Packers Speed Does Not Mean Packers Efficiency

Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers make the Packers a dangerous team in the playoffs.
One of these guys is going to lower the Packers offensive snap count.
One of these guys is going to lower the Packers offensive snap count.

Recently, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy stated in an interview with Rob Demovsky that he plans for the Packers to run 75 offensive plays on average per game.  While this might seem like a great idea consider the Packers have one of the most high flying and potentially dangerous offenses in the NFL, one only needs to take a step back to realize how trying to shoot for 75 offensive plays per game on average doesn’t necessarily mean you are winning nor does it mean that your offense will get better.

First off context is important when considering how many plays the offense gets to make on average.  On one hand, obviously converting 3rd downs and extending drives will increase the total number of plays on offense and picking up the tempo of the offense with no huddle and hurry up offenses are things the Packers have done regularly with Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers will also likely increase how many offensive plays the Packers get.

However it’s also important to realize that snap count can also be inversely proportional to Packers offensive efficiency; for instance if the Packers are comfortably in the lead and are grinding out the clock by running the ball 3 times and punting (I like how fans complain when the Packers run the ball 3 times and punt but also complain when the Packers throw the ball when killing the clock as well) their total number of offensive plays will naturally decrease simply because they are waiting until the last second to snap the ball.

Furthermore, teams that are behind tend to play faster because they know they have get more done in a faster amount of time.  While the Denver Broncos, who had the best offense in the NFL last season, did have the highest number of offensive plays per game at 72, teams that also had higher average offensive plays per game were Buffalo (70), Washington (69), Houston (68) and Cleveland (67).  I don’t think anyone would argue that any of these teams fielded a top flight offense last year and it’s likely that playing from behind increases your offensive plays as opposing defenses are also playing more “prevent”/soft defenses in order to kill the clock further.

Offensive composition appears to also play some factor in the average number of offensive plays; predominantly passing teams typically had higher offensive snap count numbers; as mentioned before Denver lead the league with 72, New England came in 2nd with 70 and other pass-first teams such as Detroit (69) and New Orleans (68) also show up in the top 10 of offensive snaps per game.  On the flip side two very successful running offense teams (with good defenses to boot) in San Francisco and Seattle both averaged about 60 offensive snaps per game.  While initially this would seem to fall in line with McCarthy’s statement, I think the Packers can actually be a much more balanced team this year with the inclusion of Eddie Lacy and James Starks.

Other than last season, the Packers have always been a pass first, pass second, run as an afterthought type of team but without Aaron Rodgers for much of the season, the Packers actually showed that they in fact could run the ball and that added a huge dimension to the offense once Rodger returned.  I think it would be a loss to limit the diversity of the Packers offense in the goal of pushing more plays out of the offense, in others words passing the ball instead of keeping the defense honest with a solid combination of both run and pass.

I think the biggest idea to point out is that number of offensive plays a team can run is dependent on a variety of factors including offensive philosophy, the situation of a particular game and how the opposing defense are playing them.

It should be pointed out that much news was made out of the hiring of Chip Kelly last year by the Philadelphia Eagles because it was believed that he would bring his high-volume, high speed offense to the NFL.  Initially this proved be true, the Eagles stuffed 53 offensive plays into the first half of their season opener against the Redskins but ultimately this high speed attack proved to be ineffectual; by the end of the season the Eagles ranked 13th with 65 offensive plays on average, which is lower than the Packers’ 67.

In reality its not how many opportunities you get, its how you use them.

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • Slim11

    When I saw the quote about “75 plays” per game, my first thought was how that number compares to the Eagles offense for last season.

    This almost sounds as if MM wants to go with a five-wide offense from the first offensive snap of the first regular season game. I am sure this isn’t what he intends to do but that pace is nearly unsustainable.

    If he’s getting 75 snaps/game because the defense is forcing a three-and-out EVERY time…great! But, that’s almost as unsustainable, and unrealistic, as 75 snaps/game.

    Now that I think about this, I wonder if any CFL teams manage 75 snaps per game. Their rules (three downs instead of four, multiple players in motion at once, wider field and 12 players on the field) might favor a more wide open offense. Indoor football (AFL, IFL) might but the differences there are such that a valid comparison might not be possible.

    • Slim11

      After posting above, I looked for some CFL stats to support my observations and found them.

      The differences between the NFL game and the CFL game do make a difference. The Saskatchewan Rough Riders led the league averaging 82.4 snaps/game in 2013. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were last with 73.7 snaps/game. These numbers are based upon an 18-game schedule.

      Can the Packers sustain an average 75 snaps/game in 2014? I have my doubts.

      • Sir Cheese

        I’m from Winnipeg, Big time Bombers fan here. We’re 3-0 this year so far! I love the Packers most of all though :)

  • James David Marsh

    What I see is one running back and one tight end with three wide receivers mixed with two tight ends and two wide receivers. A healthy Eddie Lacy/James Starks combo will keep the defense honest. The whole idea is to keep the defense from making changes so that Rogers can tear that defense apart with both the pass and the run.

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      That’s the theory and I agree it is a nice one.

      My question is what happens if the pack has an 8+ point lead in the 3rd qtr.

      The **winning** offensive theory at that point is to slow down and eat as much time as you can to keep the other team from getting back into the game while still moving the ball (grind it out offense).

      Grinding it out is also a key offensive capability if your defense needs a breather.

      How does a 75 play per game pace help you do that?

      Sure, against most opponents it won’t matter because scoring another TD in 3 minutes will make them fold. But teams like that are not the opponents the Packers really need to worry about. It won’t phaze a New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco or a New York Giants team when Eli’s head is on straight.

      My main (really only) complaint about the Packer offense over the past 8 years is that they need to learn when to throw body punches and take the wind out of an opponent. I thought M3 might have learnt that lesson last season. Guess not. Sigh.

  • lefty

    That hurry up offense can backfire really quick. They can only use it in certain conditions. If the other teams offense has been on the field for awhile – GB’s defense will be tired when they get off the field. You can’t go 3 and out in a minute and then put your tired defense back in. Hurry up offense will be less effective or useless in bad weather or cold games.

  • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

    “I think it would be a loss to limit the diversity of the Packers offense in the goal of pushing more plays out of the offense, in others words passing the ball instead of keeping the defense honest with a solid combination of both run and pass.”

    Slow clap. Well said indeed.

    • Mojo

      Not sure why the extra plays would have to be passes.

      If, for example, the Packers were able to hurry things up and get eight more plays a game, I could see them doing delayed draws, H-back stuff and pitch-outs as well as passing. Those extra plays could easily be a 50/50 pass/run mix. Especially if the line is run blocking well.

      Don’t understand just because you’re running more plays, why the assumption is the passing percentage would be higher. A team that consistently has long sustained drives (and a lot of snaps) could be doing it with run and pass.

      If I were a coach, I’d want to see my team run a hundred or more plays a game. As long as your D’s doing it’s job, it probably means you’re offense is amazing and you’re kicking ass.

      • Ed Schoenfeld

        Generally because passing plays take less time off the clock for yardage gained than running plays, especially when you factor in that incomplete passes stop the clock (but an incomplete ‘pitch-out’ is a fumble :-)

        So most ‘fast paced’ offenses tend to be pass first, pass always.

        • Stroh

          That’s not entirely accurate. Their is no reason whatsoever that a fast paced offense can’t run the ball as much or more. Just look at Oregon (yes its college but that doesn’t matter) they run the ball much more frequently than pass and they used to run over 80 plays a game.

          Its way to broad a generalization to say fast, high tempo offenses pass more.

          • Slim11

            Another factor in college is the play clock. The time allowed to get a play started is shorter than the NFL play clock.

  • Stroh

    More plays that Rodgers and Lacy are on the field the better the Packers chances of winning. Might it hurt the D’s stats? Sure, maybe… But the offense isn’t preventing the Defense from having 3 and outs. Still up to the D to stop the opponent and prevent the opponents offense from having long time consuming drives. If the D gets off the field w/o allowing more than 1 or 2 first downs, they won’t get tired. So its still up to the D to get off the field and prevent long time consuming scoring drives. THATS whats in the Defenses best interests. Not the number of plays the offense runs!

  • lefty

    But the defense only allowing 1 or 2 1st downs per possession isn’t realistic when playing the Lions & Bears twice. Or the Patriots, Saints, Seahawks, Panthers, Eagles, Falcons, etc. this year.

    • Stroh

      Its still the defenses job to win enough plays to get off the field quickly. GGetting stops on 3rd down to create a change of possession. Who the opponent is doesn’t change their job.

  • Barry

    This seems like one of McCarthy’s more foolish superficial ideas. Three and out quickly will NOT average as many plays per game as three first downs slowly. Somebody should tell McCarthy that the most important stats are the ratios of touchdowns and fieldgoals compared to the opponents. Maybe playing faster will do that, but number of plays…..?

    • funcrusher

      Please do us all a favor and race to Lambeau Field so you can personally let McCarthy in on this great knowledge you’ve shared with us all!!!

      It makes perfect since that three and outs don’t add up to as many plays as getting first downs will! Also, your theory on the importance of scoring more touchdowns and field goals than your opponent is just plain genius!!! I’m sure McCarthy has never taken any of this into consideration!

      Thanks you for sharing this! Packer fans across the nation are forever in your debt!!

      • Barry

        You may not have noticed, but McCarthy without Rodgers or Favre is a loser. I may have been too sarcastic for you to get the picture. For that I apologize, but I do not apologize for the gist of my comment…….McCarthy’s idea to run more plays by playing faster is bone headed!

        • Stroh

          So is any HC w/o a Franchise QB. Why do you think a lot of HC get fired every year? 90% of the time it due to not having that Franchise QB.

          Same for Holmgren w/o Favre.

      • Barry

        funcrusher

        While you and McCarthy are focusing on speedy plays, keeping the pads low and keeping good special teams players, you can bet your lunch money that Belicheck, Harbaughs and other good coaches are focusing elsewhere. It’s the “focus” Mr Genius!

        Thanks for your constructive criticism….

        I have one question for you. Would a “fool” recognize “great knowledge” or might they just make a stupid snotty comment.

        • funcrusher

          For starters, I wish McCarthy and I were focusing on speedy plays, but unfortunately, he doesn’t invite me to the game planning meetings. Personally, I don’t necessarily think that they need to play faster and run as many plays as possible, although early in games it may help. They seemed to come out sluggish way too often last year.

          But, if you’re going to disagree, at least post reasons for your opinion that have some sort of intelligence behind them.

          First you bashed McCarthy and stated that three and outs won’t add up to as many plays as getting first downs.

          You followed that up by bashing McCarthy again stating that the most important stat is the ratio of touchdowns and field goals compared to the other team. OBVIOUSLY!!!

          Like I stated above, if you disagree, it’s fine, but post some sort of intelligent reasoning. Don’t just spew insulting nonsense. This is a Packers website, so if you make a trollesque comment, prepare to get criticized.

          • Barry

            funcrusher

            Thanks again for your critique of my inappropriate response to your snotty criticizm of my intial comments about McCarthy’s boneheaded idea of speeding up plays to have more plays per game.

            If speeding up plays was all it took to enjoy more plays per game AND to win more games, then I would agree with McCarthy. I haven’t heard one thing from you or McCarthy about the efficacy of “speeding up individual plays”. You are the one lacking support for your sarcastic remarks.

            Things that are “OBVIOUS” to you are not necessarily part of McCarthy’s focus. If McCarthy is so smart, why does he keep Slocum?

  • Tarynfor12

    McCarthy wants to eliminate the amount of times player personnel is changed,hence having three down guys on the offense.Thus,being able to force a defense to remain on the field without changing players for as many times able during a drive/possession.
    If more plays are garnered from this fine,but doing so for the sake of simply adding plays to a total for a game isn’t the mindset..IMO :)

    • Stroh

      Yep… its all about getting certain matchups and then keeping that advantageous matchup and exploiting it. Also keeping the same defensive personnel on the field w/o allowing substitution tires them out and weakens the D later in the game.

      Its not simply to run more plays but to dictate play and control the ball.

      • Ed Schoenfeld

        I hope that this is just a case of the media missing the coach’s real point in favor of some headline grabbing phrase.

  • LyerlaStoleMyBike

    I was a little perplexed when I heard McCarthy say this… I think balance is the way to go, regardless of speed. Of course we should pick up tempo when the situation calls for it or to catch the other team off guard, but we shouldn’t play fast just to play fast. I’d prefer if we played a more balanced game like SF/SEA, which has helped them make deep playoff runs recently. We’d need to be able to lean on our D a little more though, which is yet to be seen.

  • Oppy

    One thing that is being missed, that Stroh was close to touching on, is that a major factor in an offense running in the neighborhood of 75 plays a game… Is the defense getting off the field.

    If your defense is letting teams move the ball and eat up clock, your offense is probably not going to have the ability to run 75 plays a game.

    Yes, we all know McCarthy likes to run an uptempo offense and keep a defense on their heels, but I feel his projections for 75 offensive snaps a game speaks equally to his expectations for our defense’s level of efficiency as it does to the offense getting into and out of the huddle and getting the ball off quickly.

    I’m fairly certain the Packers could keep their average time per offensive down and hit that target of 75 snaps per game if our defense can get cut down their snaps on the field by 25%.

    Make more stops in less downs on defense, get more time on the field for offense.

    • Oppy

      It should be noted that the defense getting off the field quickly via STOPS would promote a positive connotation on running a higher number of offensive plays, while on the flip side of the same coin, a team could rack up plenty of time for the offense if their defense is getting off the field quickly due to leaking like a sieve and allowing teams to score quickly- that would lead to the “chasing” scenario that the article alludes to.

      Look no further than Houston for that example: Only two other defenses in the NFL in 2013 were on the field for fewer snaps (only 970); HOWEVER, they were tied at a miserable 24th in the league for total points allowed with 428.

      Interestingly enough, in Houston’s case, their defense ranked a bit better than average in terms of average yards allowed per play, ranking in at 14th with 5.2 ypp….and only 6 other defenses in the NFL allowed fewer total yards, coming in at 7th with 317.6 yards per game allowed.

      What this tells me, at least superficially without having watched Houston play, is that their offense was on the field quite a bit because their defense was getting stuck with really poor field position which they were unable to defend effectively, therefore allowing teams to score relatively quickly due to shortened field, and putting their offense back on the turf far more frequently than most teams in the NFL.

      This actually checks out, as their OFFENSE was on the field A TON (6th highest ToP in the league, and racked up a bunch of yards (8th most in the league) but 22nd worst Yards per play, 31st worst points per game.. Seems at odds until you see that their turn over differential was a staggering… STAGGERING.. -20. Yeah, NEGATIVE 20.

      Now it all comes into focus!

      So yes, running a high number of offensive plays does not, in and of itself, make for an efficient or great offense. One has to look at the entire scope to draw an accurate context for the data.

  • marpag

    In addition to limiting defensive substitutions and such, I think there can be an advantage specifically for the offense. In the end, I don’t think it’s really about the number of plays that are run. That’s just one attempt to measure it. It’s about “tempo.” It’s about “pace.” It’s about keeping players focused. It’s about finishing a play and immediately focusing on the next one instead of doing an embarrassing little dance and making a first down signal. It’s about maximizing the inherent advantage to the offense that the offense knows what it will do next and the defense doesn’t.

    How many times have you see it that a stagnant offense suddenly seems to “get it together” as soon as they go hurry-up?

  • peter laes

    When stating that he whats to have 75 plays per game, I think MM is implying that he confident on getting a lot of 1st downs. And usually more plays translates into more oppurtunities to score. And until the Packers can prove that they have a good defense, they have to score a lot of points (remember – the object is to score more points then the opponents, that determines the winner of the game).

  • Bigggfootz

    Would say McCarthy’s reasoning is that adding more plays adds more opportunities for the big plays, including SCORES! Not to mention keeping the D off the field more.

  • BrianURN

    Seems like 2 years ago MM was expounding the need to throttle back the offense and get a more sustainable pace to the game. He was implying that scoring too fast was causing the D to wear down. Remember 15-1 and the D From Hell? The NFL is a copycat league, and the Eagle’s success with pace may be all the rage. I’d rather see the efficiency (TD/posession) up rather than focus on pace for the sake of pace.

  • http://aljersey duhawks

    True. You can keep the ball for 3 quarters and still not win. It does take an offence and a bal deffence to win ball games. Throw in a good kicking and return team you will win 75-85% of your game. I would give up the small yards (2-3 yds) and cut back on the big gain(10 plus yds) one anytime. So we need bal from both sides and kicking teams to have a good year.