There was one striking statistic which made its way over viewers' screens during Christmas night's game between the Packers and Bears: Green Bay, despite rolling to a 14-1 record and the NFC's top seed, has actually allowed more yards than they have gained. The game against Chicago was a microcosm of this phenomenon, as the Bears outgained the Packers and had a much better success rate despite losing by a final score of 35-21.
And it's true, for much of the first half in particular, the Packers seemed quite vulnerable. The Bears and their second-string quarterback and third-string running back controlled the ball and racked up yards against the Packers. But the Bears simply couldn't muster the big play until it was too late, and all too often drives stalled around midfield or in deep field goal range.
Outside of a 49-yard touchdown pass which directly preceded the Bears' first touchdown, the Bears offense lacked the big plays needed to extend or finish drives. The Packers, on the other hand, had a number of three-and-out or short drives, but used the big play to score on a variety of occasions.
Using expected points added, the difference in big plays is striking:
And so despite the crushing victories the Bears earned in time of possession (35:48-24:12) and rushing yardage (199-81), the Packers never had a win probability below 50%, never below 60% after the first drive, and never below 75% in the last 25 minutes. It just goes to show, yet again, the value and necessity of the big play in a league where quarterbacks and the passing game -- and in particular, Aaron Rodgers -- reign supreme.