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If History Means much, Abandoning the run game can help the Roaring Packers

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If History Means much, Abandoning the run game can help the Roaring Packers

There's an air-show on NBC this Sunday night in case you guys haven't heard already.

At least that's what it's shaping up to be. Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers into Detroit to complete their quest of running the table - winners of five straight, looking to make it six against the Lions. If all goes well, it'll be Green Bay's fifth NFC North crown in the last six seasons and will set then up with a Wild Card meeting at Lambeau Field with the Giants.

While Rodgers has thrown for over 300 yards in three of his last six meetings with the Lions at Ford Field, those three attacks on the Lions' secondary came in 2008, 2009, and 2011 respectively - his first three career road meetings with the Lions. He suffered a concussion in the 2010 meeting and was removed from the game in favour of relief quarterback Matt Flynn.

An aerial assault on both sides is precisely what we may be looking at in the season finale, with Lions' premier cornerback Darius Slay likely to miss the game - he's questionable on the team's injury report with an incessant hamstring injury. For the Packers, a shaky secondary has been the one protruding reason as to why they began the season 4-6 in the first place. Any back-end of a defense that gives up an onslaught of passing yardage to the likes of Matt Barkley has major leaks that may burst through the roof at any given moment.

The hope is that burst won't come when the Packers need their ceiling to hold up the most.

To compensate, they're tied for third in team interceptions this season with 16, exactly the amount they had last season, only now with one game left to play. To compensate even further, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. and safeties coach Darren Perry clearly have their respective groups under control and seem to have the proper guidance that can engineer a run with their arsenal. Since taking over in 2009, Whitt and Perry have helped the Packers rank in the top 10 of team interceptions every year except 2013.

Keeping up with their late-season trend of forcing turnovers may be one way that can seal the victory. A way that won't is resorting to a running game.

With the electric Ty Montgomery who has made himself known via his performance as the Packers' starting running back, straying from pounding the rock with the duo of him and Christine Michael may actually be beneficial. If history means much, it can be very beneficial.

The Packers are 5-3 in Detroit since 2008, losing two of those three with Rodgers being knocked out of the game in 2010, and with Flynn under center in 2013 while Rodgers was out with a collarbone injury. In those eight games, the Packers haven't had a rusher eclipse 74 yards. The team's leading rusher in those games have averaged 40.2 yards per game, including gaining 16, 38 and 27 yards in the last three meetings.

A silver lining that may work in favor of an opposing argument - the Lions are ranked 17th in rushing defense this season.

In their limited showcase against the Vikings last week, Montgomery and Michael followed up their breakout performance the week prior with a combined 13 carries for a sub-optimal 27 yards. They averaged 1.8 yards per carry against a 15th-ranked rushing defense.

Unless forming an insurmountable lead by the third quarter, the running game may be a rarity in itself regardless. The absence of Slay means Rodgers will look to further exposed a weakened Lions' secondary en route to hosting a home game in the playoffs.

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (37) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

Slay will probably play tomorrow night. The question is, how effective will he be on that hammy? Smith certainly wasn't very good last week...

dobber's picture

If he's really that shaky, the outcome of the Giants/Redskins game might determine what kind of role he plays against the Packers.

Samson's picture

Pressure on AR will be a real key. -- Make AR move and block his clear visibility to his WRs will be key for the Lions. I doubt they can do it enough through an entire 60 minute game. --But, this game could easily be decided by half-time adjustments made by MM especially if the Pack struggle in the 1st-half. -- Hope MM is up to it and AR (all by himself) doesn't have to pull the Pack out of the abyss once again.

Scoring more points is all that counts in this game --Run - Pass---- it doesn't matter how you move the ball.

dobber's picture

The question is: what will the Lions need to do to get that kind of pressure? As it stands, they are near the bottom of the league in sacks and sack pct., and average less than a sack per game since their week 10 bye.

https://www.teamrankings.com/nfl/stat/sack-pct

Since '61's picture

While I agree that the run game should not be our primary approach versus the Lions an effective run game early can make Rodgers and the passing game more effective via play action throughout the game. With a lead in the second half the run game can chew up the clock as long as we can keep moving the chains. I have no problem building the lead with our passing game but it would be great to keep Stafford off the field with our ground game. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

Nick Perry's picture

I'm going to stick with my original prediction and say the Packers will run the ball and be effective. If Slay is out that may take a few extra plays away from Monty or Michael running the ball, but I think the Packers will have success so McCarthy will keep running it. They average 22.9 carries a game so it's not like they run a bunch in the first place. But in just about every game since the Packers started using Montgomery more whether it's running or catching the ball out of the backfield, his YPC have been good, very good.

With AR as your QB the Packers are probably never going to try and run 35 to 40 times a game, but I could definitely see them running the ball 25 times Sunday Night.

marpag1's picture

A lot of football fans today still cling to the old cliches. Most cliches have a certain amount of truth in them, but there are also some exceptions to the rule. Some of the most popular, yet outdated, cliches today include "Defense wins championships," and "Gotta be able to run the ball" and "The most important defender is the middle linebacker."

Back in the day, these cliches were more true than false, but now they are more false than true.

Nowadays, defense rarely wins championships. Offense does, and more specifically a strong passing offense. And no, you don't have to be very good at rushing, you only need the bare minimum of being able to make teams pay for loading up to stop the pass in dime all day. And because of the huge emphasis on passing, middle linebackers are closer to the least important defenders than they are to the most important. The most important defenders are edge rushers and corners, and I would put them in that order.

This is why it's no surprise that the Packer defense hasn't been very good. They got creamed with injuries to edge defenders and cornerbacks, and that's why other teams were throwing all over the field. This also explains why TT has always tried to make due with mediocre talent at inside linebacker.

It's just the way the game is played.

If the Packers want to wing the ball all over Ford field (at least while the game is still in doubt), I don't have much problem with that. GIve Monty a couple totes here and there just to slow the pass rush.

RobinsonDavis's picture

For the most part, I agree with this Marpag, but would point out that the ILBs have been decimated by injury and experience over this same time frame.

marpag1's picture

Yeah, no question, RD, and that has definitely hurt the defense. But I would think that the losses at corner and OLB have hurt more.

RobinsonDavis's picture

No argument there.

RobinsonDavis's picture

No argument there.

jmac34's picture

I disagree with defense rarely wins championships. Look at Denver last year, Seattle the last few years, the Giants played great defense in their SB wins, and GB's best defense with Rodgers was the SB team. Defense is incredibly important for any team to win a SB

Lphill's picture

Staffords finger is an issue it won't be a shoot out , he has been awful since the injury . Should be a comfortable win for the Pack.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

McCarthy said this week that ideally they would run the ball 30 times. That comment is apperently beyond my feable football mind.

marpag1's picture

Two things to remember:

1) "Ideally" means "If we are up by 8,000 points," and

2) McCarthy doesn't give useful or pertinent information during interviews. No NFL coach does.

Nick Perry's picture

LOL...To add to that how many times have we heard the announcers tell the audience when they spoke to Mike McCarthy, he said "We'd like to get the running game going and run the ball 25 to 30 times". Those are normally the games Rodgers is throwing the ball 40 times .

But McCarthy isn't stupid, he knows he has a defense he needs to protect somewhat, keep them off the field as much as possible. Detroit doesn't stop the run especially well (Or the Pass for that matter). Suh and Fairley are long gone so I think because the passing game will be working so well the running game has a good chance to be effective too. Given they'll be playing on a fast track... Monty and Michael will ave over 125 yards between them.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Yeah, but then why say a number? Nobody who watches tape would believe it anyway.

"It's important to run the football." Leave it at the simple truth...

marpag1's picture

Agreed, to both you and Nick Perry above. My guess is that McCarthy rather foolishly believes that some opposing team might listen to his interview and actually plan for him to emphasize the run like he said he would, but yeah, a guy would have to be pretty dumb to fall for that one...

dobber's picture

I actually think they will try to run the ball this week. I think they'll try to establish Monty/Michael on the perimeter against Detroit (away from Robinson and Ngata) and try to force them out of their deep safety looks. I think the Packers will try to get the ball to Cook this week, too.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Interesting comments from the group here. I don't know what they will do, but I simply hope they will take what the Lions give them. I see the Lions as a read & react (not aggressive), keep the ball in front of you type of D. Thus, I do believe the short passing game will be available as well as quick hitting runs. If Cook becomes a target early, this will help both the running & passing game, thus I see him as one player to watch. However, let's be frank, the key is and has always been how sharp Aaron is and if he has time to throw. He and the Packers played best in the previous Lions game with an up-tempo game plan. Go Pack!!

Christine is a very interesting figure for the Lions. He is the type to explode through a quick hitter which would exploit the Lions type of D, but needs to be patient in the Packer zone blocking schemes, something Montgomery demonstrated vs. Chicago, and something Michael has not .

4zone's picture

The better we can run the ball, the more difficult it will be for Detroit to stop the offense. It also will take the load off our defense.

I like how we have been mixing up plays lately. MM has opened up the entire play book and it is clearly helping the offense. Today, Detroit will be Rocking The House Down. They are on the verge of a playoff spot and their fans can almost taste it. Expect a huge wave of intensity and the Lions riding it hard. If we can withstand that wave and execute as well on offense as he have lately and our DB's don't get shredded, even though its a tight game in the end, I think we pull it out. The more clock we can eat up with an effective running game, the better.

dobber's picture

You would think they'd be rabid fans, but what I've seen here (in central lower MI) is more apprehension than anything else. It's been same old Lions for so long that the fans are pretty nervous about this one, especially against the Packers...

Lphill's picture

Breaking news ##### ted Thompson out and Elliot Wolf in. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nick Perry's picture

I've read 2 pieces on it so far on the subject. Teams will be knocking on the Packers door again this year wishing to talk with Wolf. The Packers could protect and promote Highsmith, Ball, and Gutekunst by hiring Wolfe as GM. The rumor is Thompson would become a Senior Scouting Advisor for the remaining years and who knows maybe more. Ted LOVES to scout players, that's his #1 passion. It might make for a hell of a front office.

Question... As long as the Packers promote Ball, Highsmith, and Gutekunst assuming Wolf was promoted, can they still block teams requests to interview them?

jeremyjjbrown's picture

So crazy. I suggested this several weeks ago and got down voted big time. Hahahaha.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Where is this breaking news? Google is just showing speculation by Ian Rappaport.

marpag1's picture

It IS speculation - nothing more - and we ought to tap the brakes on this. Rappaport never claimed to be REPORTING anything. He didn't even go so far as to say that he had spoken to "unnamed sources." In fact, he didn't claim to have spoken to anyone at all. He certainly didn't say that TT was "out" and that Wolf was "in."

Of course that doesn't mean that it WON'T happen, just that Rappaport doesn't have anything more than his own speculation.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I guess he misspelt "faking".

RobinsonDavis's picture

Wow! We really do not need this distraction though.

dobber's picture

Not being reported on any of the feeds at any of the major sites. Maybe it's early and it will come out, but until it does...

I can't imagine they would do anything like this until the season is done. Too much hullaballoo around a team that needs to be focused.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I don't think there is any position to which Ball can be promoted. He played OC for Central Missouri, then he was a strength and conditioning coach for Missouri for 7 years and with Kansas City for 10, but since then he been administrative: he's never been a scout at any level. We could create a title for him I suppose; GB likes to create artificial, meaningless titles for their staff. I agree on the others you mentioned, NP.

4zone's picture

With all the GMs getting let go this year, who knows if this doesn't force Mark Murphy's hand sooner than desired.

Lphill's picture

Other teams are interested in Wolf ,Packers know he is the future , Thompson will go back to scouting everyone knows how secretive the Pack is with info. The story will come out .

RobinsonDavis's picture

Eagles about to win. Tampa officially out of it.

dobber's picture

Thanks to the Giants for playing this game like it means something!!!

Norm's picture

Win and host the Giants, or lose and travel to Seattle. I think they can beat either team but I'd rather see NYG at Lambeau. Without a pass rush I don't see them going any further than that, but with a pass rush anything is possible with #12 as your quarterback.

John Galt III's picture

So, do Lions rest Stafford?

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