All six of the Green Bay Packers losses have come by four points or less, this season.
To be exact, four losses have come by three points and two have come by four. Meanwhile, the Packers average margin of victory is a shade less than 17 points per game.
That last statistic is slightly misleading because not all of the Packers victories have been blowouts. They beat Detroit by two in week four and Minnesota by four in week seven. However, by and large, when the Packers win, they win big.
That brings us back to that record in close games. The Packers are 2-6, so far this season.
I’ll give you the quick explanation why — coaching.
Mike McCarthy has the second-worst winning percentage among active coaches in close games. He’s 5-15, which is a .250 winning percentage. The only coach who’s worse is Buffalo’s Chan Gailey, who is 3-11 — a .214 winning percentage.
Go ahead and say I’m unfairly piling on McCarthy again, but the statistics don’t lie.
Neither does the evidence.
The simple fact is McCarthy’s Packers are consistently bad in less noticeable, but extremely important areas of the game.
For years, the Packers have been among the league leaders in penalties. In 2009, they were first with 118 penalties. In 2008, they were second with 110. In 2007, they were fourth with 113.
While they’ve committed far fewer penalties this season — they’re currently 28th in the NFL — it’s still been a problem area.
The Packers gift wrapped the week three game for Chicago by committing a team-record 18 penalties. Then there was Robert Francois lining up illegally on a fourth quarter punt against the Dolphins. The resulting first down gave Miami their first go-ahead score.
Both were huge factors in Packers’ losses.
For the past three seasons, the Packers have fielded one of the worst special teams units in the league. In 2009, they finished 31st in the Dallas Morning News’ special teams rankings. In 2008, they finished 26th, which cost special teams coach Mike Stock his job.
This season, the Packers have been killed by their special teams — from New England lineman Dan Connolly’s 71-yard return just before the half, last week, to Atlanta’s Eric Weems’ 40-yard return after the Packers tied the score with 1:06 left in week 12, the hits keep coming.
Both of those plays proved pivotal in Packers’ losses and they aren’t isolated incidents.
Certainly, I could go into the whole clock management thing again, but I don’t want to beat a dead horse.
Gary D’Amato points to the Packers shortcomings in short-yardage situations, as well, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The Packers failed to score a touchdown after first-and-goal at the 2 against New England. They failed to score any points after Aaron Rodgers fumbled following a first-and-goal at the 2 against Atlanta.
The biggest part of the problem seems to be the Packers predictability. They consistently try to run up the middle, but that’s beside the point.
Again, these aren’t isolated incidents.
The Packers rank 24th in the NFL in fourth-down conversion percentage (5-13, 38 percent). Like penalties and poor special teams play, this problem isn’t unique to this season.
The Packers were 30th in fourth-down percentage (3-9, 33 percent) in 2009 and 23rd (8-18, 44 percent) in 2008.
When a talented football team develops a pattern of losing close games it’s usually the result of recurring, seemingly secondary, problems. After all, the Packers aren’t losing because their offense can’t score or their defense is getting run over.
They’re losing close games because they can’t put it all together on a consistent basis.
When these problems develop into a pattern over several years, it’s because the team isn’t well coached.