10

December

Packing the Stats: Green Bay’s Scoring Stats and Slow Starts

In their Week 13 game against the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers were clearly favored to win the match-up. Not only were they playing at Lambeau Field (the first time since playing the Dallas Cowboys before the bye week), they were also facing a team whose mere four wins came against opponents currently boasting no better than a .500 record.

Perhaps that’s the reason, then, why fans were a bit frustrated after the first quarter of play.

Here were the Green Bay Packers – an offensive powerhouse and a defensive machine – down by two fields goals and with zero points to show for their efforts against the 49ers?

“Mike McCarthy’s teams always start slow,” you might hear some fans say. “Just wait. There’s a lot of game left.”

And most people would probably agree with this sentiment pretty readily. The Green Bay Packers have tended to start slow in their games before piling on the points in ensuing quarters. As fans, we’ve taken their first quarter play with a grain of salt. We don’t like it, but we’re willing to wait it out and see what the next 45 minutes of game time brings.

That got me to thinking, though. Do the Packers really start slow? And how do their games usually progress across the four quarters?

In order to answer these questions, I went digging through some basic statistics to see if I could find any trends in the data. Take a look at the following table and graph, and see if you noticed the same things I did:

1ST
QUARTER
2ND
QUARTER
3RD
QUARTER
4TH
QUARTER
TOTAL
SCORE
OPP GB OPP GB OPP GB OPP GB OPP GB OPP
1 @PHI 0 3 13 0 14 7 0 10 27 20 W
2 BUF 13 0 0 7 14 0 7 0 34 7 W
3 @CHI 7 0 3 7 0 0 7 13 17 20 L
4 DET 7 0 14 14 7 6 0 6 28 26 W
5 @WAS 7 0 3 3 3 0 0 10 13 16 L
6 MIA 10 7 0 3 0 3 10 7 20 23 L
7 MIN 7 7 7 10 14 7 0 0 28 24 W
8 @NYJ 3 0 0 0 0 0 6 0 9 0 W
9 DAL 0 0 28 7 7 0 10 0 45 7 W
10 @MIN 0 3 17 0 7 0 7 0 31 3 W
11 @ATL 3 3 0 7 7 0 7 10 17 20 L
12 SF 0 3 14 10 14 3 6 0 34 16 W
TOTAL: 57 26 99 68 87 26 60 56 303 182
AVG: 4.8 2.2 8.3 5.7 7.3 2.2 5.0 4.7 25.3 15.2
DIFF: 31 31 61 4 121
AVG DIFF: 2.6 2.6 5.1 0.3 10.1

Packers Points by Quarter

SLOW STARTS, SLOW FINISHES

One of the first things I noticed was that the Green Bay Packers have never played a game this season in which they have scored in all four quarters. In fact, there were three games (against the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets) where the Packers only notched scores in two quarters of play.

But there’s more to this than meets the eye. Notice the difference between the first eight games of the season and the last four.

In the first half of the season, Green Bay was much more likely score in the first quarter than in the fourth quarter; however, over the past four games, they tended to finish stronger than they started. This dichotomy perhaps explains some of the preconceptions carried by fans.

There’s not a great deal of evidence to support slow starts over the first eight games, but you can see how this idea has crept up since playing the Cowboys. Green Bay has only scored a single field goal in the last four first quarters of play.

Likewise, the idea that the Packers can’t finish games still lingers after their first eight opponents outscored them 46-30 in the fourth quarter overall.

It’s certainly important for fans to note this shift in gameplay and to understand how things have changed since the start of the season.

DEFENSE BEST WHEN PLAYING THE ODDS

In looking at the chart and its accompanying graph, there is a distinct difference between the defense’s level of play in the first and third quarters versus the second and fourth quarter.

Through the first twelve games, no team has scored more than seven points against the Green Bay Packers defense in either the first quarter or the third quarter. They have allowed an average of only 2.2 points in each.

That’s a statistic any defensive coordinator would be proud of.

Unfortunately, the Packers give up significantly more points in the other two quarters, particularly the second. In this quarter, opponents have only been held scoreless three times and have averaged 5.7 points a game.

Two conclusions can be drawn from this. The first and most obvious is that the defense is best on a fresh set of legs.

The second is that the defense perhaps operates slightly under par in the face of pressure. Offenses typically ramp up their tempo and level of play in the second and fourth quarters, especially if they are behind. In light of this, defenses have to play on their toes and might be caught off balance a little more often.

On a positive note, though, the defense has only allowed a total of 20 points in the second halves of the past six games.

A THIRD QUARTER TEAM

Turning to the offense now, it should be obvious that they are at their best during the middles of games. They have scored 186 (or 61.4%) of their 303 total points in the second and third quarters.

This probably also lends some credence to the idea that the Packers start and finish slow, since we intuitively base that on offensive output.

Combining that with the trends of the defense, the Green Bay Packers are clearly a third quarter team. There has only been one third quarter in the entire season where the Packers failed to meet or exceed their opponents point production, and that was against Miami. Overall, they outscore their opponents by an average of 5.1 points in this quarter.

Unfortunately, this is followed up by an almost pathetic fourth quarter where Green Bay outscores their opponents by a paltry average of 0.3 points per game.

While in most games the Packers have scored enough to not make this a problem, three of their four losses have come from games where Green Bay has either led or equaled their opponents in points at the beginning of the final quarter.

This trend seems to be shifting more positively over the past few games, but we can’t forget that the games against the unmotivated Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings teams are part of those numbers.

LOOKING BEHIND THE STATS

Statistics are just that: statistics. They are not going to give you the whole story, but they can be a good starting point for finding trends and discussing broad topics. And in such a basic analysis as this one, there are quite a few things we don’t take into consideration.

For one, I haven’t differentiated between special teams, defensive, and offensive point production. If we sorted all of that out, we might get a slightly different picture, though probably nothing major.

We also need to consider the strength of opposing teams. For instance, scoring 28 points in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys might be a bit of an outlier in the data.

But overall, this information can give us a general indication of the Green Bay Packers’ strengths and weaknesses in a quarter-by-quarter perspective. Over the last few games, the offense has started slow, yet they haven’t finished games as poorly as they did in the beginning of the season.

I hope this was as interesting to you as it was to me, and if you have any additional thoughts on the data or what other aspects of the game might support it, feel free to comment below.

——————

Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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19 Responses to “Packing the Stats: Green Bay’s Scoring Stats and Slow Starts”

  1. Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

    Chad, this is just AWESOME work. Well done!

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  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Green Bay Packers, Jersey Al – Packers , Cheesehead Nation, Chad Toporski, Jersey Al – Packers and others. Jersey Al – Packers said: On JerseyAl.com: Packing the Stats: Green Bay’s Scoring Stats and Slow Starts http://bit.ly/gLqZ89 #Packers #GoPack [...]

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  3. DaveK says:

    The Packers have had some long drives in the first quarter of the last two games and come away with 3 points. At Atlanta they were inside the 5 yard line twice and got 3 points. Changed that game. At San Fran I believe it was in the first quarter that Crosby hit the post on a short field goal attempt after a long drive. At Atlanta at least it wasn’t a matter of starting slow but not finishing the last five yards of a long drive.

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  4. PackersRS says:

    Awesome work, Chad.

    Thanks a lot for that. Pretty good conclusions, also.

    Chad Toporski > FootballOutsiders + ProFootballFocus

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    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      Many thanks for the accolades, RS! I was hoping you’d enjoy this piece as a fellow stat geek. ;)

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      • PackersRS says:

        I am a stats geek, but when FO says that the 49ers are the 10th best D in the league, and when PFF doesn’t have CM3 in their top 10 D players, and say that Rodgers had a mediocre game against the 49ers…

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  5. Oppy says:

    Great stuff, I am constantly attempting to uncover and challenge sports perceptions that are not necessarily factual reality amongst us Packers fans. And I am often not well regarded for my efforts ;)

    My personal thoughts on the 3rd quarter spikes and subsequent drop off in the 4th Quarter hinges partially on another Packers-fan perception:

    The oft-sited “MM is lousy at making adjustments”.

    I have contested this statement repeatedly over the last few years, mostly due to my own perception that the Packers usually come out of the half and into the 3rd quarter guns a-blazin’. Your chart seems to indicate my perception was correct (At least for this season, but it has seemed that way to me for the last few years).

    That said, it may be most accurate for me to state that MM and his coaching staff may be adept at collecting the data during halftime, collect their thoughts, and make concise adjustments as a staff. Conversely, The fact that the Packers seem to taper off again as the game wears on into the fourth quarter may suggest that MM and the Packers coaching staff are inept at making adjustments on the fly, while the game is churning along- or, at least that opposition coaching staffs are a step ahead at making adjustments on the fly.

    This really interests me. Perhaps MM is a great chess player, tactician, when given the time to survey the board from above and carefully consider all things.. But he’s less effective when he’s in the fray and on the clock, having to juggle his responsibilities and make snap judgments and decisions.

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    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      Oppy,

      The subject of halftime and in-game adjustments actually crossed my mind as I was doing this. Unfortunately, I didn’t think I had a lot of room to put it in there, because I think it warrants a little more depth.

      What you suggest is probably the conclusion I’d lean towards, especially with this information at hand. In fact, I’d say it maybe applies to Dom Capers moreso than Mike McCarthy.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Key Line: “MM and the Packers coaching staff are inept at making adjustments on the fly.”

      Exactly what I’ve been saying for a few years now…

      Oppy, I wish I could convince you to put your ideas together in a more formal manner (like writing articles for us… :)

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  6. JRRohde says:

    The Packers have had a number of blowout wins, especially recently. I think the lack of production in the 4th quarter can partially be explained by the Packers taking their foot off the gas…taking a knee at the end instead of trying to score, calling more clock moving running plays, etc.

    The first quarter might be less because defenses are still fresh and emotionally charged up while offenses haven’t gotten into a rhythm yet. Plus a lot of drives start in the 1st quarter and spill over into the 2nd quarter where they might finish a scoring drive. The 2nd quarter would have more plays because of the flurry at the end of the half, thus more scoring.

    The Packers dominance of the 3rd quarter is very encouraging sign. Shows they’re good at making adjustments.

    I would guess that most winning teams follow a similar pattern to the Packers.

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    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      I’d say those blowout wins certainly do affect the overall production of the defense and offense in the fourth quarter. Having said that, I think over the past few games they’ve been getting better about keeping that lead going in the final quarter. The 49ers game is a particularly good example of the offense managing the clock and adding a couple FGs to their score. Contrast that with the first Vikings game of the season, and they seem to be moving in the right direction.

      As to your last sentence, I would be very interested to see what kind of pattern other successful teams follow. Perhaps if I’ve got a lot of time some day I’ll hand-pick a few… or maybe check that out at the end of the season. Could be quite interesting.

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  7. Russ says:

    Great work Chad, I really appreciate the effort put forth. I will agree that the coaching staff does make appropriate halftime adjustments on offense. I also think the inability to score in the 4th quarters has much to do with adjustments made by the opposing coaching staff. I recall their being stalled drives in the 4th quarters because of the inability to run the ball in short yardage situations. Hopefully that trend has changed with the addition of Starks.

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    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      Thanks, Russ!

      As I said above, I think the 49ers game displayed a step in the right direction for this team’s 4th quarter play. Even if Starks isn’t stellar, I think he’s proved to be enough of a confidence-builder that he’ll have a positive effect on games. And if he continues like this, it will also give the opposition something more to plan for.

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  8. Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

    nice article, I will say one thing however, 4th quarter statistics can be a bit misleading. The goal of the first 3 quarters is pretty simple, score as many times as you can while stopping the other team from scoring as many times as possible. But in the 4th quarter, it becomes a lot more situational. For instance, if the the Packers are out in front with a huge lead, the offense is actually doing a better job by draining out the clock and punting rather than scoring a quick touchdown. On the other side, if the defense is giving away the short pass but holding off the long bomb, then they are probably doing their jobs since forcing the other team to use a lot of time to score is actually more important than the resulting points.

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    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      Things are VERY situational in the 4th quarter… that certainly can’t be denied. Just look at the Atlanta game for proof of that. Everything comes down to timing, especially in close games.

      Which is why I’m just a little worried about the Packers’ recent failures in the 1st quarter. I know it’s generally a “slow” quarter, but a little improvement in finishing those drives and converting them into points would make a lot of other things more manageable.

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  9. [...] my very first “Packing the Stats” feature, I broke down the 2010 Green Bay Packers’ scoring by quarter in an attempt to research the claim that they were [...]

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