Why they lost: Green Bay Packers fall to Lions at Lambeau

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Nov 15, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) tries to flip the ball to running back

James Starks

(44) in the fourth quarter during the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

3rd & Nowhere

The Packers under Mike McCarthy’s tenure have been about as consistently good as you might expect from an offensively-oriented squad.

That can in part be exemplified in their prowess at preventing drives from ending quickly with a 3-&-out:

  • 2006: 21st (8-8)
  • 2007: 10th (13-3)
  • 2008: 13th (6-10)
  • 2009: 5th (11-5)
  • 2010: 23rd (10-6)
  • 2011: 4th (15-1)
  • 2012: 3rd (11-5)
  • 2013: 8th (8-7-1)
  • 2014: 2nd (12-4)

As you can see, in 7 of the 9 seasons prior to 2015 this team has been at least #13 league-wide in 3-&-out percentage, with 6 of those years ranking in the top 10. Those two outlier seasons saw a new coaching staff first installed (2006) and a massive spate of injuries (2010).

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This season has seen the team drop off considerably beyond even those worst rankings.

Before this game, the Packers were sitting at an abysmal 29th in the league on three-&-out percentage (as per Football Outsiders’ calculations); they are set to further drop once the numbers are added in from Sunday.

This game saw the Packers attempt 13 drives (not including the kneel-down before the half), with 5 drives ending in three-&-outs. That is a 38% rate on the day, and it explains a lot.

This shows the offense being unable to do anything on over a third of their drives. Other drives became punts as well (9 total punts; 4 non-3-&-outs), but at least those managed to go somewhere.

The issues with three-&-outs connects to plenty of areas in an indirect way. Failure to gain even a single first down on a drive damages the rhythm of an offense. It also puts your defense out onto the field pretty quickly, something that can add up if it happens often.

Those issues obviously showed up to some extent in this game, with the defense losing steam towards the end of an overall impressive effort and the offense continuing to flail until the last-ditch effort towards the end of the 4th quarter.

If they can figure out how to get drives going early again, these Packers could return to being some semblance of the offense we’ve come to expect them to be.

Next: Off Target Tosses