The offense of the Green Bay Packers, behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers, likes to employ a fast-paced tempo to keep the opposing defense on its toes and limit substitutions. That was especially true when Rodgers was healthy.
But now that No. 12 has played through three games nursing a calf strain, the offense has had to slightly change. Rodgers is somewhat limited and does not have the ability to move around and outside the pocket for the most part.
Rodgers rarely takes a snap under center since his injury (except for the quarterback sneak for a touchdown against the Lions and also kneel-downs) and stays in the shotgun the entire game.
The Packers aren't as fast-paced on offense.
The running game has been a larger component of the offense the last half of the season and also while Rodgers has been hampered by the calf injury. But then again, running back Eddie Lacy always seems to take his game up a notch late in the season.
In November and December of the 2013 season, Lacy rushed for 732 yards and eight touchdowns. No. 27 also rushed for 81 yards in the postseason against the 49ers.
In November and December of the 2014 season, Lacy had 711 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
And since Rodgers strained his calf against Tampa Bay in Week 16, Lacy has rushed for exactly 300 yards in three games against the Bucs and Lions (to close out the regular season) and then the Cowboys in the postseason.
The Packers will need more of that against the fast defense of the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field. Green Bay needs to run the ball effectively, hit some timely passes, have zero turnovers and control the time of possession.
The Packers need to take a page from what the Dallas Cowboys did against the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 6. In that game, the Cowboys rushed for 162 yards, which included 115 yards and a touchdown from running back DeMarco Murray.
Quarterback Tony Romo threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns, and he did not throw an interception.
The Boys also controlled the clock for 37:39.
Even quarterback Russell Wilson couldn't bring the Seahawks back with his limited opportunities in that game. As it was, Wilson completed just 14 of 28 passes for 126 yards and an interception.
Running back Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks had just 61 yards rushing.
Dallas also won the game 30-23. It would have been by a larger margin had the Cowboys not lost two fumbles.
That is definitely a blueprint that the Packers need to follow this Sunday, except for the two fumbles.
The Carolina Panthers were also able to run the ball on the Seahawks last week in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Panthers ran for 130 yards. Carolina also had 230 yards passing. It also led in time of possession, as it held the ball for 34:03.
The difference in the game was the three turnovers committed by the Panthers—two key interceptions (including one for a touchdown) and one fumble.
When the Packers played the Seahawks in Week 1 at CenturyLink Field, Green Bay did not have an effective offensive game plan. Nor did it have a good defensive game plan.
That should change on both counts this Sunday.
Rodgers did not have a solid day in that Week 1 contest, as he threw for just 189 yards, a touchdown pass and a pick. The Packers also ran for just 80 yards and allowed 207 yards rushing themselves.
The Seahawks controlled the clock for 33:20.
There were a number of factors involved as to how that particular game played out.
For one thing, Rodgers never threw once in the direction of cornerback Richard Sherman of the Seahawks. Now Sherman is one of the best corners in the NFL, but a team can't limit itself to utilizing just one side of the field on offense.
Especially an explosive passing offense like the Packers.
The Packers also now have a promising rookie wide receiver in Davante Adams, who saw only a few snaps versus the Seahawks in Week 1.
Adams, along with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers, should be able to find some holes in the Seahawks secondary, and that includes some areas near Sherman.
The Packers also lost Lacy to a concussion in the first game against Seattle. Lacy only had 34 yards on 12 carries before he was injured. As it was, the Packers only rushed 21 times in the game. That number needs to be closer to 30 on Sunday afternoon.
The Packers also lost right tackle Bryan Bulaga to a knee injury in Week 1. The game seemed to change quickly after that, as Bulaga's replacement, Derek Sherrod, did not do an effective job replacing No. 75, including allowing a sack for a safety.
Finally, the Packers have a number of rookies on their team who were making their first start that night in Seattle, including center Corey Linsley and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Both players had solid seasons with the Packers in 2014 and were recognized for that by being named to the NFL All-Rookie team by the Professional Football Writers of America.
Richard Rodgers also had his first start that night at tight end. Rodgers has turned into a dependable tight end, which was demonstrated by the 13-yard touchdown pass he caught in the fourth quarter against Dallas last week.
Adams was considered the fourth receiver for the Packers when the team met the Seahawks in Week 1, but he has elevated himself to becoming the third option for Rodgers in the passing game. And what an option he has become.
No. 17 illustrated that ability when he had seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown versus the Cowboys last Sunday.
Linsley, Clinton-Dix, Richard Rodgers and Adams will all be better ready to play against the Hawks on Sunday.
To win on Sunday, the Packers can not turn the ball over. It would also be nice if the Packers can get a couple of turnovers themselves, as they led the NFL in that category in 2014 with a plus-14 turnover margin. The Seahawks were fourth in that category with a plus-10 turnover margin.
Green Bay also needs to run the ball effectively. It needs to wear out that fast Seattle defense by toting the rock time and time again. That will also lead to some big passing plays by Rodgers.
By running the ball effectively, the Packers can control the time of possession. That will limit the opportunities that Wilson, Lynch and the rest of the Seattle offense will have to score.
The Packers have the ability and talent to do these things. Green Bay has the best offensive line it's had in over a decade. It also has a solid running game led by Lacy. The Packers also have a quarterback in Rodgers who treats interceptions like they are the plague.
Rodgers is the top-rated quarterback in NFL history in the regular season with a 106.0 mark. That's what happens when you are able to throw 226 touchdown passes versus just 57 picks.
Rodgers also has the second-highest passer rating in the history of the league in the postseason with a mark of 105.3, as he has thrown 22 touchdown passes versus just five interceptions in the postseason.
The top-rated quarterback? That would be Russell Wilson, who has a 109.6 mark, as he has thrown nine touchdown passes versus just one pick.
That is yet another reason why the Packers need to control the time of possession against Seattle.
Bottom line, it will take a concerted effort by the Packers to beat the Seahawks in Seattle this Sunday. The Pack will need to run the ball effectively, control the time of possession and not turn the ball over.
Green Bay has the necessary ingredients to accomplish that goal and advance to Super Bowl XLIX.