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The Enigma That Is the Running Game

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The Enigma That Is the Running Game

Eric Baranczyk shines a light on something that's been bothering me since watching the Packers less than overwhelming ground game against the Lions, only one week after they pulverized the then third ranked 49er run defense:

I know in the last few weeks, people have seen a little bit of a spark with the running game and they’re thinking, this is going to be it, the next game is going to be the one where the Packers get 150, 160 yards on the ground. Ryan Grant had 20 carries for 61 yards. And he had 15 yards on his first carry. So after that, he gained 46 yards on 19 carries. That’s a 2.4 average. That’s terrible. No matter how much hope some people see in that running game, it’s too spotty. The interior line has trouble getting to the second level and maintaining blocks. It’s the same old problems.

The only reason for them to use the running game is because they have to, not because they’re good at it. You have to run a little bit to keep linebackers and safeties biting on play-action when you roll-out and things like that, but it’s not going to be a staple of that offense.

As maddening as it is, I tend to agree with this. How can a team look so dominate against such a good run defense one week and then so blah the next week against inferior competition? To my eye, it seems that McCarthy's commitment to running the ball in domed environments is less than 100 percent. (And yes, this observation is completely unsubstantiated. I look forward to nerds everywhere inundating me with data comparing McCarthy's tendencies outside vs. inside) When presented with a controlled environment, McCarthy, no matter how well the run is working, likes to sling it. Again, just my uniformed observation, but it will be interesting to see how much the run game comes to the fore, if it does at all, with all but the last game on the Packers' schedule set to be at the mercy of the elements.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (15) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

alfredomartinez's picture

Is it weird to think that next draft the packers get a running back, someone explosive and physical that work well inside the trenches and fight hard for the extra yardage...as much as MM aint dedicated enough to the run game, i also dont like grant...mr. one year wonder...

Ruppert's picture

They had better draft O line, and lots of it.
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I never really thought about how much McC runs inside domes vs. outside. Wouldn't surprise me a bit if you're right, Aaron. To me, the bottom line is the O line's inconsistency no matter where they play. I've complained about this before, but it's been exactly the same for the last few years. The 49ers/Lions back-to-back is the perfect comparison. There is no reason on earth to run so well against a good defense, then run poorly against the worst team in this decade. This is what our O line does, people. And there's no reason to think it's going to change.

ZaphodBeeblebrox's picture

The Packer running game is not predicated upon speed, it's designed to work on grass (later in the season) rather than turf. That's the big difference between playing at home against the 49ers and playing in a dome against the Lions.

A speedy third-down back is high on my wish list for the 2010 draft (along with O-line, safety, CB, tight end)...

Jim Rarick's picture

Hmm, is this possibly a function more of how the defense plays against our offense. Actually, I was encouraged by McCarthy's play calling. At first he tried to run, but the Lions stopped the run. So he went to passes, which were open because of the effort to stop the run.

It is no different than the Vikings throwing for almost 400 yards even against the Bears because the Bears devoted to stopping Peterson.

Also regarding the Vikings, I think at some point teams should stop thinking about Peterson so much and stop the pass. Just thinking if we meet again in the playoffs.

PackersRS's picture

Jim... I was thinking the same about Peterson and Favre. But as december and january comes, and the cold gets worse, stopping the run will be key to sucess... They'll continue to focus on stopping the run. This Minnesota team will go as far as Favre will be able to lead them. And it'll get much thougher, with the ammount of workout he has missed, his age, the number of throws he has been forced to make and the chilling factor. It'll be interesting to see if his desire of winning the SB will be enough to overcome all that...

Jason's picture

Definitely need to draft OL. Also, need to fire the OL coach, need to hold someone accountable for horrible line these last few years. Teddy needs to get a little more liberal in free agency also. I am NOT a Ryan Grant fan at all, would love to draft a RB in the mold of Maurice Jones Drew.

alfredomartinez's picture

what about that kid from alabama? but me being a cali man...always rooting for cali draft picks...i hope for gayheart (standford) or mathews (from my hometown fresno state)...it doesnt cost to dream!

NickGBP's picture

http://www.nfl.com/stats/team

I think you guys are too critical sometimes ;).

#11 Rushing YPG. We know we're not an elite running team...and we don't need to be with the potential of our passing game. We are MORE than adequate, and Grant DOES get the critical gains late in the game. McC doesn't try it in the Red Zone anymore (another good post by you) but he had been getting the job done there too in the beginning of the season.
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Another great note from that link... #1 Defense! Woo Woo!

bomdad's picture

Pay attention to Delmas if you re-watch. The Lions safeties let Driver behind them not once but twice, and that broke the game open for the Pack. If you've got a QB throwing for 300 in the first half, stick with it. Chili does.

PACKERS's picture

The running game drives me crazy. One week it's on, the next it's off. I agree that the Packers should only use the run for necessary reasons, such as setting up play action and gaining a few more yards, but the Pack needs to be a dominantly passing team. We've got one of the best QBs and some of the best receivers. It's a no-brainer.

Dilligaff's picture

This team will take off with the current players with the addition of a true left tackle and left guard. If we draft a running back without addressing the O-line in free agency or the draft first, I will go nuts. It is hard to gage Grant's play behind this line, yet he should have another 1000 yard season. No question the first 3 picks should all be offensive lineman, if we can't get anybody in free agency. Grant is good enough.

WoodyG's picture

I believe T. Aikmann said during the game why would you run the ball when the defense (Lions) can't come close to stopping the pass ........ GB will always be pass happy as long as R. Grant is the best RB they have ........ Prying S. Jackson away from the Rams during the off-season will help make the OL look loads better......... My guess is he will be available........

Holly's picture

I get the feeling that the interior OL is where we'll need to be strong v. BAL...Josh Sitton, Daryn Colledge, Scott Wells? I'm looking at you to improve on the big stage.

ppabich's picture

the interior OL has greatly improved over the last couple weeks, and lang could be a mainstay at RT. If we're talking about draft the the draft websites have said this is a weak tackle class, so i wouldn't be upset with a quick RB like Best from cal or spiller from clemson(although i would prefer an OT). OLB and CB are also an option in round 1.

but this team is warming up and the future is bright!

Glorious80s's picture

The Packers have something few, if any, other teams have, three FBs. More creative use of this asset could help shore up OL weaknesses.

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