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Winning without Rodgers, revisited: Packers haven’t met baselines for success

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Green Bay had five important keys to winning without Aaron Rodgers, but hasn’t met them with regularity over the last five games.

NFL: Green Bay Packers-Training Camp Adam Wesley/USA TODAY NETWORK

With a 1-4 record over the past five games, it’s safe to say that many things have gone wrong for the Green Bay Packers. But in many ways, it has been a recurring pattern of issues.

While Brett Hundley seemed to turn a corner against Chicago, he reverted back to the hesitant, confused look from previous games. Hundley’s inconsistency and the Packer defense’s less-than-stellar play overall have contributed to a team that looks less focused and confident each week.

In an October 19th article immediately after Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone, I examined five statistics that were telling of Green Bay’s success or failure the last time Rodgers was injured in 2013. After the first five games without Rodgers in 2017 (including the game Rodgers started against Minnesota), it’s evident Green Bay has not met those keys to winning.

Here is a breakdown of those key categories thus far.

Third Down Conversions

In 2013, Green Bay averaged a 47% conversion rate on third downs with a healthy Aaron Rodgers and totaled 47% and 53% rates in the two games the team won without him.

This season, the Packers have failed to reach the 47% benchmark in the Rodgers-less era but pulled out a win against the Bears with a close 43% mark. That rate was far and away the highest percentage of any game so far, as Green Bay has consistently converted at a rate of 36% or less. In today’s NFL, those marks over a five-game stretch just won’t cut it. The Packers continue to be unable to sustain drives, even in third-and-short situations.

Third Down Conversion Rate

Opponent Conversion Rate
Opponent Conversion Rate
at Vikings 4-17 (23.5%)
vs. Saints 4-11 (36.4%)
vs. Lions 2-9 (22.2%)
at Bears 7-16 (43.8%)
vs. Ravens 4-13 (30.8%)

Rushing Yards

Green Bay was two or more touchdowns from winning in the three games the team didn’t hit the century mark in 2013. The Packers either won or were within one score of winning when they reached 100 yards on the ground.

Green Bay has eclipsed the 100-yard mark twice in the current five-game stretch. One of those performances was a 160-yard effort in the victory over the border rival Bears and another was 181 yards against New Orleans in a game that was within a field goal until a Saints touchdown with 4:55 remaining.

Green Bay has gained just 78 yards or less on the ground in the other three games, all losses by at least 13 points. Establishing the run to a certain degree of balance takes pressure off Hundley and avoids a crowded defensive box. The offense’s gameplan revolves around this balance and Green Bay has sputtered without it.

Rushing Yards

Opponent Rushing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
at Vikings 72
vs. Saints 181
vs. Lions 78
at Bears 160
vs. Ravens 75

Time of Possession

While time of possession does not necessarily need to be won in order for the Packers to be successful, it does need to be close.

In the last five games, Green Bay has won the battle of time possession just once - the win over Chicago. Otherwise, the Packers have possessed the football less than their opponents by at least 4:18 with the exception of a very surprisingly even game against Baltimore decided by turnovers. Green Bay hasn’t been able to control the clock for a variety of reasons and it’s certainly been a factor in the team’s outcomes so far.

Time of Possession

Opponent Time of Possession Opp. Time of Possession Packers
Opponent Time of Possession Opp. Time of Possession Packers
at Vikings 32:09 27:51
vs. Saints 36:56 23:04
vs. Lions 36:55 23:05
at Bears 26:07 33:53
vs. Ravens 30:03 29:57

Turnovers

During the 2013 stretch without Rodgers, the Packers totaled a -1 turnover differential. Their lone two victories came in contests in which the Packers had won the turnover battle or kept it even.

Green Bay was doing enough on the turnover front to win games prior to the Ravens matchup, posting a +2 differential and winning that category in three of those four games. However, a five-turnover performance against Baltimore gave Green Bay little chance for triumph in that specific game and dropped the Packers to a -2 differential without Rodgers this season.

Turnovers

Opponent Turnovers Opp Turnovers Packers
Opponent Turnovers Opp Turnovers Packers
at Vikings 2 3
vs. Saints 2 1
vs. Lions 1 0
at Bears 1 0
vs. Ravens 1 5

Opponent Quarterback Rating

When Green Bay could limit the opponent quarterback rating to a range of 80.0-83.5 in 2013, it was generally successful. In all but one loss, opposing quarterbacks exploded for at least a 90.7 rating against Green Bay.

This season, Green Bay was able to hold Case Keenum and Drew Brees to quarterback ratings of 84.4 or less in its first two games but was still unable to win. Since then, quarterbacks have posted a minimum of a 90.9 rating. Green Bay was able to defeat the Bears despite a second half-aided 97.0 rating from Mitch Trubisky.

While opponent quarterback rating has not necessarily been as significant of an indicator of the Packers’ success in 2017 as it was in 2013, Green Bay hasn’t contained passers as often as it has needed to.

Opponent Quarterback Rating (ESPN)

Opponent Opponent Quarterback Rating
Opponent Opponent Quarterback Rating
at Vikings 78.7
vs. Saints 84.4
vs. Lions 132.4
at Bears 97.0
vs. Ravens 90.9