Packers' Offense Is No Longer One Dimensional
It looks like the Green Bay Packers’ offense might be evolving. We all knew it was time for a real running game. We all figured a commitment to the ground game was finally coming when the Packers drafted Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in the 2013 NFL Draft. But no one would be convinced until we actually saw it. Head coach Mike McCarthy has, after all, preached numerous times in the past about the need for a strong running game with no results to show for it.
Four games into the 2013 NFL season, I think we finally have sufficient evidence to say the Packers’ offense is no longer one dimensional.
It started at the end of their Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. On a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, Lacy ran five times for 26 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown dive. That momentum carried over to Week 2. After Lacy was knocked out on his first carry against Washington (which went for 10 yards), James Starks came in. All he did was end the Packers’ 44-game drought of 100-yard rushers by posting 132 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Next week was Franklin’s turn. In only one half of action, the rookie dashed for 103 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. And Sunday, Lacy’s 99 yards fell just short of making it three games in a row with different 100-yard rushers.
The rushing game has been so good, it’s been just as potent as the lethal passing attack led by Aaron Rodgers. The Packers rank fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (141) and second in yards per attempt (5.3).
An improved running game is doing exactly what everyone hoped it would – open up the passing game. As a result of opposing defenses needing to actually devote attention to stopping the ground game, Green Bay’s passing attack has improved. It ranks fourth in yards per game (312.3) and tied for second in yards per attempt (8.8). Those ranks are respectively up from ninth and sixth last year.
This balance between pass and run has dramatically helped the offense as a whole. It stands third in total yards per game (453.3) and second only to Denver in yards per play (6.7). Last year, those rankings were 13th and 15th.
While the Packers’ trio of running backs has looked fantastic, a large chunk of credit has to go to the offensive line, especially the three interior guys. Josh Sitton is his usual dominant self, while Evan Dietrich-Smith and T.J. Lang have vastly improved at opening up running lanes for their runners. They have gone against some incredible interior linemen like Justin Smith, Geno Atkins, Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh, yet still have given Green Bay running backs the space to rack up large chunks of yards. I’d say they even left some more yards out there that weren’t picked up. It seemed Lacy had the opportunity to pick up several more yards multiple times Sunday but missed some lanes due to poor vision. But he’s only played in two full games plus one play of another, so given time I think he’ll start to develop proper vision and chemistry with his line.
One game could be a fluke. Two? Maybe an anomaly. But now three full games plus part of another? I think the Packers have finally instituted the consistent rushing attack they have lacked and so desperately needed since the 2009 season.