Guard Play Key To Running Vs. Bears

The Packers have typically run the ball much better at home against the Bears under McCarthy. For that trend to continue, both Daryn Colledge and Josh Sitton will need to play much better than they did in the first matchup with Chicago

When the Packers last faced the Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers had one of his best days as a pro working the ball down the field on short slant, smash and smoke routes. It was a quintessential case of "taking what the defense gives you."

Unfortunately, rather than being the byproduct of a brilliant gameplan, Rodgers' role that evening was forced upon him by the fact that the Packers were completely inept when it came to running the football against the Bears front seven. The Bears were allowed to keep both their safeties back almost the entire game due to the fact that the Packers simply could not make them pay for it by running the football.

While there were several reasons the Packers couldn't run the ball that late September night, the biggest issue they had was getting their guards, Daryn Colledge and Josh Sitton, off of early double teams and up on Brian Urlacher and his fellow linebackers. As much as its easy to say Clifton and Tauscher "aren't good run blockers" (while that is true in the generic sense) that wasn't what did the Packers in against the Bears. Going back and looking at the running plays the Packers ran, many of them feature Colledge missing a lightning-quick Urlacher flowing to the ball from his middle linebacker spot.

Take a look below for an example of what I'm talking about. The hole is there but filled quickly by Urlacher because Collegde can't get off the double team fast enough.

The Packers have done a better job in this area in general the past two weeks, though they still didn't really move the ball all that well on the ground against the Giants. That said, they did do the minimal work required in that they were at least able to get the safeties to bite down on playaction a few times (most notably on Rodgers' 80 yard touchdown strike to Jordy Nelson).

As I've said ever since Ryan Grant went down in Week One, the Packers don't need a dynamic running game to win football games. (Though it would make the task infinitely easier.) They do need to be able to get positive yards rushing the football and not go backwards. Too many times this year, be it in domes in Atlanta and Detroit or outside in Chicago and New York,  the Packers have simply been unable to generate anything positive, even 3 or 4 yards, putting unbelievable stress on the passing game.

The success of the offense since they were embarrassed in Detroit can be traced to several things but the emergence of even a hint of a running game has played a large part. Look below for an example of a play that doesn't look pretty but gets the job done to the tune of 5 yards on first down. That is a big-time win for the offense.

Notice how Sitton makes his initial block almost a chip and then shoots into the second level to take on the linebacker, before being knocked off the block from the scrum behind him. (What's maddening about this play is Quinn Johnson pretty much whiffing on his block. It's pretty pathetic. He's supposed to be this thunderous lead blocker, yet he can't even take care of a corner.) Even though Sitton's man is in on the tackle, his initial block does just enough to allow Nance to make what might have only been 2 or 3 yards into a 5 yard gain. And its that kind of small difference that needs to be there when Urlacher, Briggs and company come into Lambeau on Sunday.

If the Packers can get even a sliver of a running game going and force the Bears to honor it more than just during the opening stanza (the Bears always bite hard on early run action) they will be able to work some of the deep sideline stuff Rodgers likes to go to with Jones and Jennings. If they are allowed to simply keep both safeties deep and wide, Rodgers will once again need to play a near flawless game for the Packers to have a shot at winning.

Under Mike McCarthy, the Packers have typically run the ball much better against the Bears when the game is played in Lambeau Field. For that trend to continue, both Colledge and Sitton will need to play much better than they did back in September in Chicago.

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Comments (17)

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Ken at UWM's picture

December 28, 2010 at 03:24 pm

Obviously a dynamic TE is a Cover-2 killer. We'll see if the lights are finally not to bright for Quarless.

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PackerAaron's picture

December 28, 2010 at 03:36 pm

They hit one big play to Finley coming out of their own endzone and almost hit another one to Jennings that he dropped the last time these two teams faced. It's an oft-repeated phrase and of course is true to an extent.

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Ken at UWM's picture

December 28, 2010 at 03:47 pm

Right. But at least having the threat of a TE that stretches the LB corps presents other opportunities such as Rodgers getting a 2-3 first downs with his legs -- which let's face it, injury risk or not, is a big a part of our success on offense.

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Edward's picture

December 28, 2010 at 03:30 pm

Quinn Johnson whiffing seems to be a theme this year. Don't see him making the roster next year...

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lebowski's picture

December 28, 2010 at 05:44 pm

He needs to do some serious linebacker hittin' this weekend.

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JerseyPackFan's picture

December 28, 2010 at 06:41 pm

Also Quinn basically told the Giants where they were running with his eyes before the ball was even snapped.

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NoWayJose's picture

December 28, 2010 at 07:43 pm

Out of curiousity, how were you able to see this?

I was at the game, so did not see the TV shots. Was this actually visibly noticeable?

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Edward's picture

December 28, 2010 at 03:32 pm

Nice analysis and good blog post, Aaron. Need another Sitton-type mauler to replace Colledge. I thought it was supposed to be Lang, but he's hardly sniffed the field this year...

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Ryeguy812's picture

December 28, 2010 at 03:35 pm

Colledge actually had a pretty good game against the Giants. Guess we need to give credit where credit is due. Then again, he's due for about 15 good games

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Bad Knees's picture

December 28, 2010 at 03:39 pm

It's going to come down to special team play. If we are just "average" we win. Unfortunately being "average" may be out of reach of Slocum coached special teams.

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lebowski's picture

December 28, 2010 at 05:47 pm

Aaron, I'm curious to see if you think Jackson could have had a nice gain if he'd just hesitated a moment and hit the lane that seemed to be developing to the inside. Instead of running right into his blockers and their tacklers. Again.

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Cuphound's picture

December 28, 2010 at 05:56 pm

Thanks for this, Aaron! Posts like this one are in my top five reasons for loving CheeseheadTV. I learn so much about WATCHING football from you guys!

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Paul Ott Carruth's picture

December 28, 2010 at 06:15 pm

Have disagree on that top play Aaron. While that is definitely a zone to the boundary the fault lies not with Collegde but with Brandon Jackson and with the play design itself. Toss plays out of the zone are tough and put the RB at a disadvantage. Here is the play breakdown:

Clifton is trying to leverage the DE. The DE has established outside leverage on Clifton. This is Jackson's first read. He should be putting the ball inside of Clifton but doesn't and really can't because his eyes are focused on receiving the toss pitch instead of looking at the DE's movement. Colledge successfully helps Wells secure the shade, Sitton scoops to Briggs on the 2nd level and seals him, Tauscher cuts off the 3 technique and Idonoje (sp?) is late closing down. After Colledge chips on the shade he comes off late to try and run Urlacher past the play. If Jackson would have cut where he was supposed to...right behind Colledge, Urlacher would have been run by the play, which is what is supposed to happen.

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lebowski's picture

December 28, 2010 at 07:27 pm

That's exactly what I was talking about. Looked like he could have run inside of Colledge and had a big gain. It must drive the offensive coaches absolutely batty in the film room, seeing how many 'what ifs' we could have had every week.

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Paul Ott Carruth's picture

December 28, 2010 at 06:41 pm

The Giants clip is a good example of how a fullback missing a block on the stretch to the boundary can make a 5 yd gain be only a 5 yd. gain instead of an additional 3-4 yds. This is actually a pretty tough front to run outside zone against. The Giants are in a Squeeze front with both A gaps covered. The tough block is for Wells stepping playside to cut-off the 1 shade play side. Colledge washes the backside A gap defender down. This play was mucked up by Johnson no doubt.

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PkrNboro's picture

December 28, 2010 at 07:25 pm

Colledge blocking linebackers ?

Hope we got a Plan "B"...

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Brian Carriveau's picture

December 29, 2010 at 08:39 am

The tight ends did a very poor job blocking in the first Bears game too. Tom Crabtree wasn't getting all that much playing time the first time around. Hopefully he can make a difference.

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