Last Respects: Green Bay Packers’ Winning Streak

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 21, 2011



They say all good things must come to an end.
 
Not many expected the Green Bay Packers to lose in Kansas City, 19-14, on Sunday to end their 19-game winning streak. It happened, and in similar fashion to how the Packers last lost a game to the New England Patriots in 2010. They finally trailed in the fourth quarter for the first time since their last loss, and the Chiefs held on for the win.
 
In a season that’s featured many different storylines from the Manning-less Colts to Tim Tebow, the Packers took a bit of a backseat to the coverage despite their unique winning streak.
 
The Cold, Hard Football Facts have been covering it in-depth since October:
 
Green Bay Packers Eye Historic Winning Streak – the first mention of Green Bay’s chance at setting the record for most consecutive wins without trailing in the fourth quarter.
Packers make history…but it’s not easy – the Packers topple the 1942-43 Washington Redskins (13 games) for the longest win streak without trailing in the fourth quarter (classic “Rivers face” included)
The Packers and the greatest winning streaks in history – Green Bay is one of 10 teams to win 15+ consecutive games, and we dug into the key stats those teams had during their run.
 
Now that the streak is over, it’s time to pay our last respects and update the various tables we’ve been looking at during the season, and to add some new notes of interest.
 

The Ten Longest Winning Streaks Ever

Green Bay’s 19-game streak ended two short of tying the all-time record, but was enough to give them sole possession of the second longest winning streak in NFL history.
 
The Ten Longest Winning Streaks in NFL History
Team Games Season(s) PPG OPG Diff. Net Yards NYPG TO Diff SOS
New England Patriots 21 2003-04 23.7 14.7 9.0 597 28.4 22 0.536 (180-156)
Green Bay Packers 19 2010-11 33.8 19.7 14.1 520 27.4 31 0.529 (147-131)
Chicago Bears 18 1941-42 34.4 10.3 24.1 3183 176.8 18 0.404 (77-115-6)
New England Patriots 18 2007 35.6 17.0 18.6 2056 114.2 17 0.493 (142-146)
Denver Broncos 18 1997-98 32.5 17.3 15.2 1556 86.4 10 0.493 (142-146)
San Francisco 49ers 18 1989-90 28.5 13.8 14.7 2091 116.2 23 0.490 (141-147)
Miami Dolphins 18 1972-73 25.6 12.3 13.3 1844 102.4 19 0.433 (107-141-4)
Chicago Bears 18 1933-34 20.7 7.8 12.9 - - - 0.483 (101-108-2)
Oakland Raiders 17 1976-77 26.3 12.6 13.7 1134 66.7 13 0.494 (117-120-1)
Pittsburgh Steelers 15 2004 23.7 14.5 9.2 1209 80.6 9 0.500 (120-120)
 
Note: no statistics for yards and turnovers available for the 1933-34 Chicago Bears.
 
The Packers stand middle of the road in scoring differential, as no one allowed more points per game. They actually outgained their opponents by one fewer yard (per game) than the record-setting 2003-04 New England Patriots did.
 
Something Green Bay may have done better than anyone is jump out to early leads. In 10 of the 19 games, the Packers led 14-0 early in the game. In an 11th game they started on a 17-0 run.
 
No one did a better job in turnover differential than the Packers, coming in at +1.63/game. They won the turnover battle in 14 of the 19 games, were tied four times, and only lost it once (-1 at Philadelphia in NFC Wild Card game). In Kansas City on Sunday, neither team had a turnover.
 
Their strength of schedule (SOS) is still yet to be officially determined, but the last time we looked it was .570, and has since fallen to .529, which keeps it near the top with the 2003-04 Patriots.
 

Fourth Quarter Wins

The Packers were able to obliterate the 1942-43 Washington Redskins' record of 13 consecutive wins without trailing in the fourth quarter by six games. When one talks about records that will be hard to beat, this deserves considerable mention.
 
Most Consecutive Wins Without Trailing in 4th Quarter
Team Season(s) Winning Streak Games Tied in 4Q Championship?
Green Bay Packers 2010-11 19 2 Yes
Washington Redskins 1942-43 13 1 Yes
Indianapolis Colts 2005 11 0 No
Pittsburgh Steelers 1975 11 2 Yes
Dallas Cowboys 1971-72 11 1 Yes
Tennessee Titans 1961-62 11 0 Yes
Green Bay Packers 1928-29 11 2 Yes
New York Giants 1927-28 11 0 Yes
Frankford Yellow Jackets 1924-25 11 0 No
Baltimore Ravens 2000-01 10 1 Yes
Dallas Cowboys 1993-94 10 1 Yes
Pittsburgh Steelers 1976 10 0 No
Miami Dolphins 1973 10 0 Yes
Baltimore Colts 1968 10 1 No
Chicag oBears 1942 10 0 No
Detroit Lions 1934 10 0 No
 
Though not officially recognized by the NFL record books, the 1947-48 Cleveland Browns won 18 straight games without trailing in the fourth quarter in the AAFC. Green Bay beats them by one win.
 
The Packers actually came close to the all-time record for most consecutive games played without trailing in the fourth quarter. That record belongs to the 1928-30 Green Bay Packers, who went 21-0-2 in a 23-game streak, and never once trailed in the fourth quarter.
 
Compared to the longest winning streaks ever, the Packers were the only team that did not need multiple fourth quarter comebacks.
 
Only twice was Green Bay tied, and interestingly enough they were the 2nd and 18th games in the streak. They were only tied in the fourth quarter for a combined three minutes and 16 seconds.
 
Fourth Quarter Comebacks and Game-Winning Drives
Team Games Season(s) 4QC GWD %4QC %GWD 3Q Mg. Avg.
Pittsburgh Steelers 15 2004 6 7 40.0 46.7 75 5.00
New England Patriots 21 2003-04 4 8 19.0 38.1 147 7.00
San Francisco 49ers 18 1989-90 3 6 16.7 33.3 177 9.83
Chicago Bears 18 1933-34 4 5 22.2 27.8 155 8.61
Oakland Raiders 17 1976-77 3 4 17.6 23.5 183 10.76
New England Patriots 18 2007 4 4 22.2 22.2 255 14.17
Denver Broncos 18 1997-98 3 4 16.7 22.2 206 11.44
Miami Dolphins 18 1972-73 4 4 22.2 22.2 202 11.22
Chicago Bears 18 1941-42 2 2 11.1 11.1 302 16.78
Green Bay Packers 19 2010-11 0 2 0.0 10.5 265 13.95
 
Their scoring margin through three quarters (13.95) was one of the highest, yet they still played 11 games that were a one score game in the fourth quarter.
 
Green Bay's Winning Streak
Game Opponent Lead After 3 Closest 4th QT Margin Final
1 NY Giants 14 14 45-17
2 Chicago 0 0 10-3
3 at Philadelphia 11 5 21-16
4 at Atlanta 28 21 48-21
5 at Chicago 14 7 21-14
6 Pittsburgh 4 3 31-25
7 New Orleans 8 8 42-34
8 at Carolina 10 7 30-23
9 at Chicago 10 10 27-17
10 Denver 25 25 49-23
11 at Atlanta 1 1 25-14
12 St. Louis 21 21 24-3
13 at Minnesota 16 6 33-27
14 at San Diego 7 7 45-38
15 Minnesota 24 24 45-7
16 Tampa Bay 8 2 35-26
17 at Detroit 24 12 27-15
18 at NY Giants 4 0 38-35
19 Oakland 36 30 46-16
 
Green Bay really excelled on defense in protecting these one score leads in the fourth quarter. Here is the comparison to the last five teams that had long winning streaks:
 
(Drives are all drives in the fourth quarter or overtime where the defense was protecting a 0-8 point lead)
 
Clutch Defense
Team Games Drives Points TOs Pts/Dr TO/Dr
2004 Steelers 9 19 15 3 0.79 0.158
2010-11 Packers 11 20 17 7 0.85 0.350
2007 Patriots 5 7 7 4 1.00 0.571
2003-04 Patriots 17 43 44 12 1.02 0.279
1997-98 Broncos 8 16 21 2 1.31 0.125
1989-90 49ers 7 11 20 5 1.82 0.455
 
The Packers pitched a shutout on their first 16 drives (had 7 takeaways), but in their last two games they allowed two touchdowns and a field goal to the Buccaneers and Giants.
 
Sunday’s loss in Kansas City ended another potentially record-setting Packers’ streak: Green Bay had gone 43 straight games with having at least a fourth quarter tie (34-9 record overall in those games). They had a fourth quarter lead in 40 of those 43 games. The last team to enter the fourth quarter with a lead and never lose it against Green Bay was Minnesota on 11/1/2009 (Favre’s return to Lambeau as a Viking).
 

The Loss that Ended the Streak

Every streak has its own way of coming to an end, but some trends are more common than others.
 
The Day the Streak Ended
Team Games Season(s) Loss Opponent Score TO Diff
New England Patriots 21 2003-04 10/31/2004 at Pittsburgh (15-1) 34-20 -4
Green Bay Packers 19 2010-11 12/18/2011 at Kansas City (6-8) 19-14 0
Chicago Bears 18 1933-34 12/9/1934 at NY Giants (8-5) 30-13* 1
Chicago Bears 18 1941-42 12/13/1942 at Washington (10-1) 14-6* -2
Miami Dolphins 18 1972-73 9/23/1973 at Oakland (9-4-1) 12-7 -1
San Francisco 49ers 18 1989-90 11/25/1990 LA Rams (5-11) 28-17 -4
Denver Broncos 18 1997-98 12/13/1998 at NY Giants (8-8) 20-16 1
New England Patriots 18 2007 2/3/2008 vs. NY Giants (10-6) 17-14* 0
Oakland Raiders 17 1976-77 10/16/1977 Denver (12-2) 30-7 -8
Pittsburgh Steelers 15 2004 1/23/2005 New England (14-2) 41-27* -4
 
(*Asterisk on score denotes a playoff game)
 
The average margin of victory was 10.4 points, with the streaking team scoring on average just 14.1 points, and allowing 24.5 points.
 
Six losses came on the road, three at home, and one on a neutral field (Super Bowl XLII).
 
Every team except for the 2004 Steelers and Patriots was held to 17 points or less. Those two teams put up 20 and 27, but there was a bit of role reversal as each team went -4 in turnover differential (including a pick six) in the loss.
 
Six teams lost the turnover battle, two tied, and two more had a +1 advantage. No one had it worse with turnovers than the 1977 Raiders, as Ken Stabler threw 7 interceptions, which has happened just five times since 1960.
 
The ten teams to pull off the upset were a combined 97-48-1 (.668) in the regular season. The 2011 Chiefs became just the second with a losing record, though they do have a chance to finish 8-8.
 
The most shocking one of them all is likely the 1990 Los Angeles Rams, a 5-11 team, going into San Francisco and beating the 49ers by 11 points. Joe Montana threw three passes in the fourth quarter, and two of them were intercepted. In between, the Rams put together a 17 play, 90-yard touchdown drive that ate up 10:37 on the clock and gave them a 28-17 lead with 2:31 left. The only other two teams that lost at home were playing opponents with great records that would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl that season.
 

Conclusion

The Green Bay Packers put together one of the most impressive and unique winning streaks in NFL history. We may never see another one like it in our lifetime. Now that it’s over, the pressure of trying to win 25 straight games has been lifted, and they can focus on repeating as Super Bowl champions.
 
Past precedent has been shown with teams like the 1973 Dolphins, 1998 Broncos and 2004 Patriots coming back from a loss to end their winning streak, and still going on to win their second straight Super Bowl.
 
Green Bay is still the favorite to join that club. They’re just no longer perfect.
 
Scott Kacsmar is a football researcher/writer who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. He thought about seeking out a Mercury Morris quote, but remembered it doesn’t matter what Mercury Morris thinks. You can send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.

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