In last Thursday’s win over the Chicago Bears, the Packers longest play from scrimmage was a run play. On a third and three, Randall Cobb lined up in the back field and ran for 28 yards. It was the super-secret formation that the Packers worked on in Training Camp and didn’t want anyone to talk about.
The Packers are not a running team. With the reigning MVP at the helms and a myriad of talented receivers and tight ends; the Packers offense is defined by their fire power, not by their ability – or lack thereof – to run the ball. So the fact that the Packers longest play was a run play, a play that they specifically added to help them run the ball more and create a new wrinkle to their offense, is noteworthy.
Over the past two seasons, only twice has the Packers longest play from scrimmage been a running play. Last season, Ryan Grant ran over the Raiders for a 47 yard touchdown. In 2010, Brandon Jackson ran for 71 yards in one play in Washington.
These plays are not the norm. Taking the ten longest plays from every game, over the past two seasons, the Packers average only one rushing top ten play per game. Two games into the season and the longest ten plays from those games, the Cobb run was the lone rushing play.
All of this is fine. So long as the Packers passing game is on point. So far this season, it hasn’t been. Be it dropped passes, interceptions or over thrown balls, something isn’t clicking. And it’s not for lack of trying.
In the season opener the Cedric Benson ran the ball nine times, and Aaron Rodgers threw the ball 44 times. Rodgers was the Packers leading rusher in the game with 27 yards on 5 attempts. After putting up only 22 points, something needed to change.
The Packers set out to run the ball versus the Bears. Benson ran the ball twice as much with 20 carries and Rodgers threw the ball 12 fewer times, with 32 attempts.
But the Packers changed more than just the plays called. They varied their formations, putting Benson and Kuhn in the game more keeping the Bears defense on its toes.
Against San Francisco, Cedric Benson was in on 35% of the offensive plays and blockers John Kuhn and Tom Crabtree were both in for 19%. Last Thursday, Benson’s playing percentage more than doubled, as he played 48 snaps accounting for 71% of plays. John Kuhn’s playing time also increased as he was in for just under half the snaps at 46%.
The odds that the Packers will become a grind it out on the ground team are slim. But continuing to work the running game into the offense more will only serve to further the Packers.
The Seahawks have the second best run defense, based on yards given up, in the NFL so far this season. Running against them will not be easy. Their pass defense is more lax, yet if the Packers go into the game one dimensional like they did versus San Francisco, Seattle will see it coming from a mile away.
The Packers should keep Seattle guessing, by adding the Cobb in the back field wrinkle and by having Kuhn and Benson in different formations. The more Seattle and other teams bite on the idea that the Packers could run the ball, the more space for Aaron Rodgers and the receiving corps to get in sync and work the field.
Jayme Joers is a writer at CheeseheadTV’s Eat More Cheese and co-host of CheeseheadRadio. She also contributes to Pocketdoppler.com and brentfavre.com. You can contact her via twitter at @jaymelee1 or email at Jaymelee1@gmail.com.