Packers Demonstrate Value of Explosiveness Against Bears

There was one striking statistic which made its way over viewers' screens during Christmas night's game between the Packers and Bears: Green Bay, despite rolling to a 14-1 record and the NFC's top seed, has actually allowed more yards than they have gained. The game against Chicago was a microcosm of this phenomenon, as the Bears outgained the Packers and had a much better success rate despite losing by a final score of 35-21.


The Bears had great success in the running game, with Kahlil Bell picking up 123 yards on 23 carries and a whopping 63% success rate and the team overall sporting a 57% success rate. On the other side, the Packers managed only 81 rushing yards on 21 carries, with the Bears holding the Packers to a paltry 32% success rate with the run. As Al Michaels reminded us, running the ball well and stopping the run is often considered the be not only a winning formula, but the winning formula.

And it's true, for much of the first half in particular, the Packers seemed quite vulnerable. The Bears and their second-string quarterback and third-string running back controlled the ball and racked up yards against the Packers. But the Bears simply couldn't muster the big play until it was too late, and all too often drives stalled around midfield or in deep field goal range.

Outside of a 49-yard touchdown pass which directly preceded the Bears' first touchdown, the Bears offense lacked the big plays needed to extend or finish drives. The Packers, on the other hand, had a number of three-and-out or short drives, but used the big play to score on a variety of occasions.

Using expected points added, the difference in big plays is striking:


Of the 15 plays in the game in which the offense mustered 1.5 EPA or more, the Packers executed 11. The difference in big plays becomes even more striking when we see that the Bears ran 70 plays against the Packers' 51. Green Bay's explosions included the third-quarter 55-yards strike to Jordy Nelson from Aaron Rodgers. The Packers also had four other plays of at least 2.0 EPA: two 32-yard passes (James Jones, Ryan Grant on the receiving end), an 18-yard pass to Jordy Nelson, and a 17-yard pass to Donald Driver.

And so despite the crushing victories the Bears earned in time of possession (35:48-24:12) and rushing yardage (199-81), the Packers never had a win probability below 50%, never below 60% after the first drive, and never below 75% in the last 25 minutes. It just goes to show, yet again, the value and necessity of the big play in a league where quarterbacks and the passing game -- and in particular, Aaron Rodgers -- reign supreme.

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7 Responses to “Packers Demonstrate Value of Explosiveness Against Bears”

  1. Anonymous says:

    your yardage bar chart appears off. Bears: 441, Pack: 363. Also, the SR bar chart shows the Bears around 42% SR, not 57% as stated in the text.

    regardless: GO PACK

  2. whispers says:

    "the Packers never had a win probability below 50%, never below 40% after the first drive, and never below 25% in the last 25 minutes."

    I'm sure this isn't what you meant to say. Perhaps the numbers are supposed to be 50, 60, 75?

  3. Jack Moore says:

    Both problems fixed, my apologies.

    Forget to filter out kicks/punts in the graph.

  4. Jim Glass says:

    The most efficient play is "all the way to the end zone".

  5. Brian Burke says:

    All I see is an Irish flag. Just kidding. Great post.

    This fits right in with Brian Billick's 'explosive plays' theory.

  6. Anonymous says:

    A vote for big play theory: Give me three plays, and I'll change the outcome of 90% of NFL games.

  7. Daniel B says:

    ^ That's a bit meaningless. When you can pick any 3 plays you want and turn them into anything else you want, you can swing up to 42 points (or more if you include 2 point conversions).

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