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Is Dink and Dunk Green Bay’s Road to Success?

Following the Green Bay Packers’ triumph over the Chicago Bears, veteran reporter Pete Dougherty said that “throw the ball short and then throw it short some more” is who the Packers will have to be for the rest of the year.

He supported his premise by going to the mountain top for a post-game quote from guru Mike McCarthy: “You play the way you have to play,” said the omniscient one.

Many other team followers, lusting for any kind of a win, see the offensive strategy used in the Bears’ game as the formula for success. I have to side with Monty: the Bears’ defensive backfield was so depleted – and even when healthy this was a very weak team – it’s not a game to draw lessons from. Oh, and the Bears’ second-string QB also broke his arm forcing them to play the majority of the game with Matt Barkley under center.

Yards per pass attempt is a pretty good way to identify dink-and-dunk football teams.

Let’s look at 2015. In the top 10 in this category, we have Arizona (8.5), Seattle, and Pittsburgh as the top three, with Cincinnati, New Orleans, Carolina, and New England also in the top 10. The bottom nine (in order) consisted of San Francisco, the New York Jets, Oakland, Cleveland, Green Bay (6.7, 28th place), Houston, Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles (6.2).

So far in 2016, the top three in yards per passing attempt are Atlanta (9.9), New England, and Dallas – who have a combined record of 14 wins and four losses. Unfortunately, we have to start including Minnesota when we do such analyses – they are ninth in the league, at 7.8 yards per attempt. The bottom six is very similar to that of a year ago: New York Jets, Tampa Bay, Green Bay (6.3, 29th place), Houston, San Francisco, and Baltimore (6.0). Is this the company the Packers want to be keeping?

Getting back to coach McCarthy’s mystical explanation in support of dink-ball, it begs the question: do the Packers have to play this way? Green Bay has a strong-armed quarterback who (normally) can make all the throws. They have three deep threats this year: Jordy Nelson, Jeff Janis, and Trevor Davis. And finally, they have an offensive line that affords the quarterback as much time to throw as any team in the league.

What’s stopping the Packers from spreading the field, and from going long with enough frequency to keep defenses honest? A faulty mindset, that’s what.

What anyone who was paying attention to Packers’ games saw last year – and it came to full fruition by game 7 – was team after team loading the box, bringing their linebackers and safeties up near the line of scrimmage, jamming the Packers’ receivers as they came off the line, and daring them to try to throw deep. The Packers’ receivers were being smothered as they started their routes and Rodgers couldn’t find open receivers. Who could blame anyone for such a strategy, given that McCarthy’s chosen deep weapons all season long consisted of James Jones and Davante Adams?

Prediction: if play-caller McCarthy adopts as his regular strategy the same dink-ball approach he went with on Thursday opposing teams will once again see the pattern, they’ll react accordingly on defense, and the Packers’ passing attack will again sputter, stall, and slowly suffocate.

This defensive strategy became very apparent by game seven last year, the point at which the Packers went from having a perfect record to losing six of their last 10 games. On October 30, the Packers will play their seventh game of 2016. Will history begin to repeat itself?

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. PF4L October 23, 2016

    Nice article Rob,

    Mike McCarthy: “You play the way you have to play,” said the omniscient one.
    That flies in the face of McCarthy’s self professed pre-game pass/run strategy where McCarthy not long ago explained why he got conservative running the ball so much. Which he explained , he has a predetermined # of rushing attempts he wants in a game. This….is a sign of a mentally weak coach.

    Is Jordy Nelson a deep threat? In most games he’s not even much of a threat to catch a pass.

    Another identifier for yards per attempt is receptions of 20 + yards. Where Rodgers usually throws in the 50’s – 60’s there. This season, he is on pace to throw only 42. Also only 3 passes of 40+. Another identifier is yards after catch. I don’t have the rankings, but i’m guessing the Packers rank at, or near the bottom in this category.
    I’m sure i’m not the only one who gets frustrated watching receivers catch balls, only to get tackled instantly.

  2. Pack Attack October 23, 2016

    They win one game where they find some offensive success. Lets get some sort of consistency game to game then we can talk about where are offense is headed

  3. Ryan October 23, 2016

    Patriots have been using this for years, but in moderation with the run game. It is an extension of the run game if used correctly. I mean think about all of the no name rbs that were great weapons for Brady… Faulk, Vereen, White, Smith, etc

    1. Deepsky October 24, 2016

      It was a huge mistake to think Nelson would return to his old form. All the evidence of 30+ year old receivers with this kind of injury indicated he was not coming back, possibly not at all, and with almost 100% certainty with significantly reduced performance. If he was younger I would say maybe you could give him a year or two to fully recover, but by then he will be older than the retirement age of nearly every Packer receiver in the last 30 years, except for Donald Driver.

      The Packers should have picked up a serious receiver in the early rounds. Maybe there just weren’t any tall/fast prospects available.

    2. MGP October 24, 2016

      Yes, i agree, but without Lacy or Starks we don’t have a decente run game…

  4. Howard October 24, 2016

    Need to get the opposing defenses out of two deep safeties the majority of the time if you do not want to see dink and dunk. When teams are not in two deep Rodgers throws deep but the majority of the time he is not on target, or his receivers are not where their suppose to be.