GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers’ top-ranked scoring offense was powered by perhaps the best red-zone offense in NFL history.
And that phase of the offense was powered by Austin Powers, of all people.
In the movie “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” the Goldmember character played by Mike Myers proclaimed, “I love gold!” It became a rallying cry for offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s offense, which changed the lingo from the traditional “red zone” to “gold zone.” When a smattering of fans returned to the Lambeau Field stands late in the season, the “I love gold” scene would play every time the Packers scored a red-zone touchdown.
Indeed, the Packers loved gold. The NFL has been tracking team red-zone performance since 1999. The Packers’ 80.0 percent touchdown rate was the best over those 22 seasons.
Aaron Rodgers was the ringleader of the golden performance. Inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, he completed 72.0 percent of his passes with 35 touchdowns vs. zero interceptions. His passer was 119.1. Rodgers led the NFL in each of those categories, including touchdown passes by six. He threw the most touchdown passes without an interception since Denver’s Peyton Manning threw 37 touchdowns without a pick since 2013. Rodgers threw a dozen more touchdown passes than incompletions.
It wasn’t just Rodgers. Davante Adams led the NFL with 14 red-zone touchdowns. Only Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill had more overall touchdowns (15) than Adams had in the red zone alone.
And if that’s not enough, Green Bay went turnover-free once it advanced inside the 20.
The challenge will be rekindling that magic. Obviously, the fate of Rodgers will loom large. But in the NFL, strengths can become weaknesses and weaknesses can become strengths in a hurry. The Packers had never had a red-zone touchdown rate of even 65 percent until last season.
“I think it first starts with looking at yourself,” Hackett said. “That’s the thing we always do as coaches when the season’s over and we have our time and we’re all back together is trying to look at our season from the past, what we did good, what we did bad, what we want to do more of. And then you get into that, ‘OK, let’s get creative. How can we advance?’ because this league is ever-changing, and you know when you’re doing things good that the defenses are going to come out and they’re going to try and stop that stuff.
“So, how can we counter the things that we’re doing? How can we help the things that we’re doing? What do we need to add more of or even take out? I think as coaches, we’re almost like historians. We’re always trying to update ourselves and look back and try to find as many good things as we can to keep it fresh for the players, and at the same tome keep the defenses off their heels.”
Top Red-Zone Offenses, NFL History
Since the NFL began tracking red-zone data in 1999, these are the nine teams with touchdown rates of at least 72.0 percent.
Green Bay (2020), 80.0 percent
Kansas City (2003), 77.8 percent
Denver (2013), 76.1 percent
Tennessee (2019), 75.6 percent
Tennessee (2020), 75.0 percent
Pittsburgh (2018), 73.5 percent
Oakland (2014), 72.4 percent
Tennessee (2016), 72.0 percent
New Orleans (2007), 72.0 percent