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Cory's Corner: Offensive balance makes Packers winners

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Cory's Corner: Offensive balance makes Packers winners

During the Packers’ three-game slide, one of the main issues was balance.

The Packers attempted 131 pass plays and 58 run plays during that span. They were counting on Aaron Rodgers to put on his Hall of Fame cap and win games by himself. That has happened in the past, but then everything fell apart at once.

The defense couldn’t sniff a sack, which exposed the secondary. And the running game couldn’t get on cue, which made the offense predictable.

Then it all changed on Sunday as the Packers dominated the Vikings 30-13 in a key NFC North game that could’ve been 50-13 if not for five Mason Crosby field goals.

“We don’t necessarily have to go rely on Aaron to throw 60 passes and him make 20 amazing plays to win a game,” said left guard Josh Sitton. “We showed that we can win a game in another fashion. Hopefully it will continue.”

That other fashion was awakening the beast of Eddie Lacy. This has been a season to forget so far for the third-year pro. He has battled weight, confidence and injury issues.

Coach Mike McCarthy even went so far as to send a message to the second round pick by declaring him inactive hours before the Lions game after he had practiced fully all week.

And against the Vikings with first place in the division hanging in the balance, Lacy responded. He rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries — both season highs — against a defense that came into the game only allowing two running backs (Carlos Hyde and Ronnie Hillman) to eclipse the century mark this season. 

“I’ve said it for awhile, Eddie’s a 20-carry guy and I think if we can get him 20 carries we’re going to be successful,” Sitton said. “If we can be balanced, we’ll be successful in the run game.”

So does this mean that Lacy is back to his 2013 form when he was the NFC Rookie of the Year? Not just yet. While he showed better assertiveness at attacking holes, he still lacked that burst that we’re accustomed to seeing.

But he picked a great time to come alive. With the weather turning, the Packers need Lacy to be the menacing presence that makes linebackers and defensive backs think twice about tackling him late in games.

And it helped that the Green Bay defense racked up six sacks and held Adrian Peterson to 45 yards. That was Peterson’s lowest rushing output of the season since being held to 31 yards in the season opener by the 49ers. That made the Vikings one-dimensional and actually mirrored the Packers during their offensive funk.

“It was fun man, just seeing guys playing team ball,” said safety Morgan Burnett. “Playing for one another, being disciplined.”

But let’s face it, the Packers are built to beat teams 35-21. They need the offense to be in rhythm and hit on all cylinders. Thursday’s Thanksgiving game is going to provide plenty of juice with Brett Favre being honored, Bart Starr being in attendance and it being a primetime game.

Not to mention that Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler is playing much better by being less erratic in offensive coordinator Adam Gase’s system.

“It’s a division game, it’s going to go down to the last minute I think,” Sitton said. “It’s going to be a fun one.”

Instead of pointing fingers, this team is smiling again. And it’s all because of a simple thing called balance.

 

 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (39) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

Balance is great. Running game is great. I hope we all will say that this game was the turning point for Eddie and the run game. Hope Sitton is wrong and that the Bears get blown out.

I also hope that the Bears get as many stupid penalties as the Vikes. Some of those were really boneheaded and most were very helpful. Almost as important as Lacy's 100 yards were the 100+ in penalties.

4thand1's picture

Sitton was just being smart by not giving any bulletin board material.

MarkinMadison's picture

"Instead of pointing fingers, this team is smiling again."

You want finger pointing? Take a look at that semi-pro team in Columbus. Mostly I saw Packers pointing at themselves. I'm sure you can come up with an example, but I was actually pretty surprised that the Packers stayed positive during the three game slide.

On the topic of balance, you're right, but it is one of those things easier said than done. Question is, can they win if the running game is not working, because some teams will be able to take it away? And can they win if the DL is not getting pressure, because clearly they couldn't for a while?

Every goal for this team is still right in front of it, but now they are going to need the Panthers and Cardinals to have a bit of a slide. I think history says it will happen. Carson Palmer has had a hard time staying healthy for a whole season. The history of running-oriented QBs like Cam Newton is not good. Outside of Russell Wilson, I can't think of any who has won the Super Bowl. Everything is still right there, they just have to keep pushing and keep getting healthier.

croatpackfan's picture

We are playing against Arizona and if we win we will have tiebreaker and, possibly, same record (13-3). But I can not see where you expect Panthers to lose 4 games? At Cowboys? At Saints? Home against Falcons, at Giants, at Falcons or home against Buccaneers? I really do not see loss, if yes, they may lose 3 the most and they have tiebraker...

Evan's picture

Cowboys will be tough. Giants will be tough. Saints can score. Bucs are no cake walk.

I see Carolina finishing around 14-2 or 13-3. I don't think the Packers will catch them.

croatpackfan's picture

I agree with you! I really do not see 4 losses for Panthers!

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

Not real likely that we crawl above the Panthers, but they could always lose their first game. If the path goes through NC, I just don't think we lose to them again. That is, IF we are the typical late season Packers and not this year's mid season version. Was thinking that QB1 might even do better in a warmer environment.

Portland Mark's picture

Of course we all realize that being hot in the playoffs is what matters. The sting of being 15 -1 and losing a first round game still burns. I'm sure that Patriot fans still burn over being 18 -0 and then losing to the Giants. Even if the Panthers get the #1 seed they are not guaranteed a first round victory. Heck, they almost beat the Seahawks in the divisional round last year.

Nick Perry's picture

All you have to do is look at Lacys stats, it really starts and stops there. Feed him the ball and he'll gain yards, stop giving him the ball because he has 6 yards in 5 carries you'll have Rodgers throwing 60 times. It's really not that difficult. I hate to beat a dead horse BUT, I mentioned 3 or 4 times last week IF the Packers give Lacy the ball he'll get his yards. The Minnesota game was just the 3rd time Lacy carried the ball 15 times this year. EVERYTIME he's gained 85 yards or better. Give Eddie the ball and keep giving it to him, he get his. Obviously when you have Rodgers it's hard not to want to pass every play but if we learned one thing in the 3 game losing streak it's the Packers don't have a True #1 WR right now, not one was able to take over the game like Jordy Nelson could. But they have enough at the position AND Aaron Rodgers to make it work. The Packers HAVE to get the 2nd seed IMO to make the SB. Ride Lacy, he'll help a lot in getting there.

Dan Stodola's picture

I like Lacy alot but he leaves soo many yds on the field. It's so annoying. One of his first runs was a outside zone stretch and he had a perfect chance yo put his foot in the ground make a cut upfield and meet Kendrcks in the hole. He needed 2 yds, instead he kept going outside running laterally and lost 5 yds. Perfect chance to put his head down and dominate the LB and set a tone. I know he's a between the tackles RB but he's still got to learn to make a freaking cut and run over some LBs. But he insists on running laterally.

Dan Stodola's picture

I like Lacy alot but he leaves soo many yds on the field. It's so annoying. One of his first runs was a outside zone stretch and he had a perfect chance yo put his foot in the ground make a cut upfield and meet Kendrcks in the hole. He needed 2 yds, instead he kept going outside running laterally and lost 5 yds. Perfect chance to put his head down and dominate the LB and set a tone. I know he's a between the tackles RB but he's still got to learn to make a freaking cut and run over some LBs. But he insists on running laterally.

Dan Stodola's picture

I like Lacy alot but he leaves soo many yds on the field. It's so annoying. One of his first runs was a outside zone stretch and he had a perfect chance yo put his foot in the ground make a cut upfield and meet Kendrcks in the hole. He needed 2 yds, instead he kept going outside running laterally and lost 5 yds. Perfect chance to put his head down and dominate the LB and set a tone. I know he's a between the tackles RB but he's still got to learn to make a freaking cut and run over some LBs. But he insists on running laterally.

Nick Perry's picture

But thy don't have anyone etter, not Starks nor Harris is better. Lacy looked much better and thinner this past weekend.

I know the play your talking about I think. Was it the one running to the left where he had 3 or 4 Packers out front blocking and Kendricks Still blew him up? The think is Dan, I don't want to see Rodgers passing 60 times like the week before because look what happened then. They also won by the largest margin this poast weekend. Look at the stats, Lacy getting 15 carries have been 2 of the 3 best wins this season. They had a 34 to 31 mix and scored 30 points, screw running laterally and losing 5 yards, whatever it takes to beat a good team on the road! : )

We'll both have to see what happens next because I don't have much faith in Clements, not much at all. And we both know MM is so stubburn he won't change a thing until it's too late, as in season over. Look no further than Slocum for evidence.

Dan Stodola's picture

Don't get me wrong. Lacy is the Packers best RB. But Starks has shown the ability to make that cut and then put his head down and take on the LB and get the 1st down. Not saying he's a better RB than Lacy tho.

The play I'm thinking of was to the right. On Lacy's 1st series I believe. Kendricks was in the hole but standing on the 1st down line. Lacy kept running laterally instead of cutting upfield into the hole and putting a hurt on Kendricks.

They definitely need an effective Lacy to make a run in the playoffs. No doubt about it. But how is it that Lacy wastes his power but running laterally, not cutting upfield and even then is too upright and take the hit. He should be delivering the blow not absorbing it. Thats why Ahman Green has more power, he lowered his shoulder and accelerating into contact.

Nick Perry's picture

I am with you there I guess. Normally it's to the left, it loses yardage, and I start screaming "Why do you keep running wide!!!" Good point Dan...

The TKstinator's picture

I know what you mean. I also think there are additional factors. It seems to me that GB goes to the air very quickly if they trail by just a few points. No, I do not have any PFF or NextGen stats on this. It's just my impression and therefore it could be BS. Granted! Anyone armed with a boatload of stats could probably tear this post to shreds.
IF Lacy's first few carries are productive and IF the score remains close, it seems to me then he gets the carries. But like you said, when 12 is the QB, it's gotta be awfully tempting to go to the air. But if Lacy is highly regarded, isn't it also tempting to keep handing him the ball?
I admit to some bias here. I love the running game. I loved watching Walter Payton (but hated him twice a year), Eric Dickerson, and Earl Campbell do their thing as I was growing up. Loved the Ahman Green era too.
It seemed that almost my whole life GB favored the pass, and had more high profile receivers than runners: Lofton, JJ, Sharpe, Freeman, Brooks, etc etc etc. I used to wonder, "what would the Packers offense look like if they had a RB that was so good they went into every game WANTING to give him the ball 20+ times?" I think Green got that (even with Favre under center) and Lacy looked to be heading in that direction too.
I think in the modern NFL, offenses have to prioritize the QB and the passing game, but a good RB and running game provides balance. I think a balanced offense is the most difficult one to defend.

RCPackerFan's picture

Balance is very important. If the offense can stay productive and balanced we will see it getting back to where we are used to seeing it.

The running game if it opens up it will help the passing game. The play action pass will be much more effective.

As the weather turns colder the running game becomes more important. Having a balanced offense will get the team farther in the playoffs.

Since '61's picture

The Packer's offense needs all of its weapons. It's built to get a lead, play aggressive defense and then use Lacy/Starks to chew up yards and time. The loss of Jordy has had an impact on building the early leads. Therefore we need Lacy to be effective to enable our more possession type (slower) receivers to get open off of play action. We also need the defense to keep the games close until the offense gets rolling. In recent games the plays have been there but due to OL breakdowns, dropped passes, receivers running the wrong routes and/or a rare increase in Rodger's mis-throws we have not connected as often as usual. The return of Ty Montgomery should help coupled with some scheme changes, depending on the opponent, plus consistency in the run game with Lacy/Starks. A return to health on the OL wouldn't hurt either. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

4thand1's picture

Monty coming back will be huge. I said he would be a steal in the draft in pre-season. He was making big plays and then the dam ankle. The receiving corp is getting healthy. The Packers have to play Janis to stretch the field. How many plays must he make before getting more snaps, C'MON MAN, C'MON!

egbertsouse's picture

Haven't you seen the Viking's fan sites? The Packers didn't win because of offensive balance, they only won because of the dirty, cheating refs who were paid by Roger Goodell to ensure the Packers won. Apparently, the NFL wants to make sure their smallest market team gets to the Super Bowl.....

croatpackfan's picture

That talks more about Vikings fans than about anything else... While I was mad about referees and officiating Packers Lions game, I never ever think that the referees are the reason why Packers lost. And Packers were 2 points short! Referees did not kick that FG wrongly. It is that simple!

murphy's picture

Yep. I've read that the Janis pass should not have been PI because Janis slowed down to the ball and forced the DB to run into him. ><

The headbutt penalty was ticky-tack, but stupid and easily avoidable. You just had a huge, momentum-swinging return. Get up and walk off the field.

The roughing the passer call that was offset was borderline, but without the shove at the end it probably doesn't get called.

The most whining was about holding not being called on the Packers but always called on the Vikings. Interesting, since the refs called 3 offensive holds against each team. All 3 Vikings holds were on 1st down. 2 of 3 Packers holds were on 3rd down. Holding went both ways, and they probably could have called holding on Kalil and Bak on every single pass play because they were both holding on for dear life.

I have no idea why they didn't throw a flag for the spiked ball after a sack. I have no idea why they didn't throw a flag when Peterson was jawing and pulled his helmet off.
I have no idea why they didn't throw a flag for grounding against Bridgewater.

I did learn from Norv Turner that the best way to help out your struggling O-line is to call for a 7-step drop on every passing play.

phillythedane's picture

Uh, no… I haven't seen the Vikings' fan sites...

4thand1's picture

Cry me a river queens.

zoellner25's picture

I'll take 30 pts per game anyway we can get them, even if it takes 5 FGs. Point production is what I want to see. During the losing streak, we weren't even getting many FGs. Gotta get points. Let's crush Cutler.....

Bearmeat's picture

That game with the Cards is looming very large... We should win out - with that game being a tossup.

I don't want to see the Seahawks in the playoffs at all. But I'd like to see the Cards lose a couple more times. Hmm.

Flow49's picture

I'm not sure if my timeline is correct or not but it seemed after Tretter came in Lacy started rolling. Maybe there is not a direct correlation but we definitely seemed to get a better push up the middle with Tretter on Sunday.

Evan's picture

Linsley only played a handful of snaps. Just the first series, yea? So, it's hard to read too much into production before/after he went out.

Flow49's picture

That's true something to watch for on Thursday. I think Linsely would benefit from some rest. At the very least Tretter can allow for that.

Tarynfor12's picture

Balance is the goal on offense when possible but unless the WR's stop dropping passes and get a little separation to make throws a tad easier to aid/maintain the run game and obtain balance,this team will look more like a 300 lb person attempting gymnastics on the parallel bars...though a couple of ooh's and aah's may be witnessed the scoring will be horrible.

Bearmeat's picture

You've got to think that this will get fixed. Cobb has been very good for his whole career. Adams is no #1 - but he can be a good 2. And Montgomery coming back is only going to help things. Hopefully Janis starts seeing some playing time too opposite Davante with Randall inside.

GBs WRs have been below average this year. They have the talent to be average or better. And the history of ARod with his WRs is only going to help.

Tarynfor12's picture

I'm not saying it won't get fixed...I'm just saying it needs fixing to have that balance as desired.

Razer's picture

I was good to see Lacy get back into the game and as much as I would like to proclaim him 'back', I need to see more. More than Lacy I think that our OLine played better or at least outplayed the Vikes in the trenches. Rodgers had more time to throw and Lacy had more push to get behind.

i think that the same thing occured on the opposite side of the ball. Our DLine outplayed the Vikes OLine. It killed Peterson and hurt a very good Bridgewater performance. Poor line play sets the tone on both offense and defense. Let's hope that we keep getting into their backfield.

RCPackerFan's picture

Simply put: This game is won and lost in the trenches. Great OL and DL play will win more games then it loses.

RCPackerFan's picture

Oh, I'm sorry to the person that disliked my comment. I guess I'm wrong... I guess Great OL and DL play is not what wins games. Poor OL and DL play obviously wins more games...

I'm sorry. My bad.

Oppy's picture

My article would have been, "Winning makes Packers offensively balanced."

Packers only dedicate to the run from a lead. When they are even slightly behind or in a dogfight, you won't see too many examples of the Packers showing offensive balance.

Bearmeat's picture

With the exception of the latter half of 2013, you are unfortunately right.

Tundraboy's picture

Burnett said it best. They played together as a team.

4thand1's picture

Yes, that sums it up best. Everyone came to play.

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