Led by the run game with a few big plays sprinkled in, the Green Bay Packers offense had their best performance of the season, and did so against one of the NFL’s top defenses in the Cowboys, in what ended up being an overtime victory.
The Packers avoided losing six in a row, which would have been the first time that had happened since 1988, and kept their playoff hopes alive for the time being. As always, it’s time to go Behind the Numberswith the stats and figures you need to know from Green Bay’s performance.
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7/14 and 2/3
There’s a laundry list of reasons why the Packers’ offense has struggled this season, but their issues on third down and in the red zone are big reasons why points have been hard to come by, even in those instances where they are able to move the football. The Packers entered Sunday’s game ranked 17th in third down conversion rate (39%) and 23rd in red zone success rate (50%).
Against Dallas, however, the Packers were a combined 7/14 on third and fourth downs, which for context, a success rate of 50% over the course of the season would rank second in the NFL. In the red zone, the Packers found the end zone on two of their three trips, although the one “missed” attempt came in overtime when Green Bay settled for a field goal.
Although there were some early drops, Aaron Rodgers said after the game that Christian Watson had a large role carved out in the game plan against Dallas and that the ball was going to continue coming his way. In total, Watson finished with four receptions on eight targets for 107 yards and three touchdowns.
Watson’s speed, coupled with core elements of the Matt LaFleur offense, led to his three touchdown receptions. On the first touchdown, play-action helped bring the safety up, leaving Watson one-on-one on the outside. On his second touchdown, Watson had a free release from a bunch formation and ran a terrific route that helped create separation. Then on his third touchdown, from a stacked formation, play-action brought the linebackers in, helping to create some additional space over the middle.
Opponents have been defending the Packers very aggressively as of late, crowding the line of scrimmage and playing a lot of cover-one in an effort to make them throw the football. With Watson’s emergence and that big play threat, it will be interesting to see if anything changes moving forward.
The Dallas defense entered the game, having generated the most sacks and the highest pressure rate in the NFL. They are led by Micah Parsons, who has been one of the best at getting after the quarterback, but his ability to line up just about anywhere adds another element that Rodgers had to contend with. However, Parsons didn’t have much of an impact on Sunday’s game, as he totaled just one pressure per PFF. This was the first game this season where the Packers preferred starting five along the offensive line started and finsihed an entire game. Overall, they held up well, considering the opponent.
Following the win, Matt LaFleur said that the Packers’ path to victory this week was going to consist of a heavy dose of the run game. While Dallas entered the game, allowing the third-fewest points per game and being really good at pressuring the quarterback, they were susceptible to the run. As stout as their defensive front is, they do play very aggressively, which can open running lanes and lead to poor edges being set. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon would combine for 27 carries and total 203 yards.
Off of the run game, the Packers utilized play-action often. Of Rodgers’ 23 dropbacks, 11 were via play-action. And not only was the usage of play-action up but so was Rodgers’ effectiveness as he looked like his old self, completing nine of those passes at 13.5 yards per catch with a pair of touchdowns. It’s been rare this season for Green Bay, but the run and passing games were paired together perfectly against Dallas, and that helped generate some much-needed explosive passing plays.
The Green Bay Packers have not been very good at creating turnovers this season, and when they have, the offense has not been able to capitalize regularly. Against Dallas, however, the Packers came away with a pair of Rudy Ford interceptions that resulted in 14 points for the offense.
Dallas running back Tony Pollard totaled 115 yards on the ground at 5.1 yards per attempt. Specifically off halfback draws, the Green Bay run defense had few answers for him, especially as the game went on. The Cowboys have been a more run-heavy team this season, and given their success on the ground, I was surprised to see that Dak Prescott passed the ball 46 times. If Dallas had leaned into the run game more, particularly in the fourth quarter, the end result of this game might be different.
It wasn’t a perfect day for the Packers’ secondary by any means, as CeeDee Lamb posted 150 receiving yards, but with the changes made, this unit overall was playing more aggressively and more cohesively. With Eric Stokes on IR, for much of the game, the Packers played their nickel personnel which consisted of Darnell Savage in the slot and Rudy Ford at safety. Savage looked much more comfortable in this role and was in on eight tackles (with only one miss) and forced a pass breakup. Ford, meanwhile, had the two interceptions and is a force on the field, flying around to make tackles. Again, it wasn’t perfect, but Prescott would average just 5.5 yards per pass attempt.