The quick-scoring abilities of the Packers' offense has caused problems for the Packers defense. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Packers' offense partly to blame for defensive woes

Expectations were high for the Wisconsin Badgers football team in 2000. The year before, they won the Rose Bowl and Ron Dayne won the Heisman. Despite Dayne’s departure to the NFL, UW fans weren’t worried because the new starting running back, Michael Bennett, looked like another superstar in the making.

But when the Badgers switched running backs it also altertered the way they played games. How could just one player affect nearly all other aspects of the game, including the defense?

The answer lies in a couple statistics that are wreaking havoc on the Packers’ defense this season: Time of possession and number of possessions.

In 2000, the Badgers went from an offense centered on the keep-the-chains-moving running style of Ron Dayne to Michael Bennett’s home-run running style, which meant that on any given play he could run for a touchdown – and on a lot of plays he did. This has a huge effect on the play of the defense. During Dayne’s tenure, the defense could rest for 8-10 minutes while Dayne moved the chains. But with Bennett, the defense no longer had that luxury with the opposing offense getting more possessions.

If an offense that is constantly facing a deficit gets more possessions than usual, they’re more likely to try for the big scoring play because they know that they’ll get the ball back and have another chance.

This is what is happening to the Packers.

It’s a good problem to have – the Packers score a lot. But it also means that opponents not only have more possessions, but they have more of a will to let the quick-score offense loose. They’re not going to waste time running the ball. They need points! Now!

I’ve created a new statistic show this: Points per minute of possession. The Packers offense, including field goals, has scored 247 points in 252 minutes. That equates to .98 points every minute the Packers offense has the ball, the second best mark in the league.

I’ve gone back over the season and come up with this chart that shows that teams with the highest points per minute give up some of the most yardage in the league (with the exception of Baltimore)

What’s the other factor nearly all of these teams have in common? Almost all of them have winning records.

Looking at time of possession won’t tell the entire story – the Packers are very good on that stat this year. We can deduce from this chart that the more frequently an offense scores, the more yards the opposing offense will gain.

So, because the Packers offense scores a lot very quickly, its defense suffers – the secondary has to run with receivers all day. Am I saying that this lifts the burden off of the Packers’ blown coverages? No. But I’m saying this shows that opposing offenses are getting more chances at the big play.

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