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Math is Fun, Week 2: Packers’ Offense and Run Defense on first down

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Don’t run on first down against the Green Bay defense right now, but don’t be afraid of the Packers offense picking up big chunks of yardage either.

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In a feature I’ll work on from time to time, I’m going to do some deep digging into the Green Bay Packers’ statistical records to see if I can learn anything significant about the team’s performance. Two games is hardly a significant sample size in many areas, but a few stats back up the trends that we have been seeing from the Packers, both in the disappointing offense and the resurgent run defense.

Here are a few items to consider.


The Packers have run 53 plays on first down and gained just 145 yards on those plays. That is the average number of yards gained when the Packers line up on first and ten. If you take out a pair of quarterback scrambles for 18 yards, that average drops down to a whopping 2.49 yards per play. In other words, the Packers’ average distance on second down is about 7.5 yards to go to reach the sticks. Not good.


Perhaps even worse, the Packers have moved the chains just four times on first down plays. That’s right - only four times in 53 first-down opportunities have they achieved the yardage to gain. That’s a conversion rate of 7.5%. In 2015, that rate was a shade over 15%, and in 2014 it was an astounding 25%.


That is how many of Aaron Rodgers’ pass attempts have gone to short left area. You may recall that the left side is where Davante Adams primarily lines up. The Packers have more throws to that area than any other team in the league, but they are second-last in yards per attempt on those throws at just 4.03.

Now compare that to past years - in 2015, the Packers threw short left just 30% of the time. In 2014, it was 28.5%. Why are nearly half of the team’s attempts going to that area?


While the offense is picking up just two and a half yards per play on first down, the defensive performance makes you wonder why any team would run the ball on first and ten against the Packers. They have 30 such attempts against them (top ten in the NFL) but have allowed a ridiculous 39 rushing yards, good for just 1.3 yards per attempts.

Meanwhile, the defense is allowing 10.79 yards per play when opposing teams pass on first and ten, and the opposition has converted about 47% of those attempts for first downs. Look for opposing playcallers to pass more frequently to start a series than the Jaguars or Vikings did.


Four times, Packers opponents have tried to run wide around the right end. The average yardage on those plays is a ridiculous -6. In other words, don’t run to Nick Perry’s side of the field. The Packers are also top-five in fewest yards per rush on runs up the middle at just 2.24.