FanPost

A Statistical Look at the Packers' defense

Andy Lyons

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Nels for some great number-crunching and for helping to put the Packers' defense into perspective, especially when they're playing with a purpose.

Two years ago, our defense was one of the worst in recent memory. Even teams of the mid-80’s were more effective defensively than they were. Last year we saw marked improvement, but ultimately, we were middle of the road at best. This year, stats show that we’re middle of the road again, but what is the story really? We’re currently 5-2, and in those 5 wins, we’ve had a considerable amount of garbage time. Teams nowadays go into their shell defense and surrender a lot of garbage time points, giving up yards, but not the big play.

I looked at every defensive drive for our season so far this year. Not through film mind you, but just simple stats. I consider a successful defensive series to be anything that does not allow more than 1 first down. A 3-and-out, of course is best, but only giving up one first down is a mark I consider successful. Anything greater than that, 2 or more first downs, I consider the offense has sustained a drive.

I’ve had a feeling this year that our defense has been simply dominant, especially in the first half, only giving up points when the game has already been decided, despite what you tend to see from sites like ESPN, B/R, and NFL.com. If you listen to them, you’re likely to believe that our defense is our weak link and we’re in the middle of the road at best again. Looking at when the points have been surrendered tells a different story.

I didn’t look at special teams points such as Cordarelle Patterson’s kickoff return for a TD, and I don’t feel like it’s necessarily fair to criticize the defense for surrendering short field TD’s surrendered because the offense/special teams coughed up the ball.

In the first quarter, we’ve had a total of 18 defensive drives. Of those 18 drives, 2/3 of each drives, a full 12/18 have been successful defensive stands. Only 5 were sustained drives, and the final drive was the muffed kickoff where Cincy only needed 2 yards to score. Although stat wise, that score goes against the Packers defense, it really is not their fault that they surrendered a 2 yard score.

Q1 – 18 drives, 7 3-and-outs, 5 1-first down drives, 5-sustained drives, 3 TD’s, 0 FG’s, 3.0 ppg

In the second quarter, we’ve had a total of 21 defensive drives. Again, of those 21, 2/3 of each drives, 14/21 have been successful defensive stands against only 6 sustained drives, with again, one drive being an easy score surrendered against the 49ers when Lacy fumbled deep in our side of the field. That being considered, we’ve surrendered 5 scores with 6 scoring opportunities (1 missed FG) and only 2 TD’s.

Q2 – 21 drives, 9 3-and-outs, 5 1-first down drives, 6-sustained drives, 2 TD’s, 3 FG’s, 3.3 ppg

So in total, we’ve been giving up an average of less than a Touchdown per game over the course of the first half and the numbers are exceptionally impressive. 40% of the time in the first half, the defense has not given up a first down. Two of every three drives come off the field in one first down or less. Only 21% of defensive drives result in a score, and if take away the muffed kickoff return and Lacy fumble out of the equation, we’re surrendering 4.3 points per game in the first half, and only 6 scores total, 3 TD’s, 3 FG’s.

The numbers aren’t so kind in the second half though, but still friendly enough if you separate Garbage time and real time when the games are up in the air. In 6 of our games, we’ve had garbage time. The following points in the game are when I consider when the Packers went into prevent mode.

31-0 vs Washington through the end of the game.

30-14 vs Cincinnati (only one drive, because at 30-21, it immediately became a different game)

22-3 vs Detroit through the end of the game.

19-10 vs Baltimore through the end of the game.

24-6 vs Cleveland through the end of the game.

38-17 vs Minnesota through the end of the game.

In the third quarter non-garbage time, we’ve had 17 defensive drives, and 60% of them have resulted in drives ending in a first down or less. Similar to the second quarter, we’ve surrendered 5 scoring drives with one first down, only giving up 2 TD’s for an average of 3.3 points per game in the 3rd quarter. We’ve surrendered 7 sustained drives.

Q3 – 17 drives, 7 3-and-outs, 3 1-first down drives, 7 sustained drives, 2 TD’s, 3 FG’s, 3.3 ppq.

The few 4th quarter drives we’ve had have come in the Bengals and 49ers games. The numbers aren’t as special but still aren’t terrible.

Q4 – 5 drives, 0 3-and-outs, 1 1-first down drives, 4 sustained drives, 1 TD, 1 FG, 2.5 ppq.

So when the final is still undecided, the packers have had 61% of their defensive drives resulting in a punt/turnover in 1 first down or less with only 22% of time, the Packers have surrendered drives resulting in scores.

Game

61 drives, 23 3-and-outs, 14 1-first down drives, 22 sustained drives, 14 drives of 50+ yards, 8 TD’s (2 of which came off TO’s deep in Packer territory), 7 FG’s, 11 points per game.

Now we look at garbage time. The numbers aren’t pretty and account for more TD’s than the rest of the game in such a shorter time. We definitely get softer when we’re up by a few scores. We try not to give up big plays, playing softer coverage against teams throwing more in an attempt to come back. Pro QB’s are too good and if you play soft coverage against them, they’ll dink and dunk you apart and go for it frequently on 4th down when they would normally punt the ball earlier in the game. The end result are garbage points making only fantasy owners relieved in stats.

Garbage time

12 drives, 1 3-and-out, 1 1-first down drives, 9 sustained drive, 9 drives of 50+ yards, 10 TD’s, 0 FG’s, 11.7 points per game.

Q1 – 18 drives, 7 3-and-outs, 5 1-first down drives, 5-sustained drives, 3 TD’s, 0 FG’s, 3.0 ppg

Q2 – 21 drives, 9 3-and-outs, 5 1-first down drives, 6-sustained drives, 2 TD’s, 3 FG’s, 3.3 ppg

Q3 – 17 drives, 7 3-and-outs, 3 1-first down drives, 7 sustained drives, 2 TD’s, 3 FG’s, 3.3 ppq.

Q4 – 5 drives, 0 3-and-outs, 1 1-first down drives, 4 sustained drives, 1 TD, 1 FG, 5.0 ppg (only counting Bengals and 49ers games)

The numbers speak for themselves. We’ve jumped up to big leads and have dominated the first three quarters, averaging less than 10 points per game. Once garbage time hits, our defense goes into a shell and plays softer coverage. Those games haven’t been in question even with giving up all those points. When games matter, our defense has only lost one game – the San Fran game where they were worn down due to too much time on the field. Green Bay’s defense has been the key to this season.

Now if we can only get Capers to play a little different coverage scheme in garbage time…

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