29

November

Packing the Stats: Packers First Down Failures

Packing the StatsOne thing I noticed while watching the Green Bay Packers humiliating loss to the New York Giants was their inability to put themselves in favorable down-and-distance situations.

In fact, of the 54 offensive downs that Aaron Rodgers was on the field for, 40 of them were at or over ten yards to convert. Three were in the moderate-long range (7-9 yds.), eight were in the moderate-short range (4-6 yds.), and only three were in the short range (1-3 yds.).

But how does this compare with the rest of the season? It’s one thing to have the numbers, but we also have to have some context and comparison. After all, there will tend to be more downs of 10 yards to go, since that is what most first downs start with.

Without further ado, here is some raw data concerning the Packers’ offensive performance by down-and-distance (click on the image for a larger resolution):

 

2012 Green Bay Packers, Yards Gained by Down and Distance

 

The first thing to look at is the yards per play on first down. Green Bay had its lowest overall production on first-and-long this season (2.68 yards per play). Their second lowest output came against the Seahawks where they averaged a full yard more at 3.68 yds/play. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, their best production on first-and-long came against the Indianapolis Colts (6.79 yds/play).

What that means is the Packers should have faced more long second downs than normal. And, in fact, that was the case. Eleven of 20 second downs were in the 10+ yards-to-go range. That’s 55.0% for those keeping track. On the season, the Packers have only ended up in second-and-long situations 32.8% of the time.

What becomes even worse is how they performed on second down. Their 3.73 yds/play on second-and-long is a yard short of their season average. And one very misleading statistic is their production on second down with 4-6 yards to ago (moderate-short). While 78 yards on 7 plays gives an average of 11.14 yds/play, consider what happens when we remove the 61-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson. It becomes a paltry 17 yards on six plays for just 2.83 yds/play – or about half of their season average.

We can clearly see that an inefficiency to move the ball forward into manageable situations led the Packers to downs where they were forced to throw deeper. And that, I would say, is a bad situation to be in against such a formidable New York Giants pass rush.

8

November

Packing the Stats: Randall Cobb and Other Movers of the Chain Gang

Packing the StatsGreen Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t kidding when he called second-round pick Randall Cobb “very talented,” “multidimensional,” and “a matchup player” after the 2011 NFL Draft. We didn’t see a whole lot outside of kick returns last year, but this season has really seen Cobb explode on the offense. From his role in the slot to his special place in the “Cobra” formation, he has been a dynamic force that tilts the field.

We could talk about his best-in-league 131.0 wide receiver rating from ProFootballFocus.com. We could also look at his 45 receptions (tied for 13th in the league) or six receiving touchdowns (tied for 7th). But what I really want to focus on in this issue is a measure of production not often looked at: first down conversions.

What I have charted below is the number of conversions made by each individual player on the offense through the first nine weeks of 2012. From there, I’ve broken that number down into passes, runs, conversions by down, and touchdowns. (Note that a touchdown is considered part of the total number of conversions. Also note that the trick special teams plays are not included, since they are not produced by the offense.)

Let’s take a look at the numbers before we go any further:

 

Conversions by Player, 2012, Wks. 1-9

 

As is always the case, we can glean a few different things from this information. What I want to focus on first, however, is the fact that Cobb, Nelson, and Jones are the biggest “movers of the chain gang.” They’ve accounted for a combined 85 conversions, which is slightly more than half of the entire offense’s total.

We can also note that both Randall Cobb and James Jones are at their best on second and third downs. Jordy Nelson, on the other hand, seems to be equally productive across downs. Furthermore, these three players have accounted for 19 of the Packers’ 27 touchdowns, with Jones currently holding the lead at 8 touchdowns.

But let’s dig a little deeper. The Packers’ receiving corps has been hit by some unfortunate injuries to Greg Jennings (groin/abdomen), Jordy Nelson (hamstring/ankle), and even Jermichael Finley (shoulder). This means that straight-up numbers don’t mean a whole lot without a little more context.