Excellent piece from Pete Dougherty today in the Green Bay Press Gazette about the Packers return to the short passing game in lieu of a serviceable running game. As I've been telling anyone who will listen, a lot of the hand wringing over the running game is just wasted energy. Mike Holmgren's teams never ran the ball well, even when they were winning a championship. What they did do well was run to protect a lead in the 4th quarter, something we saw play out this season both against the Rams and the Lions.
Look, would it be nice if Grant and company could generate more than one or two yards a pop during the early stages of the game? Of course. But really, handing the ball off in McCarthy's offense is really just an exercise in keeping the defense honest. And McCarthy and Rodgers should be commended for running as many times as they did this past Sunday in light of all the 8-in-the-box the Lions gave them. (As an aside: How is this a good defensive gameplan? Isn't Schwartz supposed to be a defensive mastermind? What kind of genius looks at the Packers and says - We must stop Ryan Grant at all costs! The mind boggles...)
The run game for the Packers, especially early in games, is just window dressing, a side salad to main course, which SHOULD be the short passing game, the slants and the smash routes that made the 2007 squad so succesful. Where Rodgers and McCarthy have gotten in trouble is in trying to make the offense resemble what the Saints are doing down in New Orleans. Unfortunately Rodgers, for all his potential, is not yet good enough to overcome his protection shortcomings the way Brees can. (And make no mistake, Brees is papering over some cracks) But Rodgers is definitely good enough to do what Favre was doing in '07. Get the ball out quick and let the guys do the work with their athleticism. Seriously, go back and watch Rodgers against Dallas in '07. Watch how he gets the ball out. The throws are in rhythm and on time. (There's even a little preview of '09 in there where he holds the ball, in this instance for a big play downfield to Donald Lee)
It will be interesting to see if McCarthy goes back to many of the deeper routes he was calling earlier in the season. Here's hoping we see a lot more of what Dogherty outlines in his piece.
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