Breaking down a tie is weird. Often times the thesis’ for these articles are easy to come up with, I can just look at all of the decisions the losing team made and make a big deal out of the ones that didn’t work, and then do the opposite for the winning team. Now I can’t do that, and it’s going to be difficult to stay on one general theme, So basically this article is going to be completely pointless, and you probably shouldn’t read it.
Last week against Chicago, the Packers last 16 plays were passes out of either a singleback set or a 4 wide set. It worked out well for them, as they were able to complete a Spectacular comeback. Last week against Minnesota, Rodgers started things off when he passed for a 14 yard gain out of a singleback set on their initial drive. In fact, while they certainly spread out their singleback sets more frequently against the Vikings than they did back in week 1, they used them more often as well. 60% of Green Bay’s plays were from singleback sets. Even with them using it so frequently, it was still one of the Packers most effective set, as they averaged 5.95 yards per play out of singleback sets. They could’ve been better running the football from those sets, as they averaged a rather pedestrian 3.64 yards per carry, however the passing game made up for it as they averaged 6.92 yards per passing play out of singleback sets, which also explains why they passed the ball 70.1% of the time out of singleback sets.
As a whole, the Vikings did a much better job moving the football than the Packers. Green Bay averaged 5.32 yards per play throughout the game, where as Minnesota averaged an even 8 yards per play. It’s kind of crazy to think that despite the fact that this game ended in a tie, Minnesota had so much more success gaining yards. Right after the Packers blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, Minnesota needed to bounce back. On the first play they gained 7 yards, so when facing a 2nd and 3, which is a situation that many would run the ball on, the Vikings sent out two tight ends. However Minnesota passed the ball instead, this surprised the Packers, and the Vikings were able to gain 18 yards out of it. Minnesota ended up scoring a touchdown on that drive. Having a fullback or multiple tight ends in the game is typically to help the run game, however someone forgot to tell the Vikings that. In the 22 plays they ran with a fullback or multiple tight ends, 9 were rushes and 13 were passes. They averaged just 3.67 yards per carry on their rushing attempts from those sets, but averaged 8.62 yards per passing play from those sets. The Vikings clearly picked their moments well, and kept Green Bay guessing throughout the game.
The biggest lead of the game came early in the third quarter, when the Packers had kicked field goals on back to back drives to make the game 20-7. On their two field goal drives they used a lot of singleback sets, even by their standards. 12 of the 15 plays from those two drives were from singleback sets. At first it worked out great, they gained at least 4 yards on each of their first 6 plays from those sets. But eventually the Vikings were able to slow Green Bay down, as 3 of the last four plays ended poorly for Green Bay (2 incompletions and a sack. The other play was a 7 yard gain). Once again Minnesota needed to make a play if they were going to get back into the game, so once again they went back to see if they could trick Green Bay. On a third down and 1, the Vikings ran the football with two tight ends and a fullback in the game. It worked well, as they gained five yards, along with the first down. After a good run, it would seem logical to run the ball again. So Minnesota kept two tight ends in the game, but this time they threw it, gaining 20. They would go on to score a touchdown that drive.
While trickery is always fun, you’re going to have to be able to have success out of a singleback set if you’re going to do well in an NFL game. I mentioned the 20 yard play out of a multiple tight end set in the play above, however they also had a 23 yard pass out of a singleback set in that drive as well. And in the drive after, Kirk Cousins threw a 75 yard touchdown pass out of a singleback set, making it a two point game. While Minnesota started to put points on the board, the Packers were doing nothing but putting points on the board. They had a stretch where they scored points 5 out of 6 drives (it would’ve been 6 out of 7 had Crosby made the last field goal). The problem for Green Bay during that stretch however, was that they didn’t get the ball into the endzone, all 5 times they scored during that stretch were due to field goals. Maybe the most controversial decision made in the game happened right at the two minute warning. Green Bay was up by 5, and had the ball at Minnesota’s 13 yard line. It was 2nd and 10, and the Vikings had 2 timeouts left. Green Bay could’ve ran the ball twice, and gotten rid of Minnesota’s timeouts. However they decided to pass on their next two plays, and they both were incompletions. While it didn’t work out, I still liked that decision. 1:50 is plenty of time, even if you don’t have any timeouts. I mean, the Vikings ended up scoring with 31 seconds left and they only used one of their timeouts, so it’s hard to really put the blame on that call. The Packers wanted to give their best player a chance to win the game for them. It they had scored a touchdown (or ever a first down for that matter) the game would’ve been over and Green Bay would’ve won. Sometimes you make the right call, and it just doesn’t work out.
Starting overtime, the Vikings did the same thing they’ve been doing all game, as they passed the ball from a two tight end set two of their first three plays, and they gained 35 yards from those two plays. However they only gained 1 yard in their next three plays, which led to a field goal attempt (and we all know how well that worked out). After forcing a punt, the Vikings got the ball back. This time they didn’t have time for anything fancy. Their first two plays were from 4 wide sets, and they went for a total of 37 yards. Then when facing a 3rd and 3, they went 4 wide again, and gained 6 more yards. For the Vikings, 4 wide was actually their most successful set (not counting sets that were used less than 5 times). They used a 4 wide set 17 times, 16 of them were passes, and they gained 7.82 yards per play from them. Even Minnesota’s game tying two point conversion was from a 4 wide set. It was a useful tool for the Vikings all game, and it really helped put themselves into a position to win the game. I mean… Daniel Carlson completely blew it, but still. At the end of the day, you could look at the Vikings numbers and say that they played better, and they deserved a win. Or you could say that the Packers did a better job taking advantage of their opportunities, after all if it wasn’t for a questionable call on a roughing the passer play the Packers would’ve won. So you could say that Green Bay deserved to win. But at the end of the day, both teams had chances to put the game away, and neither were able to fully do it, which is why neither team got the win on Sunday.
…and that’s what I call, having a thesis despite the game ending in a tie.