We noted earlier how the Green Bay Packers shifted heavily toward their passing game Sunday after tailback Cedric Benson departed with a foot injury. It was probably no coincidence that the Indianapolis Colts sacked quarterback Aaron Rodgers five times and forced him to scramble on four other occasions once the Packers dropped their commitment to the running game.
It's a theme we've visited a few times already this season, and one that John McTigue of ESPN Stats & Information took a close look at Monday morning. The results of his research were quite revealing.
Since the start of the 2010 season, the Packers are 2-8 when they drop back on at least 70 percent of their offensive plays. As effective as their passing game has been over that stretch, they are 29-3 when they drop back less than 70 percent of the time.
At first glance, you might connect those 10 games over the 70 percent mark with a team trying to come back from a big deficit. But that wasn't the case Sunday -- the Packers didn't trail until midway through the fourth quarter -- and it hasn't been the sole reason why the Packers have abandoned their running game in the other nine games, either. In fact, the Packers have trailed on only 25.6 percent of their offensive plays since the start of 2010, an NFL low.
Take a look at the chart. One of the most concerning issues is that the Packers' three losses this season qualify among the highest 11 drop-back ratios they have had since 2010. In those three games -- against the San Francisco 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks and the Colts -- Rodgers has been sacked a total of 17 times.
Even when a running game isn't effective from a yardage standpoint, it can be a natural inhibitor of the opposing pass rush. As guard T.J. Lang told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "We're up 21-3 at halftime and we sort of changed our game plan in the second half and we couldn't do [expletive]. They knew all we were doing was throwing the ball so they were coming with everything they had."
It's unclear the extent to which Benson's foot injury might complicate matters, and I don't think too much throwing is the only reason for the Packers' 2-3 record. But when you can find a won-loss disparity as big as the Packers' when they are over and under 70 percent drop backs, as McTigue did, it's worth asking why the Packers haven't clued in yet.