In this second installment of “Studying the Stats”, I’ll be taking a look at how the Green Bay Packers offense did in 2009 coming out of the locker room. In other words, how they started out in each half.
If you remember the 2008 season, there was much consternation about the Packers’ slow starts (here’s just one example). There were also many Mike McCarthy comments about ‘fixing our slow starts” and promises to “work on” getting out of the box faster.
During the 2009 preseason, McCarthy kept his word. Along with working on the red zone offense, getting out to faster starts was a point of emphasis for the Packers during the 2009 training camp.
Well, I’m here to give credit where credit is due. Mike McCarthy’s offense made definitive progress in this area in 2009. The Packers had the first score of the game 11 times in 2009. Their record over those games was 9-2. Even more impressive, if they continued playing well and took a lead into halftime, the 2009 Packers were 11-1 in those situations.
For the record, in 2008, the Packers, scored first 8 times, going 5-3
Now of course, this doesn’t mean to win games in the NFL you have to win the first half, but it sure makes things easier. With few exceptions, most NFL teams would rather be in the position of protecting a lead late in games, rather than desperately trying to score.
Looking at the 2009 stats a bit closer, what did the Packers do on their first offensive drives of each half? The Packers scored seven times on their first possession of the game, for a total of 37 points. While I don’t have these stats for other teams, I’m going to surmise that scoring almost 50% of the time on your first drive of the game is at least average to above-average.
Conversely, on the the Packers’ first drive of the second half, they scored only four times, for a total of 20 points. That’s a 25% rate of scoring. At one point during the season, the Packers went seven straight games without scoring on their second half opening drives (TB, Dal, SF, Det, Bal, Chi, Pit). Although it was frustrating to watch, this didn’t seem to have a great effect on the final result, as the Packers were 8-4 in the 12 games they didn’t score in their initial second half possession.
Despite the overall improvement, there’s always room for more right? If the Packers potent offense can put more teams in an immediate hole in 2009, besides setting an early dominant tone for that half, it will also serve to help the Packer’s defense. Teams playing from behind are generally more predictable. Given talented personnel and the right defensive schemes, they can also be easier to defend against.
Getting off to a fast start is even more important on the road. As stated by Aaron Rodgers in the article I linked to above; “When you go on the road in a tough environment, the biggest thing is you’ve got to start fast,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who knows the Packers didn’t record a first down on their first two series against the Falcons. “We need to put together a four-quarter game, and that starts with the first drive.”
Putting together a four quarter game. I personally feel the Packers are sitting on a top-five offense, especially if the OL is somewhat stabilized (meaning no serious injuries and nobody forced to play out of position). Picture the potent Packers offense playing at their highest level for all four quarters. They have the ability to bury teams early, something I’m sure Mike McCarthy would be very pleased with.
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.