Green Bay Packers: Studying the Stats #2 – Fast Starts All Green Bay Packers All the Time

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.


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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of, 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


27 thoughts on “Green Bay Packers: Studying the Stats #2 – Fast Starts

  1. This one of my favorite topics. This has been an area where I believe MM has to improve. To me it’s not just the first score, it’s maintaining an aggressive offense until the “daggar” has been driven home. Last year I said the theme should be, “Score Early Score Often.” MM had a tendency to go into a much more controlled offense with a few long passes (low percentage) thrown in as soon as he got the lead. Thus, allowing the other team to get back. In that 7-2 record you mention there were a few that GB actually lost that lead and had to come back.

    So, yes score early, but don’t take the foot off the pedal.

    1. On the money. MM sometimes seems to do things just to show he can, and I sometimes am confused by what he’s doing. In 2009, however, I was more happy with his play calling than I’ve been in the past, so I’m not complaining too much. But yes, staying aggressive early should be a point of emphasis, especially with all the offensive weapons on this team.

    2. Hmn. I actually thought he was too agressive sometimes, calling for too many 5 wide sets when we were in the lead. Wanted him to be more balanced, to run the ball a little more…

      1. Being agressive doesn’t preclude running the ball. it’s more the type of plays and what you do in certain situations. On second and three, do you run a straight handoff or do you maybe try a running play with some misdirection or trap blocks that would have a greater chance for a larger gain? I know the zone blocking system takes some of that away, but it’s a modified ZBS, so I don’t see why it couldn’t be incorporated. That’s just one example, but there are many more…

      2. That’s where I was going with the high risk passes. 4 and 5 going out on 3rd down with poor protection. Especially in the first 8 games.

        1. Poor protection is the key there. it took MM a bit to long to realize he had to change the approach and keep more blocking help in – IMO.

  2. Running the ball when in the lead is a basic pattern when you have the run game available for use.The O-Line was not nor going to afford that king of game plan.Taking nothing from Grant,he is not that kind of back and no one else seems to instill that confidence either.With the possibles of Starks catching from the backfield,I would think a more two Rb(Grant,Starks) and two TE (Finley,Havner) will acccomplish the same effect.

      1. Air McCarthy would partially hold up any running back. As long as MM is calling the plays, its pass first early and often. Even if Jim Brown (or insert personal favorite for best RB ever) was in the backfield for the current Packers, McCarthy would choose to bomb it out. I’m not defending Grant as a great back by any stretch of the imagination, but if were productive early in games on a more consistent basis, the entire offense would take on an entirely different dimension.

        So he misses the cutback lane on almost every play and prefers to run into the backs of his linemen. He does grind it out just enough. But if we could get anything out of other RBs, it might mean less Grant (are you listening James Starks?)

          1. Your naglerish hate on Grant is disgusting. Even more than your love affair with Lumpkin.

            Grant WITH Clifton and Tauscher (8 games): 135 carries, 649 yards (4.8 YPC). 7 TDs. If that’s not good enough, I don’t know what is.

              1. I’m sorry, Al. You’re the maker of TGIFinley, and many other things that I can’t recall right now, but Aaron is the master hater. Between his hate for Kampman, Nick Collins and kittens, he’s the pilgrim of unsubstantiated grudge.

  3. Grinding out just enough means nothing more than it’s time to punt.Also,accumulating good yds and such only when Clifton and Taucher are in means even less.Grant is a good hands back but ends up on his to fast.James Starks will be a blessing,I actually picked him in Feb as a sleeper for this year.Check it out on the Packer draft room.

    1. “accumulating good yds and such only when Clifton and Taucher are in means even less.”. Good work Taryn. This is exactly the point I have been making in articles and comments about Ryan Grant. He’s fine when there’s good blocking and a nice hole, but if has to try to make something on his own – FAIL.

  4. Al,I feel that with a ‘possible catching threat in the BF like Starks,this may enable Grant to do more,otherwise he will gain his meaningless yardage to no real benefit to the Pack.Like great OlB’s with sacks galore and no team titles.

    1. I don’t think Ryan Grant can suddenly become what he’s not. Although I read somewhere that he has been working with a trainer to improve his lateral movement. We’ll see…

  5. That’s a wonderful thing to picture! No doubt we have a top-five offense, considering we have a top-five QB, a top-five (heck, top-three) receiving corps, and A RUNNING BACK IN THE TOP QUARTER OF THE LEAGUE! As I also outlined in my article this February, our line was not as bad as an overly simplified look at the sack numbers would indicate, and was above average once our tackles were stabilized.

    To help put our seven opening-drive scores in perspective, it might help to look at how many we gave up. I think that was four plus the playoff game.

    Seven weeks ’til training camp.

  6. The sack totals are a very mis-leading stat as almost all stats are.The OL and Dl are apples and oranges.Getting 7 and giving 4. The Ol,with our offense should be 2 times that,if we had the OL and the RB that continues drives on crunch time 3rd’s.These 7 opening drive TD’s happened how,when and why during the season?The first half or second half of season.Against weak or strong opponenets?A quick 4 play with a 50 yd pass or a sustained run and pass 70-80 yd drive,it matters alot.Please excuse me if I seem rash,but how many TD’s did we miss on because we couldn’t run from inside the 5yd line,opening drive or not?

  7. Our O-line will be a big key to whether we reproduce the fast starts we had last season and improve upon them. Al, I think you touched on that. I agree that we have a top five offense because the O-line will be better which will make for better run averages on first down and a fast start from Ryan Grant (which could mean that he is a top five running back) will help a passing offense that already strikes fear into the hearts of many. It’s gonna start with the O-line though and though there is some shuffling still going on, it looks positive in that regard.

    1. I am also hoping for a big improvement with the OL. Just players having mostly set positions, whether a starter or backup, is several steps forward.

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