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Green Bay Packers vs. Oakland Raiders: What's the Game Plan for Oakland?

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2015

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 22:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers works to slip away from Nick Roach #53 of the Oakland Raiders as LaMarr Woodley #57 closes in during the first quarter of a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 22, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Raiders 31-21.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders face a Green Bay Packers team trending upward on the offensive side of ball for more reasons than Aaron Rodgers’ efficient touchdown-to-interception ratio.

In Week 14, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy reassumed play-calling duties to boost the offensive firepower, per ESPN.com’s Ron Demovsky:

With McCarthy in control from 2006 to 2014, the Packers ranked in the top 10 in total offense and passing offense all but one season (2012, when they were 13th overall but still ninth in passing yards). Even in 2013, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed nearly half the season because of a broken collarbone, the Packers were third in total offense and sixth in passing.

ESPN’s Ed Werder praised McCarthy in a broader scope to define what his play-calling means to Green Bay’s offense:

Ed Werder @EdwerderRFA

Mike McCarthy, one of best play-callers in #NFL, following urging of others in organization and resuming calling plays from Tom Clements

In Week 14, the Packers accumulated the second-most offensive yards (435) in a single game for the season. 

What do the technical changes mean for the Raiders defense?

  

An Effective Ground Attack Enables Play-Action Success:

NFL @NFL

Last time Rodgers to Rodgers happened: #HailMary This time: #Touchdown. Seems to be working. #DALvsGB https://t.co/6w8E38nEYE

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. must game-plan for a compound offensive approach. Oakland’s ability to stop the run will dictate the play-calling late in the game.

The Packers have used an effective ground attack to open routes for receivers downfield and in the end zone. 

MMQB’s Andy Benoit expounded on McCarthy’s expertise in setting up plays in sequence:

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On Sunday, head coach Mike McCarthy called plays for the first time this season. With a heavier reliance on the run game, a knack for "building offense," and keeping Aaron Rodgers in structure, the Packers looked a lot like the Super Bowl contender they were expected to be. ...

McCarthy was “building offense”—calling plays that worked off previous plays and that set up future plays. It’s what good offenses do and, frankly, it wasn’t common enough under [Tom] Clements, where the Packers seemed to run one isolated play after another.

Within the last three games, Green Bay leads the league in rushing offense, averaging 158 yards on the ground. Overall, the Packers have utilized two primary ball-carriers and a mobile quarterback to field the No. 8 rushing offense through 13 games. 

McCarthy, knowing the success of the ground attack, added play action to the game plan:

Rodgers Play-Action Passing
WeekCompletionsAttemptsYardsTouchdownsInterceptions
Weeks 1-13336235211
Week 149118720
Pro Football Focus

In Week 14, Rodgers became deadly with play-action passing due to a highly productive rushing offense that produced 205 yards on the ground. For Oakland, it starts with suffocating the ball-carriers.

Solid Tackling Boosts Run Defense

Oakland Raiders linebacker Ben Heeney tackles Denver Broncos wideout Demaryius Thomas
Oakland Raiders linebacker Ben Heeney tackles Denver Broncos wideout Demaryius ThomasDustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Raiders have improved their run defense in an area that has nothing to do with X’s and O’s or advanced game-planning. It boils down to fundamentals. Head coach Jack Del Rio calls it leverage and tackling. It’s not just boring coach-speak. The numbers prove he’s absolutely right. 

As of late, Oakland’s run defense has successfully stopped the run, holding the previous three opponents under 100 yards. The linebackers have contributed a large portion of stops with solid tackling. The inside and outside linebackers have only missed four tackles within the last three games.

Green Bay Packers' Rushing Tendencies
Left EndLeft TackleMid-GuardRight TackleRight End
16%15%39%16%13%
Football Outsiders

Green Bay’s run design attacks various areas on the opposing defensive line, which should keep the entire front seven on its toes. 

Linebacker Malcolm Smith must continue to contain the running backs on the weak side. Linebackers Ben Heeney and Curtis Lofton must limit yards after contact when ball-carriers reach the second level of the defensive front. 

Another successful outing for the run defense renders play-action passes less effective and puts more pressure on the Packers’ depleted receiving corps that’s dropped 30 passes through 13 games, per Pro Football Focus.

  

Wake Up Latavius Murray

Unlike Green Bay, Oakland’s rushing offense takes a more predictable approach, which needs reform on Sunday. 

Oakland Raiders' Rushing Tendencies
Left EndLeft TackleMid-GuardRight TackleRight End
9%10%62%10%9%
Football Outsiders

In Week 14, Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden exploited the Packers run defense, accumulating 111 rushing yards on nine carries. He activated a second gear to attack poorly defended gap assignments on the perimeter.

Film Study No. 1: Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers, Week 14

Credit: NFL.com

Cowboys tight end Jason Witten motions to bolster run blocking on the right side.

Credit: NFL.com

McFadden takes the handoff, and there’s an open lane on the perimeter. 

Credit: NFL.com

McFadden takes a decisive cut and turns on a second gear to shoot through a narrow pathway. 

Credit: NFL.com

Green Bay’s linebackers approach with lead feet, and McFadden gains 12 yards on the play.

Film Study No. 2: Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers, Week 14 

In the second example, Dallas uses deception to open running lanes on the perimeter.

Credit: NFL.com

Cowboys wideout Lucky Whitehead runs across the formation in a fake wide receiver run; quarterback Matt Cassel pitches to McFadden on the right.

Credit: NFL.com

Credit: NFL.com

McFadden stretches the run outside and hits the edge with speed. One solid block cleared his path for a 45-yard gain.

The Cowboys offensive line ranks as the second-best in the league, but the Raiders can attempt to exploit the same holes in the Packers run defense.

As the featured ball-carrier, Latavius Murray needs to rediscover the lateral speed that made him electric in 2014.

He showed glimpses in the first few weeks of the season but inflicts most of his damage between the guards. Murray’s ability to break a run toward the outside could spark a long gain against a susceptible defense.

Prediction

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy scheming on the sideline with his quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy scheming on the sideline with his quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Rodgers has struggled without his No. 1 wideout, Jordy Nelson. However, he’s still efficient in the pocket, throwing 28 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. The Raiders must capitalize on missed opportunities in the form of dropped passes.

McCarthy’s play-calling couldn’t fix Packers wideout Randall Cobb’s slippery fingers. In Week 14, two more passes bounced off his hands. Oakland’s defensive backs match up evenly with Green Bay’s wide receivers. 

The Packers signal-caller remains the king of improvisation when plays break down. The Raiders will rely heavily on Heeney, Smith and Lofton to ensure Rodgers doesn’t escape the pocket.

When considering Green Bay’s two-man rushing attack, a mobile quarterback adds another dimension that complicates defensive assignments.

McCarthy and Rodgers have worked together to engineer some of best offensive performances over the years. Now, they’re working with a solid ground attack that’s good enough to wear down defenses.

The Raiders defense must force takeaways to win this game. The Packers have only committed three turnovers in five games.

Packers 28, Raiders 20

Follow Maurice Moton on Twitter for news, updates and intriguing discussion about the Oakland Raiders.

All statistics are provided by Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus and Team Rankings unless otherwise noted.

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