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Coming Through On Third Down, The Heart Of The Packers’ Defense

January 26, 2011

The Green Bay Packers have made an impressive run in the playoffs. Playing all three postseason games on the road, the Packers’ offense has outscored opponents by a combined score of 90-51. Aaron Rodgers and company have looked unstoppable for much of the run, but even when they sputtered in Chicago, the defense lifted them to victory. In fact, the stellar play of the defense is a major reason the Packers will be representing the NFC in Super Bowl XLV.

The defense has a number of blue-chip players. From Clay Matthews to Charles Woodson, there is little doubt as to the talent of its individual players. And yet, it’s the defense’s ability to come together and play as a cohesive unit that makes them so good. Case in point, the team’s ability to get off the field on third-downs. Through three playoff games, the Packers defense is holding their opposition to a 25% conversion rate on third-downs. And the combined 9-for-36 conversion rate in the postseason has gotten better each game: The Eagles were 5-of-13, the Falcons were 3-of-10, and the Bears were a dismal 1-of-13. It doesn’t take a mathematician to determine the meaning of those numbers; if you are unable to convert third-downs, you are not going to win many games.

It’s going to take a repeat performance by the defense to stop the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the Steelers victory over the Jets last weekend, they converted 6-of-11 third-downs. None of the Packers’ opponents have even approached a completion rate of over 50%, and if the Packers plan on hoisting their fourth Lombardi Trophy, their defense is going to have to find a way to stop Ben Roethlisberger and the potent Steelers offense. Especially on third-down.

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