Packers Three-Man Rush Revisited: Football Outsiders Responds to Inquiry

As I opened up my e-mail Tuesday evening, I was pleasantly surprised with a message from Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders. You see, a little over a month ago, as I was preparing for my article about Dom Capers and his use of the three-man rush, I decided to send Football Outsiders a query for some information to beef up my analysis. It’s hard to find statistics on the effectiveness of certain types of plays, but I knew they would have this sort of information logged into their databases.

Here was my original message:

Hi Aaron,

As a Packers fan and blogger, I have heard many complaints about Dom Capers’ use of the three-man rush, especially in third-and-long situations. I was wondering if you had any stats/analysis on the effectiveness of this strategy regarding the Packers defense and/or the NFL as a whole.

Chad Toporski

And then I waited…

…and waited…

…and eventually decided to finish the article without the information. By this time, the Packers had finished beating the Chicago Bears in Week 17, and I saw some good footage I could use instead.

But lo and behold, I finally received my answer. So I thought I would share it with you, because I found it rather fascinating. (It also helps to confirm my suspicions that most people complain about the three-man rush due to faulty preconceptions.)

Here’s what Aaron Schatz found out:


This would be as good a time as any to answer this question! Sorry it took me so long.

Believe it or not, overall rushing three is actually a little more effective than rushing four. Here are the league-wide numbers for all the games we’ve charted in 2010, with yards per pass and defensive success rate.

3        6.1       60%
4        6.5      55%
5        5.9      57%
6+     5.7      60%

Now of course, most of the time when a defense rushes three, it does so because it is the second half and they are protecting a lead, but I went and checked and the numbers don’t really change if you consider only the first half.

As for Green Bay, our numbers suggest that those complaints about rushing three are a bit misplaced. The Packers rushed three on 18 percent of plays, tied for third in the NFL. On those plays, they allowed 5.8 yards per pass with a spectacular 72 percent success rate.

On third-and-long (7+ yards to go) they allowed 7.4 yards per pass but had a 75 percent success rate because so many of those passes were short dumpoffs. (For the record, we have 51 charted passes as rushing three on third-and-long.)

The Packers also had three picks in third-and-long when rushing three, all in recent weeks: Week 14 on a Drew Stanton pass to Tony Scheffler, Week 16 on an Eli Manning pass to Hakeem Nicks, and Week 17 on a Jay Cutler pass to Johnny Knox.

Hope that helps.

Aaron Schatz

As I said, pretty interesting stuff across the board.

I’d also like to add to his last paragraph that both of Tramon Williams’ game-changing interceptions in the Divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons came against the three-man rush, as well.

Who could have guessed that Dom Capers knows what he’s doing?


Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski


11 Responses to “Packers Three-Man Rush Revisited: Football Outsiders Responds to Inquiry”

  1. Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

    Let me make the first comment here. As everyone was killing Capers last season for the 3-man rush on 3rd and longs, it seemed I was the lone voice in Capers’ corner. As Chad has pointed out in his two articles on the subject, the 3-man rush is a valuable tool, IF the players execute it properly. The issue last season was you had inexperienced and not high-talent guys named Bush, Bell, Underwood, Giordano, etc. in the game.

    With another year of coaching and better talent in the secondary, now you can see it’s usefulness. The Football Ousiders stats just proves it.

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  2. Tarynfor12 Taryn says:

    As with any manufactured design,it’s only as good as it’s parts.
    No other proof needed…Super Bowl.

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  3. Chazman says:

    I think part of the misconception is that Dom Capers is so well known for his blitzing concepts that when he rushes 3 its hard to believe it will be effective. Also as Al pointed out in his comment we haven’t been blessed with the talent in the defensive backfield like this year in the past.
    Great Statistics. Thanks for the illumination.

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  4. just goes to show,let the coach.. coach is a coach in nfl for a reason

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  5. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jersey Al – Packers , Jersey Al – Packers , Clay Toporski, Chad Toporski, Jersey Al – Packers and others. Jersey Al – Packers said: On JerseyAl.com: Packers Three-Man Rush Revisited: Football Outsiders Responds to Inquiry http://bit.ly/h6jxgO #Packers #GoPack [...]

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  6. Dave D says:

    Still don’t like it. Stats are misleading. Put the pressure on when it is third and long. Look at the Pittsburgh game last year. Especially on the last drive and THE LAST PLAY! Yuk.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2


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  8. Dave D says:

    Get a clue bill from New Jersey. Are all people from NJ clueless about football like you!

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  9. Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

    Let’s keep it civil, guys. We can agree to disagree.

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  10. chad dave and i have been friends for years this is all good fun between us

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