Pretenders: Alarming Statistical Trends

Here are five noteworthy numbers that must be reversed if the Packers are to remain contenders. Among them: The Packers are on pace to set a dubious league record. (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY)

The Green Bay Packers are 3-2 and winners of two in a row. If they’re going to be legit contenders, they’ll have to turn around these numbers before the start of January.

4.58: Yards allowed per carry, which ranks 24th in the league. This figure plays a key role in the next two items on the list. After being ripped by Chicago for 235 yards on 41 rushes — an ugly 5.7-yard average — the Packers tightened up against the Vikings. Minnesota, which rushed for 241 yards against Atlanta the previous game, was limited to 111 yards on 25 attempts. That’s 4.4 yards per carry but the Vikings’ run game never was a factor.

“Stopping the run, especially as the year goes and it gets colder and conditions come into play, you’ve got to be able to stop the run. That’s something we need to improve on,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said.

17.6: The Packers are running 55.0 snaps per game on offense while the defense has been on the field for 72.6 snaps per game — a difference of 17.6 per game. Green Bay’s defense is on pace to play 1,162 snaps. That would be the highest number in at least the last 25 years. It very well might be the highest number in NFL history; what is certain is it would be the highest figure in Packers history. Over the last 25 years, only 18 NFL teams have played more than 1,100 defensive snaps.

Thus, the mini-bye came at a good time after playing 77 plays against Chicago and 75 against Minnesota in a five-day span.

“We have played a bunch of plays, you’re right,” Hawk said. “I think 70-some plays was last week. The last three or four weeks, we’ve had 70-some plays. ... Our offense was scoring so quickly this past week, that was a big reason we were out there a lot. It’s like anything, if you sit there and think about it and worry about it, then it becomes a problem. We’re trying to play football. That’s what we do. I don’t think it’s a problem.”

48.6: Opponents are converting 48.6 percent of the time on third down, which ranks 28th in the league. That includes a combined 26-of-46 (56.5 percent) against the Jets, Lions and Bears before tightening up to limit the punchless Vikings to just 5-of-15.

“Our ability to get off the field on third down has a big impact on that,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said when asked about the previous note. “We did a much better job this game. I thought our guys did a nice job of understanding the down-and-distance situations. You saw a couple early in the game — the one that comes to mind is third-and-3, we’re playing a zero coverage. They dumped it across the field and Morgan Burnett came down. He made the catch, 1-yard shy, and Morgan hit him and knocked him back and we got off the field. Those are the types of plays. There’s another one where we’re playing zone and they check the back out and Casey (Hayward) made a nice play on the ball and popped the ball out. Those are the types of plays you have to make when people are running a lot of those close-proximity formations and crossing receivers.”

22/27: Those are the rankings by the Packers’ kickoff-return unit and kickoff unit, respectively. On returns, Green Bay’s average starting field position is the 20.2-yard line. That figure is aided greatly by recovering a surprise onside kick against Chicago. On kickoffs, the opponents’ average starting field position is the 23.0-yard line. The Packers would rank better in that category if not for their failed surprise onside kick against the Jets.

7.89: Percent of pass plays by Green Bay’s offense that have ended in a sack. That ranks 25th in the league. At least things are looking up: The Packers allowed one sack in 29 dropbacks against Chicago and two in 24 dropbacks against Minnesota. That’s three sacks in 53 dropbacks, or a sack rate of 5.66 percent.

“Guys are just playing their positions well,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. “They’re using good fundamentals and finishing the play and allowing us to extend us play, allowing Aaron (Rodgers) to extend plays and move around the pocket and let the receivers work in the secondary. So they have done a very good job pass protecting, and we hope to keep it up.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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