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June

Green Bay Packers: Studying the Stats #1 – Interceptions

Looking back at the Green Bay Packers stat sheet for the 2009 season, a few items just jump off the page. In some cases  they are negative stats the Packers DO NOT want to see again. In other cases, they are positive stats the Packers would LOVE to repeat.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at a few of these eye-openers and discussing what they could mean for the Packers in 2010.

Stat #1 – Interceptions: The Packers led the entire NFL in 2009 with 30 interceptions. In addition, they gained 477 yards and scored three touchdowns on interception returns, with NFL Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson notching all three.

After the 2009 preseason, I wrote that the Packers’ defense would be one that would live and die by the turnover. It seemed to me at the time that opposing teams would be able to move the ball against the Packers’ defense, so they would need the big plays to counter that. Either that or their red zone defense would have to be of the shutdown type, which as I recently wrote about, did not happen in 2009.

Overall, the defense exceeded my expectations with regards to yardage given up,  but part of that was due to the wonderful field position opponents were handed by some very poor punting and kick return coverage. face it. opposing teams were not forced to go the length of the field to score very often. (I’ll examine this closer in another installment of this series)

The other factor to consider was the level of the opponent. Against the lesser offenses (Detroit, Cleveland, Seattle, Chicago, Baltimore), they racked up some impressive yardage relinquished numbers, only to go in the full opposite direction against Minny, Pittsburgh and Arizona. On average, there were enough weak offenses on the schedule to offset the shootouts and keep the Packers as the second-ranked defense in terms of yards gained.

So despite the seemingly impressive defensive statistics, this would still be a team that would live and die by the turnover – especially in the big games. The turnovers, more specifically the interceptions, did happen. And not surprisingly, much success followed.

However, there were only four games in 2009 where the Packers did not record an interception, and not coincidentally, they were all losses. (Minnesota, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Arizona – playoffs).

As has been discussed ad nauseum, it was these top-tier quarterbacks under little pressure that picked apart the Packers. Had the Packers been able to pick off at least one pass in any of those games, it could have been a difference-maker in the final result.

But living and dying by the turnover is not the type of defense you want to take into the playoffs. One off day or a hot opposing quarterback  and your season is over. Better to have a defense able to get a big stop from time to time, an obvious bone of contention in that playoff loss.

So while it would be fantastic if the Packers led the NFL in interceptions again in 2010, I would gladly accept a few steps down from that position in exchange for a defense that can make a BIG stop or get a BIG sack late in a BIG game against a BIG-time quarterback. Yes, that would be BIG…

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He is a PFWA member who can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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15 Responses to “Green Bay Packers: Studying the Stats #1 – Interceptions”

  1. PackersRS says:

    You know what’s the most interesting number to me, from last year?

    In all losses, the Packers’ D allowed more than 31 points.

    When the Packers’ D allowed less than 31 points, which is an absurd amount of points, our O outscored the opponent.

    So we don’t need a great D. We just can’t let the opposing offense Freaking R!@# us in the B@!#! (Pardon my french)

    And I think we can achieve that. I HOPE we can achieve that. I DEMAND we achieve that…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      That kind of goes along with what I’m saying. let’s just get some key stops here and there and the point total will decrease. And I like that you’re running with the “demand” theme… :)

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Ruppert says:

    This is totally guesswork, but it seemed to me that our D-backs had fewer dropped INTs last year. Recall a couple years ago when Nick Collins probably dropped 5 INTs that were RIGHT in his hands. Statistically, I could be wrong about that, but I’m just going by first impressions from my memory.

    True that our special teams allowed some short fields, but did the fact that we had a very good offense offset that in any way? How many 30 yard punts came from our own 40 instead of the 25, for example, where a lesser offense would have stalled? Just playing devil’s advocate, of course. Is there such a stat as opponent’s starting field position by team defense? I wonder where we would have ranked.

    We need consistency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Well, it’s an interesting thought, but probably no way to to verify it. I do remember Collins specifically dropping some easy INTs last season as well, so probably not a huge change from a few years ago. I plan to look at this closer sometime in the near future…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. John Rehor John Rehor says:

    I’ll take less interceptions if it means better overall pass D. I firmly believe that Capers will unleash the entire 3-4 this season, and having a healthier secondary will play a huge part in how they run the D. The holes in the zone D need to be minimized as much as possible, but having a secondary (excluding safeties) of Woodson/Williams/Harris/Lee/Underwood (rookie) or Bell is, on paper, much better than Woodson/Williams/Bush/rookie Underwood.

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  4. Ron LC says:

    Was a strength last year and needs to repeat this year. A little more pass rush will help.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. MJ Kasprzak says:

    I am tired of the statements that we faired well against bad offenses and good against bad. First of all, EVERY team had its stats padded against bad teams and had struggles against good ones. Second of all, the absolutes presented by such statements are false: Baltimore was not a weak offense as you assumed, but were 13th in yards and 9th in points, making our dominance of them noteworthy; Dallas was the #2 offense in yards (although not in top-10 in points) and we killed them, even with a less-than full roster.

    Also, how can you say that defenses that live and die by the turnover aren’t successful in the playoffs? The Saints were the TWENTY-FIFTH ranked defense in yards and won the Super Bowl because they were the only defense that forced more turnovers than the Packers.

    I expect better from you, Al.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Misinterpretation…

      I didn’t say you CAN’T win with an defense overdependent on the turnover. Simply that it’s a risky process in the playoffs. One turnover-less game and you’re gone. I’d rather have a more balanced defense that can win games without being too dependent on turnovers. Just stating my preference. Much like my preference for a running back that has open-field moves… LOL

      Also, the Ravens offense was one-dimensional (Ray Rice), 5th in rushing and only 18th in passing. Since the Packers run D was excellent, I was looking mostly at teams with poorer passing offenses as easy marks, and that’s why I included Baltimore. To the Packers D, Baltimore matched up as a weak offense.

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  6. MJ Kasprzak says:

    18th in passing is still average–I’d hardly call that one-dimensional. You are right that it’s a risky prospect to rely on a turnover on defense, but I don’t think we’ll have to if we are anywhere near healthy.
    And why should Grant use a move when his straight-line speed is his biggest asset?

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