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Cheese Curds, 9/9: Third down stops drove success of Packers’ defense

Mike Pettine’s unit had a banner performance on money downs in week one.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Green Bay Packers were actually better than average in terms of their defensive success on third downs. The team allowed opposing teams to convert 37.3% of their third-down opportunities for first downs, good for 13th-best in the league. They were among the worst in the league on fourth downs, giving up first downs at a two-thirds clip, but those opportunities are much fewer and therefore have a small sample size associated with them.

That mark in 2018 was a significant improvement over Dom Capers’ final season in 2017, when the Packers ranked 28th at 42.8% allowed on third downs. However, driving that number even lower would be a great sign for Mike Pettine’s unit in his second year, and they did just that in the first game of the season last Thursday.

Indeed, the Chicago Bears converted at an even lower rate on third downs last week, and they failed on both of their fourth-down attempts. These plays covered the gamut of yardage as well, from multiple third-and-one chances to a handful of third-and-longs.

If Pettine is indeed going to make this Packers defense into an elite unit, success in getting off the field will need to be a critical piece of it. His group took a great step forward in that area in week one and will work to continue that success on Sunday against Minnesota.

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The Bears converted just three of 15 third-down opportunities last Thursday, a 20 percent rate that was among the worst of any team in the league in week one. How did Mike Pettine and company do it? It was a combination of different pressure looks and a few big stops in short yardage.

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