reasons behind this now potent downfield passing attack is the progress that Allen Lazard has made as a receiver from last year to this year, the improved connection between QB1 and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, along with Rodgers having tweaked his mechanics after watching some old film of himself from the 2010 season. And oh yeah, did I mention Davante Adams? 

I'll go ahead and say it once more, there are many more contributors to the Green Bay Packers' offensive success in 2020 than what I've discussed here, but we can't deny that the improved downfield passing attack and their third down efficiency aren't big factors. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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Comments (15)

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Spock's picture

September 28, 2020 at 12:27 pm

Paul, When for the love of (the Green Bay Packers) are you going to fix your icon picture so that you're not "Carrying the( -BACKWARDS-) G"?????? I asked about this the very first time you posted an article. Come on, man, it's not that hard to mirror a picture and replace it. It's embarrassing to see two (!) backwards G's every time you post. Fix it, please. -End of Rant-. Other than that I liked the article. :)

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Houndog's picture

September 28, 2020 at 01:08 pm

Spock,
Wow, how refreshing is it when following a game a backward "G" in a picture all someone can find to gripe about?
I guess that means the Pack is lookin' pretty good, eh!
But Oh yeah, the defense could use a little work too, getting Clark back will be a good start.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 28, 2020 at 01:33 pm

As long as we are winning keep the “backwards G” going.

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Spock's picture

September 29, 2020 at 08:24 am

Good point. This team is AWESOME to watch. That said those backward "G's" seem disrespectful to me and drive me nuts (okay more like a short putt than a drive, lol).

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 28, 2020 at 03:28 pm

"Including Aaron Rodgers playing at an elite level along with the unit taking a step forward in Year 2 of the Matt LaFleur offense."

THIS, along with AR is now willing to throw to the open man on time. These throws are not highlight throws. They are mostly wheel routes, screens, crossers and other Man Beaters that we've been clamoring for for years. They are easy to throw and soften up the defense for the run game and the deep stuff Rodgers covets. The crux to me is that MLF sold Rodgers on this way to play and now Rodgers is an MVP favorite. Kudos to Rodgers and MLF for their partnership.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 28, 2020 at 01:20 pm

Watching MM's usage of Ezekiel Elliot and clock management has made me even more thankful for MLF taking over. Love that Rodgers isn't waiting until 1 second over and over to snap the ball. He's been all over the place and beating up defenses with his hard count. The offense is schemed differently each week so you don't know how the Packers will beat you.

TE's especially Tonyan really showed up for this game and Lazard stepped up in a big way. On defense I watched many teams across the NFL get gashed by the run it's not a unique problem to the Packers but itnis a problem. The solution still seems to be put up points and force the opponent to pass to catch up.

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BBlake's picture

September 28, 2020 at 02:15 pm

I think another factor in their success is the fact that MLF is cutting down on the number of game-losing mistakes like turnovers and stupid penalties. After watching all the dropped passes in the Lions game, didn't see much of that in the Saints game.

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Hematite's picture

September 28, 2020 at 02:17 pm

The offense is cooking pretty darn good and I think we can expect it to get even better as the season progresses.
Yesterday Rodgers and MVS were having problems hooking up again.
I'm hoping that will not be a continuing problem down the road.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

September 28, 2020 at 03:07 pm

Given that the Saints seemed to be prioritizing taking Aaron Jones and MVS out of the game, it bodes well that MLF can game-plan for other skill positions to step up. Defense won't be able to focus on MVS most of the time, particularly when Adams is back. And, if they do, GB can beat you another way. I'm kind of glad MVS was not a factor, mainly because they got 2 scores and trip digit yards from the TE position.

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murf7777's picture

September 28, 2020 at 04:59 pm

Every week there seems to be new “stars for the game”. The list is quite lengthy and makes the team extremely dangerous. People are clamoring over Dillion in short yardage 4th and 1 situations. To me that’s not the time to throw your rookie into. Especially with the importance and closeness of the game. What if he fumbles in such a big situation or doesn’t hit the right hole. He will keep getting playing time and will earn that opportunity probably sometime this year. Then you will be able to add another name to the list.

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4thand1's picture

September 28, 2020 at 05:18 pm

3 games ,3 different game plans? Week one it was the D Adams show. Week 2 it was the A Jones show. Week 3 the TE's and Lazard. Making it all go, the play calling and A-Rod executing it to near perfection. The defense also making key plays in every game. As Nagler pointed out ,man the tackling has got to improve. This is FUN! GOPACKGO!

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canadapacker's picture

September 28, 2020 at 06:58 pm

I dont know what the stats say but it seems that we are in average shorter on 3rd down situations. A big part is that when we miss on a first down pass and run it on 2nd down we get 7 or 8 yards. The second big thing is that AR is taking and hitting accurately the first open player this year unlike his extending plays last year. Getting 8 or 9 early and letting Adams make plays or Jones make plays after the catch really helps rather than throwing it away or taking the sacks like last year.

This last game was one of the better ones for our tight ends. Especially when they leaked out after blocking and made nice gains. If we can get both Tonyon and Sternberger to catch every pass then we will be even more efficient when Adams gets back. It would be really nice for those two guys to get more YAC because that is a killer on other teams defenses. Dont expect him to be a Kittle or a Graham but we need somebody to approach what Cook and Finley did and the safety blanket who gets first downs and breaks the odd really big play.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

September 29, 2020 at 10:53 am

I loved those TE underneath plays - NO had no answer for it. Just keep doing what works till the defense overcommits to take it away.

Jace looked much surer this week, and I'm glad Rodgers kept giving him looks after a rough week last week. Is definitely going to help build his confidence back up and force defenses to account for him.

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Since'61's picture

September 28, 2020 at 11:05 pm

The offense is better because it’s the 2nd year in this offense and MLF and AR made adjustments to it during the off-season.
The OL is executing very effectively that makes everything go.
Rodgers is playing better because he understands how this offense works, he is not getting hit, and he self-studied and improved during the off-season.
Our RBs are better than they have been in a long time and our WRs and TEs have improved over last season.
Another factor is that unlike MMs offense, MLFs offense is not predictable. They can run almost any play from any formation or player package. Add to that the fact that a QB like Rodgers can make every type of throw from anywhere on the field and on the run if necessary makes it very difficult for the defense in real time on the field. There are only so many players a defense can try to take away.
The scary part is that this offense should only get better as the season goes on. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ‘61

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Matt Gonzales's picture

September 29, 2020 at 10:58 am

The biggest thing to me is that Rodgers is making fewer BIG adjustments at the line. He might call out protections or make an adjustment to bring an RB in or out if the backfield but he's mostly just running the called play, so everyone seems a lot more confident knowing what to do and you have a lot fewer incidents where Rodgers is clearly expecting WRs to be running a different route.

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