Including Thursday night’s win, the Green Bay Packers are averaging only 46.2 yards per game in penalties on the year – that’s third lowest in the league.
The rest of the NFC North has been far less disciplined. Chicago ranks 19th (66.4), Minnesota is 26th (70.4), and Detroit is 30th (75.0).
Last year, the Packers averaged 54.7 yards, 11th fewest in the league – so there’s been a dramatic improvement in this area.
What makes this stat important in my mind relates to Green Bay’s current dink-and-dunk passing attack, as opposed to a big-play attack. They 2016 Packers rely on long drives featuring short passes for most of their scores.
It’s essential that the offense avoids major penalties if these drives are not to bog down. This year, the offense has seldom needed long yardage plays to get a first down. This typically happens due to offensive holding or offensive pass interference (10-yard penalties) or due to chop blocks, crackback blocks, clipping, pulling the face mask, hands to the face, butting, spearing, ramming with the helmet, unnecessary roughness, or unsportsmanlike conduct – penalties of 15 yards each.
Against Chicago, Green Bay’s first-half scoring drives included those of 13 plays and 10 plays, along with an 11-play drive that ended on downs at the Bears’ 1-yard line.
In the second half, the Packers had three more long and disciplined scoring drives; 85 yards in 13 plays, 88 yards in eight plays, and their third 13-play drive of the game, for 74 yards.
The only time in all these drives that Green Bay was backed up beyond five yards was for one 2nd and 19 – and that was due to the Bears’ only sack of Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers finished with nine penalties for 56 yards, while the Bears had 10 for 108 yards. That disparity helped the home team dominate time of possession and finish off their methodical and bit-by-bit drives with scores.