Packers are Winning on 3rd & Cobb

Cobb, Gary, Stokes Come Through on the Money Down

The Packers are 3-1 because they’re winning a respectable percentage of third downs. For example, the number one defense on third downs in the league—the Packers—held the Patriots to just three third-down conversions out of 11. Sure, it was mostly against the Patriots’ third quarterback. But it was the third quarterback because outside linebacker Rashan Gary steamrolled the second quarterback for a loss of eight on third down.

Gary was relentless with his effort, with a variety of moves—the rip move, bull rush, heavy hands to swat the blockers’ hands down and prevent them from holding him, speed to run down the backside runs, staying home to hold “contain” and not let the runner get outside him, and relentless effort. Gary was credited for seven total tackles, four of them solo, with two sacks, a strip fumble, a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss.

Those stats didn’t do him justice, as he was consistently meeting Jarran Reed, Preston Smith and Kenny Clark at the quarterback and wreaking havoc, especially on third down.

The Patriots’ quarterbacks were running from Gary like this:

One of Gary’s pressures led to one of two textbook tackles by Packers cornerback Eric Stokes. That was on 3rd and 9 in the second quarter, when Patriots tight end Hunter Henry caught a pass for seven yards and Stokes saw what he hit—keeping his head up and out of the tackle, taking on Henry with his shoulder to Henry’s hip, wrapping his arms perfectly, keeping his legs pumping through the tackle and driving Henry back two yards short of the first down.

Stokes’ other 3rd down play was pivotal. It was enormous. It was like when NASA hit that asteroid in outer space and moved its course:

“WE HAVE IMPACT!”

Like NASA, Stokes’ stop wasn’t life or death—but it did set us up to survive later!

When Gary and company got pressure on 3rd and 15, Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe threw to Henry again for six yards, and Stokes again wrapped him up low, kept his head out of the tackle, and gave the offense the ball again.

The Packers offensive players have certainly looked frustrated at times this year—like when your computer mouse gets stuck and it just-won’t-go-where-you-meant-it-D’OH!

But on third downs, wide receiver Randall Cobb has been the little engine that can—especially when the team has needed it most. Take the Patriots game:

  • 3rd & 6 at the Packers 29: With 10:31 left in the fourth, Cobb caught an out route deep left for 24 yards. You can see the trust quarterback Aaron Rodgers has that Cobb will be impeccable with his timing, his jukes, and his routes.
  • 3rd & 6 at the Packers 47: With three minutes left in the fourth and Packers fans squeezing their palm sweat into diamonds, Cobb doesn’t make the catch, but practically gets disrobed by Patriots defender Myles Bryant, drawing the pass interference and automatic first down.
  • 3rd & 1 at the Packers 44: With 4:04 left in OT, Cobb snatches a pass for 11 yards to essentially win the game—leading to a series of downs that would set up the game-winning field goal.

Against Tampa Bay, he converted on 3rd and 6 for 12.

“It seems like every third down, when we need a big play, Cobb-y does such a great job,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said after the Patriots game. “He’s a pro’s pro and he’s a guy we got a lot of trust in. Just a guy who handles his busy the right way on a daily basis.”

I think what coach meant to say was, put some BUTTER on that Cobb, ‘cause he’s hot!

It’s easy to oversell 3rd downs as being “more important” than the others. After all, the point is to get the first down or score on every down. But the other teams get paid, too. The Bucs and Patriots have strong defenses. LaFleur said the Packers have a lot to clean up. But winning on third downs, when the pressure is on, will keep the Packers on pace for their goals.

__________________________

Chris Hollenback worked for the Packers in 1998-1999, he has written for Packers.com and other media outlets, he's much shorter than Derrick Mayes and Brett Favre nicknamed him Chris "To-hell-en-back." Follow him on twitter at @CHollenback

5 points

Comments (30)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
MooPack's picture

October 04, 2022 at 07:15 pm

I forgot everything after the corn on the Cobb hack. Mmmm, mmm, mmm!

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stockholder's picture

October 04, 2022 at 07:53 pm

Gary - Was Awesome. But the replay also shows. How much Clark was getting doubled teamed.

5 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

October 04, 2022 at 11:05 pm

Reed made some key stops. Keep Lowry in reserve for passing downs, or trade him. Slaton holds point. Give Wyatt more snaps and let him stunt and play to his strengths. Enagbare over Garvin and give Tipa more looks in pass rush. Bring Slayton up from the P-squad. Forget status quo, Gutedkunst, get the best players on the field.
Murphy looked perplexed in the sky box while Kraft was placing side-bets with Vegas on his Smart phone, or...

-1 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

October 05, 2022 at 02:17 am

Slaton hasn't played well enough to deserve more snaps. Training camp was a mirage so far.

1 points
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gpt999's picture

October 05, 2022 at 06:05 pm

Clark gets double teamed a lot because he's a great disrupter just like Aaron Donald I suppose. But then, Belichek always tries to take away your greatest weapons.

0 points
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splitpea1's picture

October 04, 2022 at 08:02 pm

A lot of grumbling going on about Barry's passivity in many situations (myself included), but there has been a vast improvement in overall tackling and getting off the field on third downs from previous DCs.

9 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

October 04, 2022 at 08:39 pm

Grumbler here, too. We'd need to better define "vast improvement" and "overall tackling" before I jump on your bandwagon. As far as getting off the field on third downs, yeah, it *seems* better, but until LLCHESTY or TGR weigh-in with Capers/Pettine/2021 Barry stats, I'm going to stick to my grumbling (mostly under my breath).

2 points
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Fubared's picture

October 04, 2022 at 08:55 pm

Grumbler here too. This Dhasn't been able to get off the field for six years. There has been zero improvement since capers. Barry is a stiff imo. One common thread for capers, Pettine,barry, def backs can't tackle and lack cover skills. One guy can't do it alone.

-8 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

October 05, 2022 at 02:19 am

I thought the Vikings had a pretty good defense up until last year. I think you're confused.

3 points
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dblbogey's picture

October 04, 2022 at 09:52 pm

It's America, we're free to grumble. My grumble is the run defense. That seems partially to be the Def. Coordinator failing to adjust. There's too much talent for our run defense to be bad.

1 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

October 05, 2022 at 02:21 am

He could adjust by sitting Gary or Preston for a few plays everytime a RB gets outside of them. The problem is the backups have been worse.

-3 points
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gpt999's picture

October 05, 2022 at 06:09 pm

Same here Leotis. I am going grumble and complain until I see a more aggressive defensive scheme against teams that challenges 3rd QBs to throw and not run.

0 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

October 05, 2022 at 08:31 pm

GB is number one defensively for 3rd down conversions, allowing them on just 23.8% of opponents' 3rd downs. The defense is 10th in the red zone, allowing TDs 50% of the time. GB is 7th in points allowed/game, at 17.3. Last year, GB wasn't good in the red zone, coming in 23rd by allowing TDs 62.26% of the time but finished a respectable 13th in points allowed/game at 21.8. I am pretty sure that Capers and Pettine were not close to that.

Okay, Pettine's D in 2020 was 10th in preventing 3rd down conversions and 13th in the red zone (59.65%) and 13th in points allowed/game. 2019 was 15th for 3rd downs and 11th in preventing TDs in the red zone (53.70%), and 9th in points allowed/game. There is a reason Pettine got hired right away by another NFL team.

Capers' D in 2017 (year he was fired) was 31st in allowing 3rd down conversions (42.8%) and 30th in the red zone (65.2%) and 26th in points allowed. Capers was 27th in red zone in 2016 at 61.40% and 21st in points allowed. Capers was bad but he had a lot of bad players.

I think 3rd down is important but the red zone is the stat to focus on. Well, unless teams are scoring from 30 yards out and when teams get first downs a lot on first and second downs.

However, this year GB hasn't played a good offensive team, and the ones who are average were short-handed, save for MN. Chicago is terrible. They have the 31st ranked offense, and 26th in 3rd down conversions. NE has the 23rd ranked offense by points (scoring 24 against GB improved them to 18.5 points per game), and is 15th in 3rd down conversions, mostly with Mac Jones at QB. GB also played TB when they had 5 missing offensive starters. They are 17th in pts scored per game and 25th in 3rd conversion percentage. MN is 15th in points scored, and 28th in 3rd down conversions.

No questions the stats indicate the defense is better. They suggest that Pettine was better than fans remember.

1 points
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Starrbrite's picture

October 04, 2022 at 09:09 pm

Agree splitpea.
As in the past, 3rd-and-long is no longer a “done-deal” for the opponent.

4 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

October 04, 2022 at 10:34 pm

After re-watching the Game on the NFL repeat, I have a more clear picture. Returning Sunday from a Class Reunion(s) of '72 and '71, & ' 70 due to Covid, I was in a fog and recovering from a celebration of life long Friendships, History and Perseverance, under the auspices of shared sacrifice @ the Legion Hall. Some '69 stranglers in the mix. I saw the Pack take charge in the forth quarter with Carpenter's penalty pushing them away from the FG. [ They just snagged Wilson as a LB].
Rodgers zeroed in during OT; Barry put down the heavy front and Ford delivered some real hitting and almost brought home the INT. I like Ford as the dime. The D played perfect man-to-man and stifled Zappe on the key 3rd down. Zappe will bee Bill's QB, a great player at W. Kentucky. Stokes had some perfect form tackles coming down from a quarters set. I really liked the energy Watson brings to the squad. Doubs will be an All-Star performer. Randall Cobb will make people shut up. Lazard cracking down and Davis mixing it up. Jenkins was undercut by the speed rush a couple times and Judon should have been made to pay with a set and go to the flat. He will return to form. Bhak looked good and on his holding call he threw the dude to the turf. That is the attitude of a winner. Bill knows Park Avenue doesn't want to see FBs clearing for the RBs, so he is going with the big o linemen and Jumbo to get space in a power running game. They have a lot of talent on this team. Up and coming defense and McCourty to hold them together. I always preferred Judon over ZaDarious.
London Calling.

3 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

October 05, 2022 at 08:37 am

I really like your take, jb. Hopeful with substance.

Congrats on a successful Geezerfest. It's interesting how reunions evolve over the years, isn't it?

0 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

October 05, 2022 at 11:15 am

Dankeschoen, Mr Harris. It was a great experience for all attending, especially after enduring the Pandemic.

0 points
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Starrbrite's picture

October 04, 2022 at 09:10 pm

I have been a huge critic of keeping Cobb on the roster.
Please pass the humble pie—my bad.

9 points
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dblbogey's picture

October 04, 2022 at 09:54 pm

I thought he was finished when he left GB. He's looked good. We don't win this game without the 3 clutch catches.

5 points
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murf7777's picture

October 04, 2022 at 09:46 pm

All Cobb does is catch 70% of his passes and makes clutch plays. But, so many want or wanted him gone. Even the commentator don’t remember which one noticed how quick Cobb still is. The key to a Vet like him is he knows Defemses and how to get open.

8 points
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wildbill's picture

October 04, 2022 at 11:32 pm

Personally Cobb ‘s skills were never an issue for me. He is not the Cobb of his early years but still a smart veteran with excellent hands and on the same page as Rodgers. His injury history was/is my concern as I thought we would be lucky to get ten games out of him.

6 points
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gpt999's picture

October 05, 2022 at 05:56 pm

Cobb looked great against the Pats and should get more looks from Rodgers. Would also like to see more looks to Tonyan. I notice the tried and true bootleg pass to Tonyan seems mostly scrapped this season. Man, did Ford play well in relief of Amos!

0 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

October 05, 2022 at 02:07 am

"staying home to hold “contain” and not let the runner get outside him."

Uhh, yeah, that didn't really happen much. There wasn't a Packer on Sunday that had a good day setting the edge. The Giants are leading the league with 192.5 rushing yards a game and 2nd in the league with 5.7 yards a carry. The OLBs play like they did on Sunday and they'll get their asses handed to them.

0 points
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murf7777's picture

October 05, 2022 at 10:34 am

I add it's the front 7, not just the OLB, but yes, they must play better run D. I don't think they will get their ass handed to them, but they might get beat if they don't run D better. IF we can hold them to 125 yards rushing, I'd think we could blow them out.

1 points
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murf7777's picture

October 05, 2022 at 10:58 am

Also, some of that is from Danny Dime. Last week he ran for 68 yards. I like our OLB against a running QB, that should play to their strength. When Packers played Fields they used Quay as the spy and it worked very effectively. I expect the same against the Giants. The Giants have had an easy schedule and the one tough game against Dallas they lost by 7. Let's see if the Pack can get both sides going in this game.

1 points
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gpt999's picture

October 05, 2022 at 06:01 pm

I think the reason they ran so well off tackle/outside was that NE was using an OT at tight end for a lot the game and simply outmanned the Packer contain. That being said, why could the Pack not go to single safety and bring 1 safety low for better run support against a 3rd string QB?

0 points
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Lphill's picture

October 05, 2022 at 05:40 am

Jones playing on a gimpy ankle no real deep passing threat Giants will be run heavy will Barry concede and play 3 D lineman more?

-1 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

October 05, 2022 at 08:47 am

So the DTs should be responsible for outside runs now? Because that's where most of the yards came from on Sunday.

https://twitter.com/JuMosq/status/1577145935184171008?t=07HSCMiBwh0dkYyB...

1 points
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murf7777's picture

October 05, 2022 at 10:37 am

I wonder if the Giants seen this video....lol

0 points
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PatrickGB's picture

October 05, 2022 at 09:02 am

I think that many of us undervalue having receivers who know the system and are where they are supposed to be during the game. Cobb excelled at that for many years. And he is a Bear Killer. Who can ever forget that?

I don’t care about style points. Just win the game!

1 points
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