Following the Atlanta defeat a few weeks back, I was a bit harsh on the Packers inability, or essentially their disinterest in running the football. While the passing game was solid, the nonexistent running game proved problematic as the Packers had trouble converting short yardage in a close game that resulted in defeat.
Well, after a solid rushing effort against the 49ers a week ago, the Packer rushing attack was on hiatus once again during an extremely disappointing defeat to the Lions that caused serious damage to the Packers' playoff hopes.
In a game where the starting QB Aaron Rodgers was sidelined for just over half the game due to a concussion (ironically enough while scampering for the Packers' longest rush of the day), there was no running game to help backup QB Matt Flynn in another close defeat.
All season Coach McCarthy has given the running game sporadic attempts at best. Its clear McCarthy is firmly set in the notion that he can create better match-ups in the passing game with what he likes to call his "perimeter players".
While that may be all well and good to produce some impressive passing stats, but what happens when you just need a few yards to keep the chains moving?
If you are the Packers, you call timeouts, throw deep and look completely inept at playing any type of smash-mouth football.
My case is simple: Just because you can pass the ball all the time, doesn't mean you should.
For much of the season, the offense has been inconsistent and we hear many of the same reasons week after week. Opponents playing safeties deep with no concern about the running game causing our pass-heavy offense to struggle at times.
So much so that the Packers managed only three points against a Detroit team that was allowing an average of 25.5 points per game entering the Packer game.
To paraphrase Mike McCarthy's comments, he said there were no surprises in what defense Detroit was running. And indicated the Packers did nothing to get them out of their base defense.
You mean like make a serious attempt at running the football in order to bring those safeties up a bit and open up some passes for your backup QB.
It simply gets tiresome to watch a team essentially bang their head against a brick wall week after week. Unless the passing game is rolling, the Packers end up in trouble and on the short end of close games.
The special teams hasn't necessarily hurt the Packers as much as they have in the past. The defense continues to lead the league in points allowed as one of only two teams (Pittsburgh being the other) that have limited their opponents to under 200 points total thus far into the season.
In five heartbreaking defeats for the Packers (where their biggest margin of defeat has been four points), one need look no further than the struggling offense to determine where they came up short in those games.
Some may argue that since Ryan Grant's season ending injury the Packers lack the talent to run the ball, or perhaps the line simply cannot block well enough to seriously consider a running game.
I guess I am of the mentality that you need to have some consistent running plays called in order to help those lineman and backs get into a rhythm and flow of the game. In 2007 the running game struggled mightily in the first half until Ryan Grant emerged and McCarthy trashed his "running back by committee" approach.
We again have a committee of running backs sharing carries (albeit limited ones) and that committee approach, coupled with those limited carries, prevents the running game from ever gaining any momentum in my opinion.
The blame lies with the play caller. I would bet those lineman that were getting shoved around in Detroit would have liked an opportunity to just line up and push forward a few more times than always being in a back-peddle pass protect mode.
I would bet QB Matt Flynn wouldn't have minded a few more hand-offs in a one-possession game while getting his first serious action of his NFL career. Instead, he had 26 pass attempts (not including scrambles and sacks) in just over a half of football.
Perhaps it only seems obvious to me that with a backup QB, you'd like to scale back what's expected of the QB, lean a bit on the running attack and potentially shorten the game. Especially with a Lion's offense starting their third stringer QB Drew Stanton having very limited success in the passing game.
Instead, the Packers threw a deep bomb on 4th-and-1 with the game on the line that fell incomplete and essentially ended the game with plenty of time left to run a few more plays. That, in a nutshell, summarizes McCarthy's stance on running the football.
He'd rather "lose pretty" taking a big shot down the field than "win ugly" grinding out yards it seems.
It's been said many times that the running game can get better in the second half as the defense wears down. The Packers never seem to give it that chance. In all these close defeats, they have had plenty of opportunities to stick with the running game and have chosen not to.
Only when they have a substantial lead do they seem to think its OK to run the ball.
Until this team can achieve some sense of balance on offense (whether this year or into the future), it will be difficult to imagine them being a serious contender as NFL defenses will continue to devise ways to take away McCarthy's favorite toys.
Defenses are essentially daring the Packers to run the football. Which we all know they won't. Therefore, you are typically doing the defense a favor by being one-dimensional, no matter how good your "perimeter players" are.
Considering the amount of crucial drops and fumbles these "perimeter players" have contributed this year, most recently in Detroit (WR Jennings drop leads to an interception, TE Andrew Quarless fumbled early and QB Matt Flynn added an interception of his own in the redzone), I'm not sure that's always Green Bay's best bet anyway.
With three outdoor games remaining, all against teams currently in the playoff picture, I don't like the Packers' chances following the Detroit loss and imagine they'll be 9-7 with their lone victory being against the Bears and ultimately finish on the outside of the playoffs.
New England appears to be the best in the NFL right now and nearly impossible to beat at home. The Giants have a monster rushing game that will prove troublesome for the Packers coming off 190 yards allowed against Detroit.
Chicago still seems a bit vulnerable and I think the Packers will get some payback for that loss to Chicago earlier in the season. Is it too soon to start thinking about the draft?
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