In the process of researching the Green Bay Packers' run-pass distribution for the blog and the Inside Slant podcast, I got my grubby hands on some raw data that might prove interesting to the masses. Jeremy Mills of ESPN Stats & Information passed along the breakdown for all 32 teams by quarter, giving us a good glimpse at when NFL teams are running the ball.
I was particularly interested in the numbers for the first and second quarters, when play calling is presumably less affected by the score and game situation. It makes perfect sense, for example, that the 4-1 Chicago Bears have run on more than 60 percent of their fourth-quarter plays while protecting leads.
The chart shows the percentage of running plays, which don't include quarterback scrambles, per quarter through five weeks of the season. A few observations worth pointing out:
It's hardly surprising that the Packers have run fewer times than any NFC North team in the first half. Their 38.8 percentage in the first quarter is the sixth-lowest in the NFL.
The Detroit Lions have actually displayed remarkable patience, at least before halftime, in trying to capitalize on favorable running fronts. They just haven't been very good at it, and as games have continued they have been forced into a pass-first mentality.
The Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs are the only teams to run on a higher percentage of their first-quarter plays than the Minnesota Vikings. For the most part, the Vikings' play selection reflects the best balance in the division.