Packing the Stats: Regression of The Secondary
The Packers may be perfect in the win-loss column, but it would be foolish to assume that everything with the Packers is going perfectly. The last 3 years the Packers have fielded competitive teams each with its own Achilles’ heel; in 2009 it was the offensive line, in 2010 it was the running game and this year it’s definitely the secondary.
While everyone one has heard that the Packers are near the bottom of the barrel in terms of passing defense, is it because they’ve played against elite passing quarterbacks? Is it because they’ve played against pass-first teams? Or is it because the secondary simply isn’t as good as it was when they won the Super Bowl?
I decided to take a look at passing averages of teams that Packers have played.
The first section are the numbers posted by opponents while playing the Packers.
The Second section are the passing averages of Packers opponents not including the Packers game (i.e. how these teams did against other teams on their schedule).
The final section is the difference between the two and the last bit is the average of these differences.
For the columns, PASS is the total passing yards, COMP is completions, ATT is attempts, TD is passing touchdowns, INT is interceptions, COMP% is completion percentage and PY/A is passing yards per attempt.
The results are pretty surprising. Numbers marked in red are stats that the Packers have done worse in compared to the average opponent, and as you can see that there is a lot of red on the chart.
Conclusions that you can draw from this data are:
- Opposing offenses are gaining over 60 yards more through the air against the Packers than they do against their other opponents on average
- Opposing offenses throw the ball 4 times more on the Packers and complete 2 of those on average
- Opposing offenses are more likely to throw a touchdown, with the Packers giving up nearly half a touchdown more than the average opponent defense.
- Opposing offenses are throwing nearly 1 interception more against the Packers than they do against all the other teams they have played.
- Opposing offenses have the same completion percentage against the Packers as any other team they have played on average.
- Opposing offenses are gaining nearly a yard more per passing attempt than against their other opponents on average.
Just from watching the game you can see that this is true, teams seem to be throwing the ball much better against the Packers defense than it did last year but while the Packers are giving up the yards, they managed to keep opposing defenses from scoring, as is apparent from their interception rate.
Simply put, the secondary simply isn’t playing the way it did last year. The blame shouldn’t be entirely put on the secondary’s shoulders; for one the Packers run defense this year is one of the best in the league which will naturally push opposing teams to prefer the pass (although they didn’t show it against the Vikings, to their credit it was Adrian Peterson). Also, the secondary has played often with a sizable lead, meaning opposing offenses have been playing catch up, which naturally results in more passing plays. Finally, the secondary has been banged up with every starting secondary player who isn’t named Woodson getting injured in some regard; safety Nick Collins is on IR with a neck injury, cornerback Tramon Williams had a shoulder injury that prevented him from playing bump and run (which he excels at), safety Morgan Burnett broke his hand at practice and probably won’t be intercepting a ball anytime soon and nickel cornerback Sam Shields suffered a concussion trying to return a interception out of the endzone. Needless to say, the Packers only had 1 full game (the first against New Orleans) where all the preferred starters played on the secondary.
Perhaps one of the most telling comments came after the Packers beat the Vikings when Charles Woodson commented that he had played “99% in man”, and most of that away from the core of the formation (like a normal starting cornerback). This worsens the secondary in two ways; for one Woodson isn’t as fast as he used to be and can be beat when playing a pure man technique (for example the Michael Jenkins touchdown) and with Shields out, Woodson was forced to stay outside for most of the game, and that takes away Woodson’s ability to blitz the passer and generally cause confusion in the interior of the formation, which trickles down to the secondary having to cover for longer.
At this point in the season, the team can no longer claim its a one time incident; giving up over 400 yard to Drew Brees in the first game to be attributed to playing a great quarterback in the early in the season, but after 7 games and a wide range of quarterbacks exceeding their averages and a sample size of 40 games for opponent averages, these numbers are indicative of considerable regression for the Packers secondary.
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.