On Friday, we took a look at the Green Bay Packers' 2015 offense as compared to the 2014 version to see if we could observe any substantial statistical trends. What we found was a little surprising - this year's offense has actually slightly outperformed that of a year ago, despite the loss of Jordy Nelson and the slew of injuries that have struck across the board.
Naturally, the logical next step would be to look at the defense as well, so we'll do that here. What we find is equally fascinating, as there are few statistical categories in which the defense has posted a marked improvement over the 2014 edition. The two areas where improvement can be clearly seen, however, are sacks and the most important stat of all: points allowed.
Here's what we found in our comparison.
2014: 122-204 (59.8%), 1,344 yards, 7 TDs, 9 interceptions, 72.4 passer rating;13 sacks, 63 yards lost on sacks
2015: 129-227 (56.8%), 1,545 yards, 7 TDs, 8 interceptions, 73.4 passer rating; 23 sacks, 126 yards lost on sacks
Much like the Packers' offense, the numbers here are fairly quite similar with a few exceptions: the Packers have seen 33 more dropbacks against their defense through six games, but the pass rush has also hit home much more frequently with 10 more sacks through six games than a year ago.
2014: 201 carries, 927 yards (4.6 YPC), 7 TDs
2015: 152 carries, 711 yards (4.7 YPC), 4 TDs
Whereas the 2015 Packers have seen over five passes per game more than a year ago, opponents have run the ball almost eight times fewer per game. Surely, this is in part due to Green Bay's ability to get out in the lead early this season, something they struggled with through the first few games a year ago as they started 1-2. What is somewhat disturbing is that the yards per carry have remained the same. However, as you'll see, all of this
2014: 9 interceptions, 9 fumbles forced, 4 fumbles recovered
2015: 8 interceptions, 9 fumbles forced, 2 fumbles recovered
Turnovers are close so far - and the luck involved with recovering opponents' fumbles makes this a pretty even split.
Red Zone Defense
2014: 20 opportunities, 11 touchdowns, five field goals (scoring rate: 80%, TD rate: 55%)
2015: 19 opportunities, 10 touchdowns, four field goals (scoring rate: 74%, TD rate: 53%)
Maybe the red zone is the answer? After all, the bend-but-don't-break concept is one that gets thrown around a lot. However, the numbers here are close too, both in number of opportunities allowed and overall scoring rate. The results are down slightly, though, and correspond to a drop of 10 in total points allowed.
2014: 130 points allowed; 2,208 total yards: 1,281 net passing, 927 rushing. 13 turnovers
2015: 101 points allowed; 2,130 total yards: 1,419 net passing, 711 rushing. 10 turnovers
Overall, the Packers' defense is allowing five points per game fewer than a year ago. There isn't an obvious reason, at least based on raw stats - turnovers are actually down a bit, total yards allowed are very close, and red zone numbers are pretty similar. It just seems that the Packers' formula is working better this year - the offense has done a good job getting out to an early lead, which forces opponents out of their run game and into obvious passing situations. That in turn helps the pass rushers pin their ears back and rush the passer, which has resulted in a significant increase in sacks.
So while the Packers have allowed more passing yardage this year than last, it's a small price to pay when you have the #1 defense in the NFL in terms of points allowed per game.