Football stats expert: Packers history reveals importance of air over run game

The recent pickup of running back Cedric Benson is an obvious move to help shore up the Packers running game, and increase their chances of returning to Super Bowl glory.  But a man who has crunched 72 years of football numbers, Kerry Byrne of Cold Hard Football Facts, says Packers history reveals that Green Bay should not worry about what Benson and company do on the ground.

Click on each photo for more details, statistics, history and links that talk about the Packers' historical success proves the relationship between the passing game and NFL championships.  (Photos courtesy Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and AP)

  • GREEN BAY - The recent pickup of running back Cedric Benson is an obvious move to help shore up the Packers running game, and increase their chances of returning to Super Bowl glory.

    But a man who has crunched 72 years of football numbers, Kerry Byrne of Cold Hard Football Facts, says Packers history reveals that Green Bay should not worry about what Benson and company do on the ground.

    "The running game is the most overrated aspect of football," explained Byrne in an interview with Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Jay Sorgi.

    Click on the photo for more about this story. Associated Press

  • "Teams totally over-emphasize it, totally worry about it too much."

    We've often heard about Mike McCarthy - a master planner and proponent of the passing game - discussing the need to commit to running the football.

    Many teams focus on the running game more than the Packers, but it's not as often that they find themselves in the chase for championships.

    Click on the photo for more about this story. Associated Press

  • "In reality, whether you run poorly, or run well, championsips are won by teams that dominate the battle of passing efficiency.  Take your offensive passer rating and subtract your defensive passer rating," said Byrne.

    What that means is how well your offense throws it, against how well your defense stops the pass.

    "It's one of the all-time truisms of football history," explained Byrne, and he espouses how the team that has won the most NFL championships, the Packers, reveal his theory more than valid.

    Click on the photo for more about this story. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  • "No franchise exemplifies that better than the Green Bay Packers."

    What about Vince Lombardi's teams, even the 1961, 62 and 65 championship squads where Paul Horning and Jim Taylor made their Hall of Fame mark?

    "Lombardi's Packers won through the air," explained Byrne.

    Click on the photo for more about this story.

  • The coach who made "Run to Daylight" and the power sweep famous might scoff, or explode in a "What the hell's going on out here?" type of tirade at such a suggestion.

    However, the numbers bear out Byrne's point.

    "The 1961, '62, '65 and '66 Packers all finished the season No. 1 in passer rating differential," said Byrne. Green Bay finished third in the same category in 1967.

    Click on the photo for more about this story. Associated Press

  • His numbers show that Bart Starr's right arm and a ball-hawking pass defense led to five NFL titles that decade.

    Three times in the 1960's, Starr led the NFL in passer rating, while the Packers were often No. 1 against the pass.

    The 1966 Packers (12-2) owned the best passer rating differential of any team in the Super Bowl era. Their team passer rating of 102.1 more than doubled what the defense allowed other teams to accomplish, a rating of 46.1.

    Click on the photo for more about this story.

  • Similar qualities led to the 1996 Super Bowl title.

    "The '96 Packers, we all remember Brett Favre having a breakout year, but they're one of a handful teams in football history that were No. 1 in offensive passer rating and defensive passer rating."

    The 1996 team (13-3) rode Brett Favre's right arm to a 95.7 passer rating, and the Reggie White and Leroy Butler-led defense held opposing quarterbacks to a 55.4 rating.

    Click on the photo for more about this story.

  • When the Packers turned the trick in 2010, they also had the No. 1 passer rating differential - finishing third offensively, and No. 1 defensively.

    Last year, they were the best in both categories, except in that playoff loss to the New York Giants where they committed turnover after turnover and let Eli Manning pass wild on them on the "Frozen Tundra" of Lambeau Field.

    "A statistical weak link always snaps in big moments," explained Byrne about the pass defense that, despite the lowest defensive passer rating in 2011, gave up the most passing yards of any team in NFL history.

    Click on the photo for more about this story.

  • "That's what we saw with the 2011 Packers. It snapped pretty obviously in the playoff loss."

    Byrne says that the lessons for this year include keeping up the passing dominance, taking care of that pass defense weakness, and worry more about attempting to run a little bit instead of focusing on the running game's effectiveness.

    Click on the photo for more about this story.

  • "It doesn't matter how well you run the football, but you do have to try. The difference between a great running team and a bad running team is not really that much, about one yard per attempt. If you at least try to run the football, it's going to keep defenses honest," suggested Byrne.

    "I don't care if it's average running back, Cedric Benson having a career year or who it might be, you just have to try to run the football."

    Just enough to help the Packers' passing game fly, and pass defense ground other teams, en route to another Lombardi Trophy. Associated Press