Packers will Hope to Regain some of that Lost Red Zone Efficiency

The Packers went from being the best in the red zone in 2020 to ranking 19th in 2021. They will hope to regain some of that lost efficiency in 2022.

During the 2020 season, the Green Bay Packers' offense was among the best in football, putting up 31.8 points per game, which was the most in the NFL that season.

This past season, they would see a dropoff in terms of points per game scored--and I think it's safe to say that even to the eye test, they never looked quite as efficient or dangerous as they had in 2020. Green Bay still remained effective, however, finishing tied for ninth in points per game in 2021, but it was at nearly a touchdown less per game at 26.5.

In sports, and especially in football, there is rarely -- if ever -- one answer behind any question. But when we look at one of the core reasons why this Packers' offense was less successful in 2021, look no further than their red zone performance.

In 2020, Green Bay finished the regular season scoring on a whopping 80% of their red zone visits--which, of course, was tops in the NFL. This past year, however, their success rate plummeted to 58.5%, which ranked 19th. And truthfully, Green Bay's red zone performance over the final month or so of the season helped them finish as high as they did. For a large chunk of the year, they ranked in the 25 to 30 range.

The Packers were really good at moving the ball in between the 20-yard lines, finishing fifth in average red zone attempts per game in 2021 -- which is in part why they were still able to finish top-10 in points per game -- but far too often, they stalled when inside their opponent's 20.

Again, there is always more than one reason why, but a few possible contributors included that the run game just wasn't as effective. Green Bay went from averaging 4.8 yards per rush in 2020 -- which ranked sixth -- to 4.2 yards per carry--and that ranked 21st. As a result, they weren't as efficient off of play-action either.

In part, the run game wasn't as effective because the offensive line dealt with numerous injuries and utilized seven different configurations during the season. Aaron Rodgers was also pressured more often, even with getting the ball out of his hands quicker on average.

Losing Robert Tonyan didn't help things either, and at one point during the season, Rodgers would tell reporters that the play-calling inside the red zone wasn't as aggressive as it had been. Now, when Rodgers says aggressive, he doesn't mean throwing every play, but a lot of the motion and pre-snap eye candy was nowhere to be found at times. 

This season, the Packers will look to bounce back inside the 20-yard line, but that will come with its own set of challenges. As we all know, Davante Adams is now in Las Vegas, and he was responsible for 29 touchdowns over the last two years. 

As I wrote recently, both Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb have found success in the red zone, but the big questions are, can they remain effective with more opportunities and more of the attention on them from opposing defenses?

In addition to losing Adams, Green Bay also lost offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who was in charge of installing the red zone play calls each week.

With that said, it's not all doom and gloom either. As I just mentioned, Lazard and Cobb have been go-to targets of Rodgers in higher leverage situations, and we know they have his trust. Tonyan will be returning, and the Packers have two playmakers in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, along with what is hopefully a healthy offensive line.

As we all look for ways that the Packers can mitigate the loss of Adams on offense, one important way is to regain some of that red zone efficiency that we saw from this group in 2020. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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5 points

Comments (17)

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TarynsEyes's picture

July 11, 2022 at 11:50 am

Another article places too much emphasis on stats as if the failures of the previous seasons are because of the differences. The team, regardless of the differences mentioned, reached the same point for three consecutive seasons in the regular season, thus negating the theory it was due to a fall/change in production. The article is another that simply ignores that the stat sheet had nothing to do with the playoff failures because what got you there wasn't available when needed, the ability to play a team that doesn't fade to black when it needs its star players and HC to shine proves that the regular season has been an easy stepping stone for the consistent loser in games that matter most, the Packers.

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shmelbs's picture

July 11, 2022 at 01:58 pm

Taryn, your response to this article focuses on GB's playoff failures and the general ineffectiveness of looking at stats too closely. Those are observations worthy of attention, but the article was focusing on something different, so most of your response is unwarranted. The article is deliberately using one statistic to focus on only the red zone offense, not on overall performance, playoff failure, etc. The stat isn't the important thing in the article, it's just a jumping off point to generate discussion in the dead zone of the offseason on players, coaches, and red zone schemes. Your visceral response takes the discussion in a completely different direction, which is not necessarily a bad thing--tangents and non sequiturs are where we often lose ourselves in order to find ourselves, so to speak. But how about attending to the article's purpose and point, first, and then making your own broader point? That might generate richer, thoughtful discussion as opposed to gut reactions.

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TarynsEyes's picture

July 11, 2022 at 02:48 pm

The stats and ranking will change yearly whether in a positive or negative number/ranking and it's to be expected and accepted as fact. When these changes do not alter the season's outcome, less hinder the team from accomplishing the regular season end outcome, the only thing that matters is why the outcomes for both remain near steady., regardless of the changes.

The only reason, IMO, to look into these stats and rankings is to find a reason for any failure, hence the common use of 'if only', and the article implies that a reclaiming of the Red Zone efficiency will, and for no other reason, enhance the chances of victory when having better efficiency the previous year made no difference.

Stats do not win games, they are a by-product of players. This team yearly supplies more than enough stats to win, and yet the players will create the stats cannot against teams of equal suppliers of stats. What I want to know, is why, and getting a few more TDs in the regular season does not supply the answer.

I could do as you say and take the article as a general topic, but to what end, something to read in the dead season. No, these articles need more than pacification thinking or more off-season build-up for false bravado of a team that lost again when it needed to play to that bravado. No, I cannot do that, because the loss in championship qualifiers will not be found in 'if only' feel better articles about stats.

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shmelbs's picture

July 11, 2022 at 03:00 pm

Unctuous Non Sequitur:

In times of content starvation, it may be helpful to wear a hat of meat in order to add healthy, protein-laden substance to your brain thoughts. https://www.hatsofmeat.com/

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Johnblood27's picture

July 11, 2022 at 02:48 pm

That dog is NOT into learning new tricks...

Nice try though Shmelbs!

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 11, 2022 at 08:44 pm

IDK, if you're wearing a meat hat the dog might be inclined to pay more attention!

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mnbadger's picture

July 11, 2022 at 12:22 pm

This year shouldn't be about "hoping" to do anything better.
This year MUST be about WORKING, PLANNING, STRATEGIZING and ROSTER ASSEMBLING to do ALL things BETTER.
Better enough to win the Super Bowl! GPG1

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Leatherhead's picture

July 11, 2022 at 01:47 pm

I kind of found the numbers a little confusing, so I looked for myself.

We had 70 trips to the redzone last year, which is more than just about anybody. We had 41 TDs, which did give us the 19th ranking, which is a "plummet" from 1st, the year before.

BUT....if we had scored 3 more TDs in those 70 trips, our redzone % would have been 62.8%, and that would have ranked us 6th, which is still pretty good, and not nearly a plummet at all. That's how tight the margins are. Three times all season where we scored a TD instead of a FG.

We were not the #1 scoring offense last year, nor were we the #1 redzone offense last year. But we were #1 in Time of Possession, and we were #1 in Protecting the ball. Our average drive is worth 2.54 points, which is one of the highest averages in the league. The % of drives that end in scores for us is 44.5% which is just a little better than Dallas and Tampa and just a little below 6 other playoff teams.

I would also submit that if you took out our season opener, where we didn't show up, the season finale, where it didn't matter, and the game at KC where we were without our starting QB, and just averaged 14 games you'd get a much more accurate picture as to how our offense actually stacked up last year.

It was a pretty good offense, definitely better than the one that showed up in the playoffs. Everybody has their theory about that, including me.

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TarynsEyes's picture

July 11, 2022 at 02:09 pm

"I would also submit that if you took out our season opener, where we didn't show up, the season finale, where it didn't matter, and the game at KC where we were without our starting QB, and just averaged 14 games you'd get a much more accurate picture as to how our offense actually stacked up last year."

Tell me how that changes the outcome in the playoffs?

In a fantasy world, where so many now choose to dwell within, erasing some things from reality, and make-believe it didn't happen, cannot change the reality of the end result.

The fact is that regardless of the first week's play, the last game of no meaning, the game without Rodgers changes nothing, but allows fantasy dwellers to abuse the ifs and buts, coulda, woulda shoulda theories to ad nausea levels of excuses to make you feel better about losing, or in the more polite way, not winning.

"It was a pretty good offense, definitely better than the one that showed up in the playoffs."

And that's the question of concern, why is the Offense so much less in the playoffs? Because there's something more afoul than the differences in stats and ranking year to year. Especially when it's been repeated now for over a decade, and the same applies to the Defensie equally, if not more.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 11, 2022 at 02:48 pm

"How does that change what happened in the playoffs"?

It doesn't. Nothing does. Not even continuously complaining about it, or making it larger than one game.

I don't really view the playoff loss as an end result, but rather as the starting point for the next season. Objectively, this is a better roster than the team that lost in the playoffs.

Why is the offense so much less in the playoffs? Yes, that is the question. I don't know, I have my theories ( I look at the offensive line, because nothing happens if you don't get people blocked) , just like you do and everybody else does. I think we've got a pretty good chance this year, you think we have none. You're entitled to that.

I never once started a single season in any sport as a player or a coach thinking the season would end in failure. I never dated a single girl thinking it would end in heartbreak. So far, I think 2022 is off to an excellent start and it'll either end in a Super Bowl or not. Either way, I'm fine with that.

Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.

6 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

July 11, 2022 at 03:28 pm

Most good chocolates have a guide underneath the lid that tells you what's what. It's just hard to read at Taryn's house with the windows painted black.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 11, 2022 at 03:51 pm

Sadly, I don't think life has a guide written underneath the lid. In fact, I frequently told my students that the difference between being an adult and being a kid is that there wouldn't be anybody like me to tell them if they had the right answer. They would just have to choose what they were going to believe.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 12, 2022 at 01:54 am

Thanks for the raw stats. So, 70 trips times 80% is 56 TDs. 56 TDs versus the 41 TDs actually scored (times 7) equals 105 points. And 105 points divided by 17 games equals 6.18 points/game. 26.5 Pts/game (actual in 2021) plus 6.18 equals 31.68 points per games. GB scored 31.5 points per game in 2020. Okay, sounds like that fits with red zone efficiency being the primary difference between the offensive output in 2021 versus 2020.

I do not intend to imply causality, just that this explanation is consistent with the stats.

Your other stats are also interesting. The success between the twenties was excellent. Hmmm. Personally, I agree with CheesyTex below and ascribe the decline to the offensive line. With Bakh, Jenkins, Linsley and Turner (with Patrick having a career year at RG), the line didn't need help which in turn allowed the offense more options. That's just me, and if anyone advances other theories, I am open to other explanations.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 12, 2022 at 11:31 am

Not quite. The 41 conversions in 70 redzone trips is good. The 80% of 70 being 56 is good.

But then you made the assumption that the trips that did not end with 7 points ended in 0, which isn't correct. Some of those 15 trips ended in field goals. So it's not really 105 total points, it's probably more like 68 points or so, and 68 divided by 17 then makes it a roughly 4 ppg swing, not 6.18.

When we have a historically bad outing like the offense had against SF, it's natural to want to put blame on the most conspicuous offensive players, and Rodgers certainly could have made some better decisions with the ball. But I also KNOW that offense doesn't work so well when guys aren't getting blocked, and the last three seasons have ended with relatively inexperienced OL backups starting in a playoff game.

My primary operating theory is that Rodgers is certainly able to do his job if he's given time and protection, so on those rare occasions when the job doesn't get done, I think that's where you have to look, and when I look, I see Olines that don't have their best horses up front.

However. Caveat warning coming up. There was apparently plenty enough blocking for Jones to move the ball. I can freely admit that the line was missing Bakhtiari, Jenkins, Myers (not really recovered), had Turner playing out of position, and had a guy named Dennis Kelly starting for us. Kelly signed as a FA on July 29 and started the last couple of games of the season for Turner and was our starter in the playoffs. Could that happen again this year? Absolutely.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 13, 2022 at 02:04 am

Arghh. Don't confuse me with math! Yes, good catch on my assumption about 7 or zero points. Many of those trips turned into three points.

Crosby made 73% of his FGs, but he was 9/9 inside of 29 yards and 9/13 from 30 to 39. Combined that is 81.8%. It is possible that GB reached the twenty but got backed up far enough to force some 40-49 yard field goals (Crosby made just 50% of such attempts), but that probably didn't happen often. I will use 81.8%. So that times 15 field goal tries = 36.81 points fewer than the 105 I posited, leaving 68.19 instead. I don't know if that is the methodology you used, but we reached the exact same number.

I agree GB still had a fine offense. It was still 5th in pts/drive (2.54) down from 1st (a great 3.08), and 4th in net yards per drive (35.9), down from 2nd (38.6). The drop from 7th in yards per rushing attempt (4.8) down to 20th (4.3 in 2021) looks like one of the biggest culprits to me.

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CheesyTex's picture

July 11, 2022 at 02:39 pm

"...along with what is hopefully a healthy offensive line."

High quality OL play is essential to red zone efficiency, if not the key to it.

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murf7777's picture

July 12, 2022 at 08:13 am

Injuries to the OL affected the offense more than anything else. For the Packers to win the SB they will need stellar OL play and that means getting Jenkins, Myers and Bak back. You will then see our stats look great again.

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