Why do the Packers Throw Deep on 3rd and Short?
Because the Packers have the personnel and talent to do it. That’s the simple answer.
But it still seems to drive people nuts whenever Aaron Rodgers launches a pass downfield on 3rd and short. It doesn’t drive me nuts, and never will as long as Rodgers is the quarterback and the Packers receivers remain one of the better groups in the NFL.
Opposing teams spend the entire week trying to figure out how to stop the Packers offense, which means they spend a good part of that week scheming against the Packers deep passing attack. Mike McCarthy’s best shot at creating a mismatch downfield often comes on 3rd and short, and it’d be silly for him to not take advantage.
Obviously, the bomb on 3rd and short isn’t always the right call. But I trust McCarthy and Rodgers to figure out when it should be called and when it shouldn’t. I thought the bomb to Jordy Nelson on 3rd and short during the opening drive of the second half on Sunday was an excellent call.
The Packers struggled to get over the top of the 49ers defense in the first half and needed to take a shot. That was as good a time as any to try and get single coverage downfield. Unfortunately for the Packers, the 49ers weren’t fooled. Both defensive backs took one look at Rodgers’ play-fake, pointed and laughed, then dropped back to double Nelson. “Hahaha! That’s cute, McCarthy,” the defensive backs said. “Fake like you’re going to run the ball. Hilarious. Like we care if you hand the ball off against our amazing front-seven. Go ahead. Good luck. We’re going to hang back here and prevent this 50-yard touchdown you’re trying to sneak past us.”
This poses a problem for the Packers. The surprise factor might not be there on 3rd and short bombs like it used to be. Other teams might not bite on the play-action like they usually do. I never could figure out why other team’s bit on Packers’ play-actions anyway, but they often do.
Even if the Packers running game improves, giving teams a reason to bite on play-action, perhaps other teams will just say the heck with it, let the Packers pick up two yards and a first down, and live to fight another series. That’s a lot better scenario than selling out on the run, leaving the deep part of the field open, and watching Rodgers connect on a game-changing bomb.
I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s wrap this up: Rodgers is an MVP quarterback with a great group of receivers. Don’t whine when he launches one downfield on 3rd and short. If you do whine, you’re not allowed to celebrate when it works for a touchdown. Because it does work (see video below).
However, the Packers might have to adjust if teams are figuring out their intentions to go long on 3rd and short. Maybe that means more conservative plays. Maybe that means coming up with some different ways to attack deep. Either way, the surprise element might not be there like it usually is.——————