The Redskins played just as expected on defense yesterday, going to a two deep shell almost exclusively against the Packers offense and their pass-happy coach Mike McCarthy. You can expect to see more and more of that as the year goes on until McCarthy and, perhaps, quarterback Aaron Rodgers stop being stubborn to the point where it hurts their team.
I had zero problem with McCarthy and Rodgers spreading the Bears out two weeks ago, throwing the ball all over the yard and completely abandoning the running game for two reasons: The passing was working and the running was not.
But yesterday, with a dysfunctional passing game staring him in the face and Brandon Jackson picking up solid yardage almost every time he touched the ball, McCarthy and Rodgers refused to change gears and start mixing in more called running plays. Again and again, the Packers came out in three and four wide receiver sets and kept going three and out. Drive after drive resulted in no points and limited production – yet they kept going to the same type of plays, again and again and again.
To quote McCarthy after the game:
We missed way too many opportunities on offense particularly in the passing game. Brandon Jackson, for the opportunities he had, he did a good job running the football, but we were not very good in the passing game today.
So by all means Mike, keep passing the ball.
Look, I am on record saying this team can win without a running game. That Rodgers is good enough to win passing to his receivers out of their spread formations. And I still believe that.
But I’m also realistic enough to recognize what is and isn’t working. Brandon Jackson, for all his faults, was making hay against the Redskins yesterday, especially on the sprint draw out of the shotgun. But rather than feed the hot hand, McCarthy and Rodgers insisted on trotting out their passing attack, drive after drive, regardless of whether it was working or not.
You can be sure that teams will continue to sit back with two safeties deep, taking away Greg Jennings’ best routes in the process, forcing the Packers to play mistake-free football in the passing game for 10+ plays. The two times the Packers have been forced to do so, they have not been up to the challenge. Self inflicted wounds are killing this team in the passing game, be it false starts, blown protections or dropped passes. Something is always wrong in the execution and that – more than any injury or defense, is what is beating the Packers right now.
How can McCarthy get those safeties to walk down? Run the football. If his passing game is shooting itself in the foot the way it was yesterday and he’s got a back making positive yardage the way Jackson was yesterday – run the damn football. Get the safeties down and then go to town with a shot to Jennings. Sometimes, this isn’t rocket science (though coaches would have you think so) and sometimes, just sometimes, football 101 is exactly what the doctor ordered. And the Packers could have used a large dose of it during yesterday’s game.
After the Lions game, McCarthy (jokingly?) said that his offense could play “tripleheaders”, a nod to his voluminous playbook. It sure would seem a good time to dust off a few unused chapters – because right now this offense is as staid and as predictable as possible.