In this fourth installment of “Studying the Stats," I’ll be taking a look at the Green Bay Packers’ penalty woes and how they may have affected results.
Now onto the penalties. First, the cold hard stats.
2009 118 (1) 1057yds.(2)
2008 110 (2) 984yds. (1)
2007 113 (4) 1006yds. (2)
Penalty Rankings for Super Bowl teams
2009 NO (20) Indpls (31)
2008 Pitt (12) Arizona (5)
2007 NE (25) NYG (26)
2006 Chi (5) Indpls (26)
2005 Pitt (25) Seat (30)
The numbers in parentheses are team rankings in penalties with respect to the rest of the NFL teams. As you can see, the Packers have been top shelf producers in the dubious category of most-penalized NFL teams. Looking at the last five Super Bowl contestants, you can see that 80 percent of the time, the teams were not heavily penalized teams.
More important than committing penalties is when you commit them. Looking at the Packers’ stats in this department, and there are some real eye-openers.
Special teams penalties were a big problem for the Packers in 2009.
Thirty special team penalties were committed overall, with 14 being holding penalties, a very high percentage. Seventeen of 30 penalties were on Packers returns, resulting in a field position loss of 215 yards and Jordy Nelson’s 99 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
The Packers’ offense was penalized 18 times after an offensive gain, wiping out 186 yards gained in the process. Thirteen of those penalties nullified first downs and still another nullified a touchdown. These penalties cost the Packers a first down or touchdown 78 percent of the time. Wow!
On the defensive side, the Packers were called for nine defensive interference penalties, resulting in 150 yards to the opposition. But more amazing is the fact that ALL nine interference penalties came on 3rd or 4th down and gave the other team a first down, keeping their drive alive.
Watching the games as a fan last year, I often found myself lamenting that it seemed like every interference penalty resulted in keeping a drive alive. I had no idea it was actually 100 percent absolutely true! Incredible!
Looking back at recent seasons in Packers history, they have had some success committing a lot of penalties. These facts were presented to us very nicely last October in an article by Greg Bedard of JSOnline.com. In that article, Greg pointed out that, “The Packers’ last two NFC North division titles came in 2004 and 2007. Those teams stand fourth and fifth, respectively, for most penalties in a season (116 and 113) in team history.”
Greg’s overall point in that article was that you can live with penalties, as long as you cut down on the sacks and turnovers. While that may be true to some extent, I think it’s also useful to look at where the Packers stood versus the rest of the league those years and how far they got in the playoffs.
In 2007, the Packers were the fourth most penalized team, while in 2004, they were 14th. Add in last year when they wore the crown as most penalized team, and those three seasons have produced four playoff games altogether, but only one playoff win.
So, the Packers have proven that they can reach the playoffs while being heavily penalized, but have they proven that they can advance far into the postseason with such undisciplined play? No they have not.
While it’s certainly possible to lead the league in penalties and reach the Super Bowl, the odds are pretty poor. The odds get even worse if a team commits penalties at the most inopportune times, like the Packers did last season.
Personally, I like to go with the percentages, so I’m always looking for a way to give my team the best chance to win. That’s why for the third straight year, I’m calling on Head Coach Mike McCarthy to get that pesky penalty problem “cleaned up.”
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Jersey Al Bracco is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.