We’ve seen over the last 20 years that NFL teams need certain abilities to finish with a winning season and reach the playoffs. Those assets include an upper tier quarterback, a reliable running game, and an attacking or opportunistic defense.

But to reach the Super Bowl, teams must do the little things, those intangibles that set them apart from the wannabes. And more times than not the little things involve special teams.

Take Saturday night, a 39-26 preseason blowout by the visiting Philadelphia Eagles.

Punter Tim Masthay almost had his first punt blocked and averaged 37.8 yards on four punts (Green Bay ranked last in gross punting yards for the 2014 season).

Kicker Mason Crosby hit the right upright from 51 yards. Rookie Ty Montgomery fumbled a kickoff return but recovered it. And most disturbing of all, eight of the 15 penalties in the game (for 128 yards) were on special teams—two on kickoff returns, two on punt returns and four on punts. Four of the penalties were for holding.

"Special teams were poor," said Coach Mike McCarthy after the game: " I'm not going to sugarcoat that. We had bad field position time and time again. The holding in the return game... way too much of it."

In other words, it hasn’t been a good week for Ron Zook, the Packers new special teams coach.

To determine a player’s value or a team’s performance, the NFL uses statistics such as DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average).

For special teams, DVOA essentially measures each kick or punt to the league average based on the point value of field position following each kick, catch or return, according to Football Outsiders.

In 2014, Green Bay ranked 22nd overall in field goals/extra points, kickoffs, kick returns, punts and punt returns, down from 19th in 2013.

In weighted DVOA, in which earlier games become less important in analyzing how a team played by the end of the regular season, the Packers’ special teams ranked 31st. When weather is factored in the Packers ranked last with the biggest disadvantage of any team.

By comparison, the Packers’ offense ranked first in DVOA last season while the defense ranked 16th, giving them an overall ranking of third, right behind Seattle and Denver.

So not only is Aaron Rodgers expected to drive the Packers further downfield for a chance to score, but the defense is expected to stop the other team on a shorter field.

Instead of balancing the passing and running attack, a longer field means more passing attempts and a greater chance of error.

Instead of playing aggressively and mixing in blitzes with run-stopping, the defense is constantly on its heels trying to contain high-octane offenses like the Eagles on a shorter field.

And instead of winning games they should and maybe even winning games they shouldn’t, the Packers may lose some games because of the little things that the special teams unit didn’t do.

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