Before the excitement of the playoffs really takes off, let's take a look back on the body of work for the Green Bay Packers, by the numbers, during the 2013 regular season. The 8-7-1 record was good enough to reach the post-season for the 5th consecutive season, but it's also the worst playoff earning record in franchise history. Not that we're complaining though. The 16 games played over the last 17 weeks will tell us plenty about how the Packers got there and still got in. Let's dive into the stats.
Mike McCarthy is an offensive coach, make no mistake about it. Once again, his team produced a top 10 finish in a bunch of categories. Total yards per game, they were third at 400.3. Only Denver and Philadelphia gained more yards. The passing offense finished 6th at 266.8 yards a game, well behind the Broncos' league leading 340 a Sunday. Next is the pleasant surprise, rushing yards a game wound up 7th overall at 133.5 yards a game. The Eagles put up over 160 on the ground every week to lead the NFL. The Packers finished tied for 8th in points scored at 417, they were 9th best in converting third downs. An eyesore statistic was the team's season-long struggles in the red zone. They scored touchdowns of 33 of 65 possessions inside the 20, 50.8 %, that was 25th in the league. Denver cashed in over 71 percent of the time.
The defense of Dom Capers slid back to 25th overall, giving up 372.3 yards a game. 25th against the rush (125.0) and 24th against the pass (247.3). Seattle led the league in total defense giving up 273 yards a game. Arizona (84.4) had the best rushing D and the Seahawks (172.0) the top passing defense. The Packers were too generous in the red zone (61.4% ranking 24th), and not stingy enough in taking it away. Only 11 interceptions, more than half coming in the final month and 22 total takeaways. Sacks however, kept coming, a top ten unit. They finished 17th in third down defense and tied for 24th in points allowed at 428, the highest number among the 12 playoff teams.
Even though he missed 7 full games and all but a series of an 8th, Aaron Rodgers finished number five in the league in passer rating at 104.9. Nick Foles of the Eagles was the passing champ with a rating of 119.2. Granted he put up half his usual numbers, Rodgers' production on third down slipped, ranking 13th but here's an interesting note about fourth quarter passing. Foles again led the league with a rating of 127.8, Rodgers was third at 114.0 and in second place? Matt Flynn with a rating of 122.2. Most of his damage came in the 4th against the Cowboys. How much of a passing league is it these days? There were 97 one hundred yard rushing games by running backs this season, there were 118 three hundred yard passing games. 23 times a quarterback threw for more than 400 yards and Tony Romo topped it out with a 504 yard performance this year.
Here's the case for making Eddie Lacy the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. The second round pick out of Alabama wound up with 1,178 yards rushing, 8th most in the league. His 284 carries ranked 5th. LeSean McCoy of the Eagles was this year's rushing king with 1,607 yards. Eddie also found the end zone, scoring 11 times, only one behind league leader Jamal Charles of the Chiefs. Throw in 257 receiving yards and Lacy finished with 1,435 total yards from scrimmage, 14th with again, McCoy leading the league at 2,146. Lacy also picked up 73 first downs this year, only six players in the league had more, led by Charles at 104. Eddie smashed Packer rookie records and was the top first year back in the league by a long shot.
Jordy Nelson had an outstanding season, catching 85 passes (14th), for a career high 1,314 yards (10th) and 8 touchdowns. He also ranked 7th in third down receptions with 29. The NFL leaders in those categories were Pierre Garcon with 113 catches, Josh Gordon with 1,646 yards, Jimmy Graham with 16 touchdown catches and Anquan Boldin with 33 first down grabs. James Jones finished with 59 receptions for 817 yards and how about Jarrett Boykin, filling in for Randall Cobb most of the season, caught 49 balls for 681 yards.
Individual defensive numbers were nothing to write home about. Clay Matthews still led the team in sacks with 7.5, Mike Daniels had 6.5, well behind the NFL's top quarterback hunters, Robert Mathis of the Colts with 19.5 and Robert Quinn of the Rams with 19. Morgan Burnett wound up tied for second in defensive fumble recoveries with 3, one behind the league leader. Sam Shields had 4 interceptions to lead the team, Richard Sherman of Seattle led the league with twice that amount.
Finally, the special teams ran hot and cold. Let's take the chilly stuff first. The kickoff cover team has the distinction of being the NFL's worst in 2013, allowing an average starting field position at the 25.6 yard line. They plummeted to the bottom after Cordarelle Patterson took the opening kickoff at the Metrodome 109 yards and they never recovered. The kickoff return team was languishing near the bottom but finished 18th. The Vikings, with Patterson, the league individual leader, were tops in the league while the Buccaneers were the best at covering kickoffs. Tim Masthay wound up 22nd in gross punting average at 44.6, he was 21st in net punting average at 39.0. He rarely kicks from deep in his own end which hurts his overall average and shaky coverage hurts the net average. I believe the Packers are very happy with how he's performing. Micah Hyde was quite a revelation in the return game. He took a punt back 93 yards for a score, averaged 12.3 yards a return to rank 5th best in the league and was the top rookie punt returner. A big game against the Steelers allowed him to finish 14th in kickoff return average at 24.1, well behind Patterson but the Iowa rookie did an excellent job. Finally, Mason Crosby's big rebound season. Nearly run out of town after a near fatal case of the shanks, Crosby withstood intense competition in camp, took a huge hit in base pay on his contract that was loaded with incentives and to his credit, met them all to earn the money back and more importantly, recapture the trust from the team. Crosby made 33 of 37 field goal attempts, a career best .892 conversion percentage. His 141 points, pushing him over 900 for his career, ranked 5th. Stephen Gostkowski of New England won the scoring title with 158. Mason was literally, money. But so was nearly ever kicker. They don't miss anymore. 11 kickers made better than 90 percent of their field goal attempts, led by Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos, a league best 25 of 26 (96.2%) and that included his NFL record breaking 64 yarder.