In Sunday night's tilt between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers, one thing was clear from the get go: the Packers were losing the ground game. First they watched the Falcons use rushes of 15, 11, and 17 yards to advance into Packers' territory en route to an opening touchdown. Then, Michael Turner punched in the Falcons' second touchdown to give them a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, the Packers struggled to get the running game going, picking up only four successful rushes on 10 attempts in the first half. The Packers would end up with only 58 rushing yards, succeeding on only 37% of rushes (7-for-19). The Falcons, somewhat inexplicably, only rushed 18 times, but they succeeded on a 63% of them (12/19) in picking up 86 yards.
But this is 2011, and the NFL is a quarterback's league. We need look no further than this game to illustrate this fact. Although the Falcons used the run effectively to gain their early 14-0 lead, Matt Ryan was money under center as well. Ryan was 8-for-10 with 80 yards and a score on these first two drives, picking up a striking 9.4 expected points added. Meanwhile, Rodgers started relatively slow -- despite going 7-10 with 78 passing yards, Rodgers also took two sacks for -12 yards and earned a relatively meek 3.1 EPA. And things turned, slowly but surely.
Two hours later, and the Packers were walking out of the Georgia Dome with a 25-14 victory, almost completely determined by the play of the two quarterbacks. Observe how closely each team's win probability tracks the play of the quarterback, as measured by expected points added: