When the Packers had little to no success in the running game in their first meeting at Atlanta in Week 13, the offensive game plan was scrapped pretty early.
They went to a shotgun-heavy offense, frequently giving an empty-backfield look and used the "Big Five" formation as much as they have all season long. The threat of a ground game was all but absent.
"Last time I was the leading rusher," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers. "I hope that's not the case again."
The rushing totals against Atlanta: Rodgers, 12 carries for 51 yards; Brandon Jackson, 10 carries for 26 yards; Dimitri Nance, 1 carry for 0 yards.
Despite being pretty one-dimensional that day, the Falcons still had a hard time stopping the Packers' aerial attack. Rodgers completed 26 of 35 passes – a completion percentage of 74.3% – for 344 yards.
As a testament to how much they went to the "Big Five," no. 5 wide receiver Brett Swain had a career high two catches for 40 yards. It was a far different look from other games in which the Packers have featured the inverted wishbone and as many as three fullbacks on the field at the same time.
"We don't want to be one dimensional," said wide receiver Jordy Nelson. "We got too one dimensional down there the first time, but it's what was working, so we had to go with it and really make plays. But I think we're very multi-dimensional with what we can do with our offense, and whatever's working is what we're going to go with."
What worked last week in a first-round Wild Card win over the Eagles in Philadelphia was a balanced offense behind the breakout performance of rookie running back James Starks who ran to the tune of 123 yards on 23 carries.
The Packers would, no doubt, enjoy an extension of that success to this Saturday in Atlanta, but Rodgers just says they're going to do whatever works.
"I think we just need to stick to what's been working," said Rodgers. "I think we obviously had great balance against Philadelphia, but we're going to have to go into the game with our plan, and kind of see what's working early on, and stick to what we do best, and hopefully be able to effectively move the ball against them."
When every phase of the game the game is clicking, the Packers – like most teams – operate at peak efficiency. As Nelson says, they can keep the defense guessing.
"Every week, we've got everything installed," said Nelson. "We've got five receivers, the one receiver to no receivers. It's whatever's called, whatever the feel is. Obviously if we're running the ball, hopefully we can keep doing that with Starks and just keep them off balance, that's the key."
McCarthy is now faced with guarding against familiarity. The Packers had a surprising amount of success with their no-huddle and spread offense the first time they met, which Atlanta may be ready to defend in the second go-around.
"I’m sure they’ll have a plan for that," McCarthy on Tuesday. "Just watching the normal down-and-distance tapes yesterday and going through them again today with our offense, it was something we were productive in, and I’m sure it’s something they’re preparing for."
There's reason to think the no-huddle may return in the Divisional round as well. With Atlanta's ball-control offense limiting the Packers to basically only seven possession (really nine possessions that included a kneel-down and the final play of the game) and a total of 60 offensive plays, Green Bay is going to try to figure out ways to possess the ball as much as possible.
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