The Green Bay Packers have piled up some eye-popping stats in their games against the Minnesota Vikings – of the negative variety.
Two things immediately jump out when you look at the two games, both of which the Vikings won.
Pressuring the quarterback
The Packers’ inability to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers is well documented. The team has given up 31 sacks for 193 yards on the season, the most in the league (Kansas City is second with 26). That stat alone is amazing, especially considering the Packers are somehow still on the positive side of .500, but what’s even more mind boggling is 14 of those sacks have come against the Vikings.
That’s nearly half of the Packers’ season total from two games, and the Packers have given up a hearty amount of sacks this season. It’s a wonder the team even had a chance to be competitive in either game against the Vikings, but that speaks to the explosive nature of the Packers offense.
What’s more, the Packers have almost single-handedly put Jared Allen in the conversation for defensive player of the year. Of Allen’s league-leading 10.5 sacks this season, 7.5 of those have come against the Packers. Not to take anything away from Allen, because he’s a good football player, but there’s no way 71 percent of his sacks should come against one team.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers have the fourth-ranked defense in the NFL, but it’s been invisible in both matchups with the Vikings. The Packers have tallied 14 fewer sacks than the Vikings in their two meetings this season. That’s a big, fat zero in case you left your math skills in the other room.
It’s not surprising Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has thrown seven of his 16 touchdowns against the Packers this season. In other words, 43 percent of Favre’s touchdown passes this season are against his former team.
One word that come to mind when thinking of these numbers is inexplicable. If the Vikings played a 16-game schedule against the Packers, Allen would have 60 sacks and Favre would throw 56 touchdowns.
Pass versus run
The Packers typically pass the ball more than they run, but the disparity between the two against the Vikings is even greater than normal. According to ESPN, the Packers have dropped back to throw 74.4 percent of the time in their two games with the Vikings this season. They’ve called a running play 25.6 percent of the time.
Versus the rest of their schedule, the Packers are more balanced – 54.7 percent pass, 45.3 percent run.
Certainly, the Packers playing from behind in both games against the Vikings had something to do with the play selection. It also contributed to the high number of sacks.
In Sunday’s game, the Packers threw 43 passes, while designed runs were executed 14 times (10 by Ryan Grant, two each by John Kuhn and Ahman Green). The number of passing plays was even higher when you factor in the times Rodgers scrambled or got sacked.
That’s no recipe to win a football game – even Brad Childress knows that.
Red zone efficiency
One thing that’s often ignored with Packers’ high-scoring offense is red zone efficiency – the percentage of time the offense is inside the opponent’s 20 yard line and scores a touchdown.
The Packers are a mediocre 12 for 25 on the season, converting 48 percent of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Against Minnesota, they are 3 for 7 (42 percent).
But a look at the other side of the ball shows a real difference-maker. The Packers’ opponents are 13 for 19 on the season in red zone efficiency, a fairly poor 68 percent conversion rate. The Vikings are another story entirely, however.
Eight Vikings drives inside the Packers 20 yard line have resulted in seven touchdowns. That’s an 87 percent conversion rate, which is enviable, almost improbable.
Simply put, the Packers defense has been bad inside the 20 yard line, but they have been inexcusably terrible against the Vikings. The Packers offense, which has had a comparable number of opportunities, is worse against the Vikings than their already mediocre percentage against the rest of the league, which compounds the problem.
Cleaning up any of these areas may have altered the outcome of Sunday’s game dramatically.
It’s amazing how badly the Packers have played against the Vikings this season, compared to the rest of their schedule. It’s as if the team can’t get up for big games. Perhaps the coaches can’t devise a game plan to stop the Vikings. Perhaps this team just isn’t quite ready for prime time.
Here’s one thing I am sure of. The Packers must be glad the Vikings aren’t on their regular schedule again this season.
And unfortunately, the way Green Bay played in those two big games doesn’t give the team much hope for making any noise should they make the playoffs.
And what was the average starting field position in that game? They had a short field all day.