Pete Carroll spends the majority of his press-conference time responding to media inquiries while rarely making one himself. But during Saturday night’s presser following the Seahawks’ 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers, Carroll had a question of his own amid commenting on the performance of Russell Wilson, who threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns with a 149.2 passer rating.
“I was really fired up for Russell,” Carroll said. “He especially had a great game on third down. I don’t know what it was, but he must have hit almost everything. I think he had three, third-down touchdown passes, which is just unheard of.”
And then Carroll asked, “How does that happen? Who does that?”
Good questions, and Carroll deserves an answer.
Wilson went 8-for-8 for 199 yards on third down with touchdown passes of 16 yards to Doug Baldwin, 63 to Jermaine Kearse (longest TD pass in postseason franchise history) and 25 yards to TE Luke Willson.
That marked Wilson’s best performance on third-down situations in any of his six career playoff games. In the Super Bowl against Denver, Wilson went 7-for-8 (87.5 percent) for 82 yards (no TDs) on third down, and in the NFC Championship against San Francisco two weeks earlier his third-down line was 8-for-10 for 75 yards (no TDs).
The 8-for-8 for 199 yards and three TDs against the Panthers, especially considering Wilson’s 24.9 yards per completion, ranks as the best third-down performance by a playoff quarterback in the NFL’s 162 postseason games played between 2000 and last weekend.
In fact, only two others, including Peyton Manning twice more than a decade ago, completed 100 percent of their third-down passes in a postseason contest. These are the games and quarterbacks, listed chronologically (minimum 6-for-6):
|2004||Jan. 4||Peyton Manning||Ind||Den||6-for-6||97||16.2||2|
|2004||Jan. 11||Peyton Manning||Ind||KC||7-for-7||89||12.7||1|
|2011||Jan. 15||Aaron Rodgers||GB||Atl||10-for-10||151||15.1||0|
|2015||Jan. 10||Russell Wilson||Sea||Car||8-for-8||199||24.9||3|
Other notable 3rd-down playoff performances since 2000
|2008||Jan. 5||B. Roethlisberger||Pitt||Jax||7-for-8||117||14.6||0|
|2009||Jan. 11||B. Roethlisberger||Pitt||SD||7-for-8||65||8.1||0|
|2009||Feb. 1||B. Roethlisberger||Pirr||Ariz||6-for-7||62||7.6||0|
|2010||Jan. 17||Brett Favre||Minn||Dal||7-for-8||88||11.0||1|
|2014||Feb. 2||Russell Wilson||Sea||Den||7-for-8||82||11.7||0|
Sacked only twice by the Panthers, the usually knocked-down-and-harrassed Wilson gave a glimpse of what he can do when he throws more quickly and is protected adequately by his offensive line, a luxury provided nearly every week to Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
Sunday, Wilson is paired against the NFL’s master at making the most of third-down chances, Cal graduate Rodgers.
Rodgers recorded a passer rating of 100-plus on third down in 10 games this season (six ratings above 120.0) by completing 74 of 126 passes for 1,158 yards, 14 touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 119.7. Only Tony Romo’s 121.6 was better.
Rodgers produced a rating of 153.3 in Week 4 at Chicago when he went 7-for-7 for 79 yards and two TDs on third downs. In Week 10, also against Chicago, he completed 5 of 7 for 107 yards and three touchdowns. Since Rodgers became Green Bay’s quarterback in 2008, his third-down rating is 121.6, tops in the NFL (Brady, 101.6).
Rodgers sports a massive portfolio of achievements, including:
Since Rodgers’ took over as Green Bay’s starting quarterback in 2008, he ranks first in the NFL in passer rating (104.6), first in 100+ ratings (61), first in yards per attempt (8.26), second in TDs (224), second in INT percentage (1.65), and third in yards (28,023).
He’s also the league’s best deep thrower. Since 2008, no quarterback has thrown as many 70-yard touchdown passes as Rodgers, who has tossed 16 (Brett Favre and Peyton Manning, 15 each), or completed as many 50-yard passes. Rogers has 49 (Drew Brees 43).
Based on Green Bay’s four losses this season, these seem to be the keys to beating Rodgers:
- Don’t let him go off in the first half: Rodgers has thrown for 275-plus yards in the first half four times (Wilson has exceed 275 in a game only twice), most by an NFL quarterback in the past 25 years (no other quarterback has posted more than two). As a sidebar, the Packers scored 37 touchdowns in the first half this season, most in the league.
- Deny the deep ball: Rodgers led the NFL with 15 completions of 40 yards or more and nine TDs of 40 yards or more.
- Get off the field on third down: The Packers led the NFL both in converting third-and-long (more than six yards to go) at 39.1 percent, and third and 10+ yards to go at 36.0 percent.
- Contain Eddie Lacy and Green Bay’s running game: Three of the four teams that defeated the Packers this season held Lacy to fewer than 60 yards: Seattle (34), Detroit (36), New Orleans (59).
Seahawks fans are hoping that Rodgers’ left calf injury will be a factor, but that didn’t seem to affect him much last week in a 26-21 win over Dallas. After completing 9 of 15 for 90 yards in the first half, Rodgers hit on 15 of 20, including his final 10 in a row, for 227 yards and two TDs in the second half. He finished with 316 yards.
“He only threw for 316, geez,” Pete Carroll said Wednesday. “That’s a tremendous accomplishment. He’s been a great player for a long time and great players have a way of figuring it out. They get it done and still play. They have figured out a way to make him effective, and we’re counting on him to be right on the money with all their offense.”
“I think I’ve got 120 more minutes left in me,” said Rodgers, whose passer rating, while injured, was 125.4.