Packers score points, not wins

In the last six years, 73.3 percent of the teams to finish in the top 10 in scoring qualified for the postseason. The Packers, who finished fifth in scoring last season, finished 6-10. We look back at almost four decades of Packers football and recent NFL history to show how badly the Packers defied the odds.

A wise old sage — perhaps it was Homer (not Simpson) — once said offense wins games but defense wins championships.

That defense wins championships is inarguable. That offense wins games in the regular season generally is a valid premise, as well. But just like how the Packers defied history with turnovers last year, they also defied history in terms of their offensive production.

There's only one offensive statistic in the NFL that matters, and that's points scored. That Ryan Grant averaged only 3.9 yards per carry or that the Packers got little out of their tight ends is all background noise. The Packers finished fifth in the NFL in scoring. That's big-time production.

Green Bay has finished in the top 10 in scoring 17 times since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Last season was just the fifth time in which they didn't qualify for the playoffs and the only time in which they failed to post at least a .500 record.

On top of that, the Packers have finished in the top five in scoring 10 times since 1970. Last season was just the second time in which they failed to reach the playoffs, including a streak of seven in a row.

Last year's shortcomings bring back memories of those high-powered Bart Starr teams of the early 1980s. Instead of Aaron Rodgers firing the ball to Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, it was Lynn Dickey connecting with James Lofton and John Jefferson. It made the hair on your spine stand up and turned the hair on your head gray.

The 1982 club finished fifth in scoring, turned in a 5-3-1 record and reached the playoffs in that strike-shortened season. The 1983 team also finished fifth in scoring but went 8-8. The 1984 team finished seventh in scoring but went 8-8, as well. In 1989, behind coach Lindy Infante, quarterback Don Majkowski and incomparable receiver Sterling Sharpe, the Packers finished eighth in scoring but got left out of the playoffs despite a 10-6 record. Ten years later, the Ray Rhodes-led Packers finished 10th in scoring en route to an 8-8 record.

During the 16 non-strike seasons in which the Packers finished in the top 10 in scoring, they averaged 9.7 wins. During the nine non-strike seasons in which they finished in the top five in scoring, they averaged 10.4 wins. That puts into sharp perspective just how badly the Packers underachieved in winning only six games last season.

For further perspective, last year's Packers were the first team in five years — the 2004 Kansas City Chiefs being the other — to post a losing record despite placing in the top 10 in scoring. Plus, the Packers were the first team since the 2002 Vikings (also 6-10) to finish in the top 10 in scoring but lose at least 10 games.


Donald Driver is part of the fifth-ranked scoring offense.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Last season was an anomaly in that four of the top 10 teams in scoring failed to reach the playoffs: New England (11-5; No. 8 in scoring), New York Jets (9-7; No. 9), New Orleans (8-8; No. 1) and Green Bay (6-10; No. 5).

In 2007, only two of the top 10 teams in scoring failed to reach the playoffs: Cleveland (10-6; No. 8 in scoring) and Arizona (8-8; No. 7). The four teams who received first-round byes were the top-four scoring teams in the league.

In 2006, only three of the top 10 teams in scoring failed to reach the playoffs: Cincinnati (8-8; No. 8 in scoring), Jacksonville (8-8; No. 9) and St. Louis (8-8; No. 10).

In 2005, only two of the top 10 teams in scoring failed to reach the playoffs: Kansas City (10-6; No. 6 in scoring) and San Diego (9-7; No. 5).

In 2004, only three of the top 10 teams in scoring failed to reach the playoffs: Buffalo (9-7; No. 7 in scoring), Cincinnati (8-8; No. 10) and Kansas City (7-9; No. 2).

In 2003, only two of the top 10 teams in scoring failed to reach the playoffs: Minnesota (9-7; No. 6 in scoring) and San Francisco (7-9; No. 9).

All told, in the last six seasons, 44 of the 60 teams to finish in the top 10 in scoring reached the playoffs. That's 73.3 percent.

Only in 2002 among recent seasons was the system turned on its ear, with seven of the top 12 teams in scoring missing the postseason, including two of the top three offenses (No. 1 Kansas City and No. 3 New Orleans).

In the last seven seasons, only one team finished in the bottom 10 of the league in scoring yet qualified for the playoffs: the 2005 Chicago Bears. Of the 84 playoff teams during that span, only 13 finished in the bottom half of the NFL in scoring and just four were worse than 20th.

The average scoring ranking of the Super Bowl teams during the last seven years? 7.9. The average ranking of the Super Bowl winners? Interestingly, 11.3.

Yet, the adage that defense wins championships remains true. Last season's Steelers ranked 20th in the league in scoring but beat Arizona, which ranked third. In 2002, the Buccaneers ranked 18th in scoring but beat Oakland, which ranked second. And the 2007 Patriots and the 2005 Seahawks led the NFL in scoring but lost in the Super Bowl to the Giants and Steelers, respectively. Ditto for the 2001 Rams, who lost to New England. The last top-scoring offense to win the championship was St. Louis in 1999.

All of which illustrates why Mike McCarthy made such a radical change by switching defensive coordinators and schemes during the offseason. Offenses win games — the 2007 Packers notwithstanding — but without a quality defense, those teams quote the modern-day Homer: Doh!


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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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