Green Bay Engine Runs On Diesel Now
These are not the Green Bay Packers we’re used to seeing. No more high-flying aerial attacks, shootouts or finesse personality; through five games the 2013 squad has proven to be a tough and physical team, both on offense and defense, reliant on the rushing game to set up the pass. That seems almost blasphemous to say for a team with Aaron Rodgers behind center, but that’s what they’ve been. Is this new style a good or bad thing for the Packers?
What has been the biggest concern for the Packers heading into every postseason the past few years? That’s easy – the running game. For a team with a cold, outdoor home field in December and January, the Packers seemed almost better off playing on the road in a dome or warm-weather city rather than Lambeau Field. Their dependency on the passing game for offense and ball-hawking for interceptions on defense didn’t favor well in poor weather conditions, when most teams focus more of their attention to the ground. The recent results have spoken for themselves. Green Bay couldn’t stop Colin Kaepernick’s scrambling in 2012. When the New York Giants found a way to stop Rodgers’ passing attack in 2011, the offense had nowhere else to go. And a huge factor to the Packers Super Bowl XLV run was the emergence of James Starks. Although the importance of a strong rushing attack in the NFL isn’t what it once was, it still can easily be the difference between Super Bowl or bust.
While this offense looks all well and good now, I’m concerned that the reduction in passing is disallowing Rodgers from getting in a rhythm. He’s struggled – by his standards, that is – the past few games at first until he finally connects on a huge play. This has led to a deficiency in third down and red zone-touchdown production. The Packers rank 15th in the NFL in the former statistic (37.9 percent) and tied for 27th in the latter (45 percent). Those numbers should be much higher for a team ranked fourth in passing yards, fifth in rushing yards and second in total yards per game. It seems that while this offense can move the ball up and down the field, Rodgers isn’t in full rhythm, which prevents him from making the big plays needed on third down and in the red zone.
While I am legitimately concerned about the inefficiency in the red zone and on third down, I think that’s more of a product of getting used to the new style. This offense is much different than it has been since Rodgers became the fulltime starter, so it’s going to take some time getting used to. Come December, I think they’ll have everything running much more smoothly. The new power running game will not only be able to pound out the tough yards in wintery conditions, it also will keep defenses guessing, making play action much more effective. And don’t forget the effect this has on the defense. Going up against a physical running offense in practice every day has in turn made the defense much more physical and stout against the run. This is all shaping up to make the Packers a very dangerous playoff team.