It's hard enough to keep a great quarterback such as Aaron Rodgers in check. An elite combination of accuracy, intelligence, arm strength and mobility makes the Packers quarterback a handful for any defense. But it gets even tougher when you give Rodgers extra chances, something Green Bay opponents have done several times this season.
Second chances come in a variety of forms, from dropped interceptions to missed tackles. But one that has surfaced frequently this season for Rodgers and Co. is the drive-extending penalty. The Packers have been so good at capitalizing on these second chances that "drive-extending penalties" is the subject of this week's opponent X-Factor.
The Packers have scored 37 points (four touchdowns, three field goals) on drives that were extended directly or partially by a defensive penalty. Last week in Chicago, the Bears were particularly stung by Green Bay's opportunistic ways, watching the Packers score three times – 17 points – after penalties extended drives.
Here's a breakdown of how the Packers have capitalized on drive-extending penalties:
-- In Week 1 at Seattle, a defensive pass interference penalty on a 3rd and 5 incompletion gave the Packers a 1st down and moved the ball from the Green Bay 49 to the Seattle 7. Green Bay wound up with a field goal on the drive.
-- In Week 2 vs. the NY Jets, a neutral zone infraction on 3rd and 2 gave the Packers a 1st down and just moments later a defensive pass interference penalty on 2nd and 10 brought the ball from the Jets 43 to the Jets 16. Green Bay wound up with a field goal on that drive.
-- In Week 2 vs. the Jets, a roughing the passer penalty after an 11-yard gain moved the ball from the Jets 45 to the Jets 30. Green Bay scored a touchdown just moments later.
-- In Week 3 vs. the Lions, an illegal use of hands penalty on 2nd and 8 following a three-yard gain moved the ball from the Green Bay 46 to the Detroit 49 and gave Green Bay an automatic 1st down. The Packers scored a touchdown seven plays later.
-- In Week 4 at Chicago, an unnecessary roughness penalty on 3rd and 2 following a no gain play moved the ball from the Chicago 30 to the Chicago 15 and gave Green Bay an automatic 1st down. The Packers scored a touchdown three plays later.
-- In Week 4 at Chicago, a 12 men on the field penalty on 2nd and 7 moved the ball from the Chicago 34 to the Chicago 29. Green Bay came away with a field goal on the drive.
-- In Week 4 at Chicago, a defensive holding penalty on a field goal on 4th and 4 gave Green Bay a 1st down and moved the ball from the Chicago 5 to the Chicago 3, setting up a Packers touchdown on the next play.
The bad news is that Green Bay has reached expert level at taking advantage of second chances. The good news is the Vikings have not been handing out many second chances via penalty, a trend the Purple will look to continue on Thursday night.
Making this factor even more important is, though, is the fact that the Vikings are playing on the road in a tough environment, meaning there's already enough wind in their face before any second chances have the opportunity to occur. Plus, the Vikings have struggled on 3rd-down defense of late, and it would be disappointing for the defense to fix their 3rd-down woes only to have Green Bay's drives extended due to a defensive penalty.
How will this aspect of the game unfold on Thursday? We don't know, and only time will tell. That's why drive-extending penalties are this week's opponent X-factor.