Green and Bold: Packers Not Getting It Done on the Money Down

The Green Bay Packers failed in multiple phases of the game against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9, including on special teams and on the final defensive series.  But the most worrisome aspect of the Packers' play on Sunday was their complete and utter failure to both convert on third down on offense and to defend third down on defense. 

The Green Bay Packers failed in multiple phases of the game against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9, including on special teams and on the final defensive series. 

But the most worrisome aspect of the Packers' play on Sunday was their complete and utter failure to both convert on third down on offense and to defend third down on defense.

Green Bay went just 4-of-12 on third-down conversion attempts; their percentage of 33.33 was the 13th-lowest in the league in Week 9. 

Overall, on the season the Packers have been successful on 49.53 percent of third-down conversion attempts on offense, which is actually the second best in the league.

It's also much higher than their 34.19 percent in 2015. 

However, that's why the failure in that area of the game against the Colts was so apparent, and so significant. You cannot allow your opponent to go 7-of-14 on third-down attempts when you yourself can't also approach 50 percent.

On defense, the Packers are allowing opponents to convert 36.73 percent of third downs, which is ninth in the league. Against the Colts, though, they were 25th.

In some games, your offense will struggle to convert those opportunities. In others, your defense will let up more of them to your opponent. But when both those things happen in the same game, it's a recipe for a loss. 

Two of the Colts' third-down attempts kept touchdown drives alive. And, in the failure that put the nail in the coffin for the Packers as they attempted to mount a late-game comeback, the defense gave up a 20-yard Jack Doyle reception on 3rd-and-10 and then a 27-yard gain to T.Y. Hilton on 3rd-and-2 on the Colts' final drive to let Indy run out the clock. 

“We had too many third-and-longs,” Mike McCarthy said. “Third down was a pretty good swing for the Colts as opposed to us.”

No kidding. 

If there's one area the Packers can work on as they prepare to travel to Tennessee in Week 10, it's the money down; both converting third down on offense and defending it on defense. They just can't win with another performance like Sunday's in that area. 

All stats via TeamRankings.com

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Comments (34)

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NickPerry's picture

November 09, 2016 at 06:56 am

Nice article Michelle, and normally I'm a big "Stats" guy, but the 'Stat" I've been thinking about this week when thinking about Green Bay is 8-10. That's the Packers regular season record since they started 6-0 last season. If you'd like to break it down over the last 16 games, then then their 8-8.

IMO I can look at the reasons why a few ways.

The Packers just aren't a very talented Football Team. This is the hardest one to accept IMO, but over the last 18 games that's exactly what appears to be the case. Now if you were to believe that, then much of the blame would fall on Ted T. Thompson's refusal to acquire talent by all means available has finally caught up to him. AR can no longer do it by himself and the years are whizzing by where we can afford to wait for draft picks to develop. The problem with that is by the time most picks develop, you've lost other players to age, free agency, or injuries. Seems like a cycle that's hard to break.

Mike McCarthy after 11 seasons has become stale, predictable, and the team just doesn't respond to MM anymore and Sundays like this last one will become the norm. This was clearly on display this past Sunday as the Packers looked as lifeless and uninspired as an undertaker.

It's combination of both and change is needed which I feel is the case. The Packers are the ONLY NFL team to treat Free Agency like the plague. Several teams use the Draft and Develop approach, I mean only a fool wouldn't build through the draft. But every other team uses FA, even the Steelers who are the closest team to compare to the Packers and how their built.

EDIT.. I know Ted has USED Free Agency, but I talking about recently. Peppers was a great signing, almost got us there in 2014. You'd think with a hit like that he'd be more open to trying it again, especially those that are cut.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 09, 2016 at 07:50 am

The core of your team needs to be drafted. Seattle, New England, Green Bay and all the better teams in the league draft well. The difference in New England and Seattle vs Green Bay is they supplement the draft with signing free agents.

Green Bay did go out and get Cook this offseason. Unfortunately Cook got injured and hasn't been able to be productive to this point, but there is a lot of season left, so we can't call it a bad signing yet. I do wish Green Bay would go out and sign more Free agents.

The truth is right now the problem with team isn't signing free agents or not. I disagree with your assessment that this isn't a very talented team. This is a very talented team.

The problem is that they have had to many key injuries to the team. (Only 2 RB's on roster, Starting TE, Starting OLB, Top 3 starting CB's have missed a lot of games, and has changed how they can play).
They have a GM that hasn't fully given his coach the needed players to adjust. (see RB) And they have had a coach that simply hasn't been willing to fully adjust to the players they have. The players haven't played up to their abilities either. To many mistakes.

I'm not saying the season is over because this is a very talented team. There are 8 games left and a lot of season left. They will start getting some of these injured players back. They just got Rollins back, and look to be getting Cook and Starks back soon.

The only question I have is.. Is McCarthy willing to fully commit to the players he has, and use them to their ability's?

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NickPerry's picture

November 09, 2016 at 10:27 am

"The only question I have is.. Is McCarthy willing to fully commit to the players he has, and use them to their ability's?"

Ah the Million Dollar question. If you watch the 2nd half of Chicago and the Atlanta game I'd say yes. But what happened against Indy, the effort put forth by the players, I'd say that's a two-way questions.

Is McCarthy willing to fully commit to the players he has... And are the players fully ready to commit to McCarthy.

There's a big issue between MM and AR and it's been brewing for quite a while. Getting Starks and Cook back may help, but after watching Starks at the beginning of the season, i'm not holding my breath.

They do have talent and if they're as talented as we thought they were at the start of the season then that should surface and they should start winning.

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jh9's picture

November 09, 2016 at 04:01 pm

The Colts game is a perfect example of why talent isn't the problem. Everyone could see (except MM) the Packers played for the first 3 quarters with no energy or enthusiasm. Aaron Rodgers even said that lack of energy could be felt on the sideline.

That's not a talent problem, that's a coaching problem. And then we have MM say this: http://www.espn.com/blog/green-bay-packers/post/_/id/34897/mike-mccarthy...

If the Packers played in a big city and had writers not afraid to challenge him, he couldn't get away saying this b.s.

IMO, the only way MM can save his job after this season is if the Packers make it to the Super Bowl. If they don't and TT doesn't replace MM next year, as far as I'm concerned then TT should be gone too.

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Since'61's picture

November 09, 2016 at 09:41 am

Nick - I think that you hit on some of the key issues. In past seasons the Packers had the depth/talent to overcome their injuries, at least to the point of winning close games like the last two against the Colts and Falcons. Rodgers has been basically playing alone and he is not playing well enough to carry the team on his back again. Beyond that coaching has been ineffective and that's on MM. The defense has good stats against the run but teams still run for first downs at key points in the game and the defense still cannot get off the field on 3rd down. This is a talent issue and a coaching issue. Talent is on TT, although drafting late is tough year after year. Coaching is obviously on MM. This team has been resilient before, we'll find out soon if there is one more run of resilience left. Thanks, Since '61

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NickPerry's picture

November 10, 2016 at 05:09 am

Thanks Since '61... You make some excellent points too. The Packers inability to get off the field at key moments has haunted this teams for years, but for once they've been effective against the run. Dallas tore them up and Tennessee is built much in the same mold, if the Packers can hold them at bay, then I'll have a much better feeling moving forward.

Drafting late in the year IS tough and I think the Packers will be drafting somewhere around 15th this year. I don't think this team is resilient enough, not with Rodgers being inconsistent to make the playoffs this year. I'd rather miss the playoffs than have another one and done and draft late. Obviously anything can happen once in, but I don't think this team can make a run, not with McCarthy. My opinion is change needs to happen. I have a feeling Rodgers would respond an a favorable way to a new coach and new system. If Ted was to just retire or remain as a consultant for a year, he looks good, the Packers look good, and everybody wins. Wouldn't want him to be fired unless he wouldn't step down.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 09, 2016 at 07:00 am

Also what really hurt the team was on 3 drives they went 3 and out.
3 drives they picked up 0 first downs. Another drive they picked up 1 first down.

They did put themselves in way to many 3rd and long situations. The following is a breakdown of the drives.

1st drive- the get to the 9 yard line. On first down Rodgers gets sacked for a 7 yard loss. Ends on 3rd and 16. Completed one 3rd and 8 on drive. (drive ends in FG)
2nd drive- they end up in 3rd and 11. (missed FG)
3rd drive- 3rd and 2 and incomplete to Richard Rodgers (punt)
4th drive- Rodgers to Nelson for TD.
5th drive- 3rd and 10 Deep pass to Janis and he drops it (punt)
6th drive- 3rd and 8 sacked. (punt)
7th drive- 3rd and 11 Rodgers throws interception. Completed one 3rd and 9 on drive.
8th drive- 3rd and 9 Rodgers scrambles for 4 yards. Completed one 3rd and 3 on drive (FG)
9th drive- 3rd and 6 Incomplete deep to Nelson (punt)
10th drive- no 3rd downs on drive (TD)
11th drive - no 3rd downs (TD)

Way to many 3rd and long situations.

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Razer's picture

November 09, 2016 at 07:32 am

Good recap and telling. Maybe the untold story of what was done with the 1st and 2nd downs shows the bigger picture. When we ignored using the short pass as a run game, we relied on our WRs getting separation downfield. We all know how that has been working for the offense.

There is enough talent on offense to get the job done, there just isn't enough willingness/intelligence to change the approach.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 09, 2016 at 07:59 am

'There is enough talent on offense to get the job done, there just isn't enough willingness/intelligence to change the approach.'

That is exactly where my question is with this team. Are they willing to do do whatever it takes to win?

The offense the 2 games really showed what they can do and what they were good at.
The most concerning part for me is at half time last week against Atlanta McCarthy says they need to run the ball more. Then he started to use the TE's more, and they did nothing in the 3rd quarter against Atlanta. He came into the Colts game trying to use the TE's a lot more, and they didn't do much against the Colts.

IMO, the team is better without their TE's right now. The TE's are severely hurting the offense. They can use them, just not as much as they have been.
The team without a true rushing presence is at its best with 4-5 WR's on the field. It creates mismatches that defenses haven't been able to match up against. Is McCarthy willing to keep doing that though?

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Since'61's picture

November 09, 2016 at 01:52 pm

RC - good points and good questions. We are just not getting anywhere on first and second down. I like the quick/short passing game but we need to have a back who can at least get us 3 or 4 yards on first or second down combined with the quick passes. When you are consistently in 3rd and long you are playing into the defense's hands. Same with our defense. The last 2 games our defense is losing at the LOS especially on 3rd down. And as I have been posting for years, we have no one on defense who can take over a game. CM3 and Daniels make some plays, but almost never when it counts and overall this defense still has a soft attitude especially late in the game. Thanks, Since '61

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Tundraboy's picture

November 09, 2016 at 01:45 pm

Great recap RC. All the 3rd and longs make me crazy because as we know the majority of the time, we end up going for the 20 yard pass, 30 yard sideline pass or worse the deep ball. We even do it on consecutive series. What also drives me nuts is the"run up the middle into a wall" play, that gains us 2 or 3 yards when we need 6 or more! At least the short pass to RRodgers seems to have been retired, but who knows.

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Razer's picture

November 09, 2016 at 07:10 am

Third down conversion does show the state of the team, particularly in recent weeks. Without Clay Matthews we can't get serious pressure on the QB. Without Shields, Randall and Rollins our secondary isn't good enough. A good quarterback should be successful against this team.

Two years ago teams figured out how to play Aaron Rodgers and this offense. And while we saw a glimmer of hope in Atlanta, the lack of threat from the backfield, little over the middle presence and Rodgers insistence on waiting for the vertical route has given teams exactly what they want. Unless we change our tendencies on offense and get more creative we will be a 500 club going forward.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 09, 2016 at 08:05 am

It was funny at the beginning of the season people asked who was the most valuable player on defense. Almost everyone said Daniels. If Daniels was 1a Mathews is 1b. I think we have seen the last 2 weeks what a difference Mathews makes for our defense. Its simply not the same.

IMO, the problem is McCarthy's stubbornness of the offense. His unwillingness to just go with what works and stick with it.

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dobber's picture

November 09, 2016 at 08:10 am

In the past, there have been stretches where CMIII didn't play, but overall the team held up OK. But that was in an era when the offense could carry the defense. We haven't seen that for a season-plus, now.

Daniels is exposed in base. He's strong and quick, but he's the focus of offensive fronts. He's at his best in even fronts and obvious passing situations...but not when teams can focus on him. Despite his quick start, Nick Perry clearly can't divert enough attention away from him to give him opportunities when CMIII isn't on the field.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 09, 2016 at 09:10 am

Offenses have to focus on Mathews when he is on the field. That creates openings for others to make plays. When he isn't on the field, they don't have someone that offenses have to scheme to take away. It makes a huge difference.

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Hematite's picture

November 09, 2016 at 07:35 am

I never thought I would see the day when the Packers would be a .500 team WITH Rodgers at quarterback.
It's time to shed Murphy, Thompson and McCarthy.

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croatpackfan's picture

November 09, 2016 at 08:06 am

Or it is maybe time to rethink what AR invest in this team? His preseason preparation he did not for sure!

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Lphill's picture

November 09, 2016 at 07:37 am

Daniels, Jones and Perry were invisible against the Colts no pressure at all I don't think they had any tackles .

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dobber's picture

November 09, 2016 at 08:11 am

They were all in the box score this week, but I wouldn't care if they were logging numbers if their being shut out meant that someone else was wreaking havoc. That hasn't been the case.

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croatpackfan's picture

November 09, 2016 at 08:19 am

Daniels 1 tackle, Perry 1 tackle 3 assisted tackles and 0.5 sack, Jones 1 assisted tackle... Daniels also had several QB hurries, but Jones and Peppers were bad... Daniels and Pennel had one QB hit each....

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Since'61's picture

November 09, 2016 at 01:55 pm

Yes, but nothing when it counted, like on the 96 yard TD drive or during the final 3+ minutes. Those were the 2 times in the game when stops needed to be made and as usual no Daniels, Peppers, Perry and no one covering the middle of the field. The defense needs to make plays when it matters. For the last 2 games the Packers defense has been pushed down the field when it mattered most. Why? Poor coaching, poor preparation and most important of all poor\soft attitude. Case closed! Thanks Since '61

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Savage57's picture

November 09, 2016 at 08:10 am

As good as the 3rd down conversion % is for the offense this season, they share a common trait with the defense in those situations: Cannot convert/prevent in crunch time.

And that, as much as anything on the negative side of the ledger has been a defining aspect of team for too long.

That speaks to attitude, belief and culture as much as it does to player talent and play calls.

Just objectively consider the history. In the recent past, far too much of the legacy of this team has been defined by their inability to rise above the challenge of those moments.

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Since'61's picture

November 09, 2016 at 10:08 am

Savage - absolutely perfect comment! Great Job. Nothing at crunch time from this team. IMO, that is a matter of preparation/coaching, and on field talent. When you lose at crunch time you are usually losing to your opponent's best players. They are making the key plays because their players are better than ours. We have been outplayed and out coached. Thanks, Since '61

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Tundraboy's picture

November 09, 2016 at 01:59 pm

That's the heart of the matter. The story with us has been, the other team always has a chance. First it began with the D. At some point we would eventually break and give up a critical first down play at some point in the 4th quarter, And as the O became less dominant, then anytime when the game was on the line we would fail to keep momentum by gaining a back breaking Ist down,or worse just hand it back by going 3 and out. Lack of killer instinct I guess. Or overconfidence? Not sure how we change that because it is complex but we must. Starts with MM.

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croatpackfan's picture

November 09, 2016 at 08:19 am

Sorry! Double post!

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croatpackfan's picture

November 09, 2016 at 08:13 am

Yes, Michelle, nice article, right on the money. Pitty you are not playing for Packers ;-)

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Handsback's picture

November 09, 2016 at 08:23 am

Another great article....it is a lack of talent in the CB/RB that keeps the offense off the field and the defense on the field. Why the LOFT???? Injuries.

I'll take it a little further. Even with all of the injured guys back, the team's offense is still stagnet. With an offense not doing as well as it should, the defense struggles unless it's a top ten defense which even healthy Green Bay's D is NOT!

Too many under-performing players on both sides of the ball.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 09, 2016 at 09:15 am

Thats a great point. The combination of the 2 groups of injuries really do hurt each other.
Injuries to the RB's doesn't allow you to keep Time of Possession consistently. The injuries to the CB's allows the other team to gain more first downs keeping the ball longer.

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al bundy's picture

November 09, 2016 at 07:22 pm

Ya to bad your wrong. When healthy the d could not get off the field. The offense not so bad.

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Since'61's picture

November 09, 2016 at 01:57 pm

Michele- good article. Our defense just cannot get off the field on third down. This has been an issue for 5+ seasons now with this team. This defense does not have any mental toughness, none, zero, zilch. That reflects coaching, particularly MM and Capers. This season we're not getting consistent performance from our offense and Rodgers is no longer playing well enough as he has in the past to overcome the defensive failures and a lack of RBs. We have 8 games left but this may be the season that proves that Rodgers has been surrounded with a weak supporting cast and that he has almost single handedly been carrying this team for years. Thanks, Since '61

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al bundy's picture

November 09, 2016 at 07:19 pm

The pack d has struggled getting off the field for three seasons now. The passing d gives up easy over the middle passes.

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shinglesmcfanny's picture

November 09, 2016 at 09:20 pm

Clements makes all the 3rd down calls... Just saying. Not for Defense, although we couldn't do worse...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 10, 2016 at 04:18 am

Sorry, I don't think much of the article and I don't think much of most of the comments that are on point - some of the tangential comments are fine.

On D, we're 9th in 3rd dn conversion % but 18th in pts allowed/gm. We must be lousy on 1st and 2nd down?

On O, we're 2nd in 3rd dn conversion % but 11th in pts/game and 16th in yds/game. We must be not so good on 1st and 2nd down.

We're last in in the whole NFL in rushing TDs. That is because we have one good run blocker in Lang and Lacy is a big back more than a power back, plus MM uses Starks when he should use Lacy for short yardage and at the goal line, and neither takes the ball to the house on longer runs much. We're 7th in the NFL with a 4.5 yard average per carry.

We're 6th in gaining 10+ yards running right.
We're 4th in gaining a first dn running right.
We're 15th in power running right.
We're 25th in gaining 10+ yds running middle.
We're 27th in gaining a 1st dn running middle.
We're 26th in power running middle.
We're 14th in gaining 10+ yds running left.
We're 17th in gaining a 1st dn running left.
We're 31st in power running left.

So, if we need 2 yards or less for a 1st down or TD (power running), we can't run left at all, are bad running up the middle, and are average running right. Don't think defenses don't know this.

In terms of yds/carry, we're 21st left end (15% of RB carries), 7th left tackle (17%), 3rd middle (34% includes btw OC and RG and LG), 14th right tackle (13%), and 26th right end (21% of the time). We are 31st in RB total carries. I've no idea why we run 32% to the left, 34% middle, and 34% of the time to the right - roughly equal distribution - despite unequal outcomes.

Lang is good and Bulaga is at least an average run blocker, probably average + but has trouble cutting off backside pursuit. Tretter can't always move his man but has good agility. Bakh can't move his guy usually, but also is good in space. Taylor is okay.

We're average or a bit less running left because Bakh has improved to being okay, and run blocking is Taylor's strength - he's about NFL average.

The good news is that Linsley is back, and he's a better center than Tretter. I know, Tretter is versatile. So is Hyde (I know that's not fair because Tretter is a NFL starting caliber center).

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 10, 2016 at 04:46 am

In case anyone is wondering, in 2014 (I skipped 2015 because the offense was completely off kilter that year plus the injuries) we were 25th in power running (43% success rate so far in 2016 versus 59% success rate in 2014). The median power running success rate was 65% in 2014 and 2015, and it is 66% so far in 2016.

We were 8th in adjusted line yards in 2014, 25th in 2015 due to injuries probably, and 14th this season. We were 15th, 14th, 12th, 5th, 13th running L End, L T, Middle, RT, R end in 2014.

We have an average run blocking offensive line between the 20s, and a terrible one goal line, short yardage, and when backed up deep in our own territory, because we're terrible at power running.

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