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The Packers are insanely bad on 4th down

However bad you are currently imagining them to be, rest assured that they are worse.

NFL: New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers Appleton Post-Crescent-USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

The Green Bay Packers’ offense is insanely bad on 4th down.

They are, in fact, much worse than you probably think. They are so bad at fourth downs, that they’ve actually broken DVOA, at least a bit. They’ve really broken “numbers” as we know them. They’re weird and bizarre, and almost unfathomable, and so let’s get into it.

1. They SUCK

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. No team is worse at converting on 4th down in 2022 than the Packers. It’s not really even close. Green Bay has converted just 2 of 11 opportunities (18.2%). The 2nd-worst team is the Bengals, which is not surprising given their offensive line. They’ve converted 22.2%, but from there it jumps up to San Francisco and Indy at 28.6%. That’s atrocious. And by the way, the Packers’ success number here is OVERSTATED, which we will get to in a minute.

Compounding this issue, the Packers are VERY smart about going for it when they should so for it, which happens a lot.

And indeed, I think every single attempt on 4th down this year was correct. They were either desperate for a TD, just out of field goal range, or trying to punch it in from the 1. Those are ideal situations to go for it, and that speaks well of their coaching staff. But, as we can see from the chart, those other teams down at the bottom of success rate with Green Bay barely ever go on 4th down. The 49ers never do. The Colts barely ever do. The Bengals go a bit more, but no one goes for it as much as Green Bay while failing as often. Overall, the Packers are tied for the 10th-most 4th down attempts. It’s a terrible combination of intelligence and ineptitude that has cost them several games this year.

2. Before they fail, they move the ball.

It’s important to remember that there is some selection bias built into what I am about to share. Most teams go for it more frequently between the 50 yard line and the edge of field goal range (call it the 35) on the opposing side of the field. Generally speaking, most teams will have to move the ball at least 25 yards to get into “go for it” range. You will obviously get some 4th-and-1 calls outside of this range, but you will also get quite a few down by the opposing goal line, and so those drives will be even longer.

Still, upon crunching the numbers, I was shocked to find that the average Packer drive that fails on 4th down travels 44.7 yards. That’s a lot of yards! They actually have four drives of at least 49 or more yards that died on a 4th down!

The average Packer drive is 31.3 yards, by the way.

Fourth Down Fails

Opppnent Down Distance Play Yards on Drive Plausible Alt What happened
Opppnent Down Distance Play Yards on Drive Plausible Alt What happened
Vikings 4 1 Dillon up the middle for no gain 79 Chippy FG Vikings drove 89 yards for a FG.
Vikings 4 1 Rodgers Pass Incomplete Deep Middle to Tonyan 57 None. Had to go. Vikings killed the clock from 3:45 to 1:08, punted, got the game over.
Giants 4 2 Rodger Pass Incomplete Short Right for Allen Lazard 69 None. TD or Die The Giants killed the clock. This was that RPO we spent so much time on.
Jets 4 3 Rodgers Pass Incomplete Deep Middle to Doubs 29 Punt The Jets would miss a 53 yard FG.
Jets 4 14 Rodgers pass incomplet deep Middle to Tonyan 38 None. Had to go. Jets drove 58 yards for a FG.
Jets 4 2 Love incomplete short middle to Lazard 8 None. Had to go. Garbage time. The jets knelt it out.
Commanders 4 1 Rodgers Pass incomplete short left to Doubs 38 A Long FG maybe Washington drove 61 yards for a 19 yard FG, making it two scores.
Bills 4 3 Rodgers Pass incomplete short left to Doubs 36 Maybe a long FG Buffalo drove 61 yards for a TD.
Bills 4 1 Aaron Jones up the middle for -1 yards 49 Could have kicked a FG I don't really think a FG would have mattered. Buff drove 5 yards and Allen threw a pick. Then Aaron threw a pick

The Packers have gained, as an offense, 2,719 yards so far this year in total. 403 of those yards came on drives which ended in a failed 4th down. That’s 15% (or 1/6) of their total yards. Yards are supposed to be the currency of points, but more often than not for Green Bay, yards are more like the cryptocurrency of points.

3. That 18.8% number is high.

I said we’d get back to this, and here we are. The Packers have officially converted 2 of 11 4th down tries, but in reality, it’s more like 1 of 10. That’s because one of those conversions, a 3-yard run by Aaron Jones off right guard on 4th-and-1 against the Jets in a desperate attempt at a late comeback, was part of a drive that would eventually end on a failed 4th and 14. On that play, Rodgers threw incomplete over the middle to Robert Tonyan. Even their 4th down conversions end in 4th down failures. Oh, by the way…

4. Both conversions were runs by Aaron Jones.

That’s right, Aaron Jones’ 17-yard run against the Patriots on 4th and 1 and the aforementioned 3-yard gain against the Jets are their only conversions of the season, meaning that Aaron Rodgers has yet to complete a single 4th down pass. Not one. He’s missed Big Bob twice, Allen Lazard twice, and Romeo Doubs three times in going 0-6 (Jordan Love is 0-1 to round out the passing). AJ Dillon has also been stuffed once and even Aaron Jones was stoned for a one-yard loss last week against the Bills, but at least the run game has worked half the time.

And it’s not as if they’ve needed to pass this much! Outside of that desperation 4th and 14 against the Jets, the next longest 4th down attempt was a mere 4th and 3 (also against the Jets). 10 of their 11 4th down attempts have been for 3 yards or fewer. Maybe run more?


Let’s talk a bit about fumbles too. Fumbles, and especially fumble recoveries, are mostly random, and the Packers have had their fair share of them, fumbling 16 times so far this season and losing 6. Losing only 6 isn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things, but it is once again shocking how late in drives these things tend to happen. The average length of a drive that ends on a lost Green Bay fumble is 35.4 yards! There is one drive, on an aborted snap against the Jets, that was less than 25 yards, but every over drive was quite substantial before being snuffed out by a fumble.

Fumble Fails

Opppnent Down Distance Play Yards on Drive Plausible Alt What happened
Opppnent Down Distance Play Yards on Drive Plausible Alt What happened
Vikings 1 10 Rodgers strip-sacked by Jordan Hicks, recovered by Tomlinson 26 Greg Joseph would kick a 56 yard FG.
Bears 1 10 Aaron Rodgers Aborted Snap Receoverd by Mike Pennel 58 Cairo Santos 44 yard field goal
Bucs 3 5 Rodgers to Jones for 3 yards. Forced by Vita Vea 59 The Bucs would drive to the GB 40 where Perriman would fumble. Recovered by Savage
Pats 1 10 Aaron Rodgers complete to Romeo Doubs for 1 yard. Forced and Recovered by Jack Jones 25 The Pats would punt.
Jets 3 1 Aaron Rodgers Aborted Snap recovered by LaMarcus Joyner 9 Zuerlein 32 yard FG

I mentions this because between failed fourth downs and lost fumbles/lost aborted snaps. The Packers have gained 580 yards on drives resulting in no points, which is 21% of their total offensive yards.

On almost all of these, better execution or better ball security would have led directly to points. I don’t expect the Packers to be perfect, and no one should, but “average” would be a nice start. We’ve talked before about the offense’s predictability, and this is where they take the absolute biggest hit.


On Reporting as Eligible this week we received a question wondering about the difference between the Packers’ offensive DVOA and offensive EPA/Play, which prompted me to look into all of this. Green Bay’s offense is a terrible -.024 EPA per play, which ranks 23rd and is quite a bit worse than the 22nd ranked team (NE at -.011 per play). However, flipping over to Football Outsiders and DVOA, the team is a healthy 8th overall at 10.5% better than average. They are 12th in passing DVOA (16.1%) and 9th in rushing (8.5%). That’s pretty good, and there’s really no good way to square the two results.

Part of the discrepancy can probably be explained by the “Defense-Adjusted” part of DVOA. While the Packers have faced some poor defenses (Chicago is 26th, the Giants are 28th, and the Vikings are 21st), they’ve balanced that out with some true juggernauts (Tampa is 5th, New England is 6th, the Jets are 8th, and the Bills just fell to 4th from 1st). But more than that, I think the discrepancy is caused by the extreme number of yards the Packers have gained without capping off the drive.

It’s not that DVOA doesn’t punish you at all for this kind of failure, and per the glossary at Football Outsiders, DVOA is quite similar to the EPA model at this point. All of that said, it looks to me like DVOA rewards yards more than EPA (which is based on points) does, on the theory that yards should turn into points at a fairly reliable rate. DVOA also punishes 4th down decisions slightly less. It also scales the punishment for fumbles based on a few factors that may mitigate their impact, especially considering two of the Packers’ lost fumbles were aborted snaps.

In Conclusion

A lot of things have gone wrong for the Packers this year, but their 4th down failures, which are incredibly high leverage plays by their nature, are a huge part of the equation. Most importantly, those struggles aren’t just luck, likely to regress to the mean. The Packers play-calling and execution in these scenarios, their poor RPO work, and their reliance on a lackluster passing game over an efficient running game, have all been poor. It may be too late to right the ship, but in the second half, if they can take a critical look at their short-yardage repertoire and make some adjustments, they can drastically improve their fortunes going forward.

Also, hang onto the damned ball.