Running into January: Packers' run game has been a Picture of Stagnancy

Very few can vouch for the remnants of a running game left in the Packers' offense since their ground attack explosion against the Bears three weeks ago.

The talk of the town was Ty Montgomery, and rightfully so. Heading into Chicago, it was his first official week as a full-fledged running back; and he bounced, sprung and steam-rolled his way to 162 yards on 16 attempts. It was only the second 100-yard rushing performance from a Packers' running back since Eddie Lacy topped 100 against the Lions back in September. 

"Just kept my feet moving, was patient," Montgomery said after his career day, specifically of his 61-yard run at the beginning of the second quarter. "They're two-gappers, so you kind of have to be patient with them and set up the blocks. I was able to just break a tackle and keep running."

For a week, there was a glimmer of content in Green Bay at the running back position. It put less pressure on making a decision on the IR-ridden Eddie Lacy whose contract is up at the end of the season, and more focus on making Montgomery a focal point in the offense.

In the next two games, his roles were moderately deteriorated.

He wasn't able to get much going on his nine carries against the Vikings, and even with his eight carries the following week in Detroit, an efficient 44 yards followed. Coming off of a game in frigid Chicago where he averaged 10.12 yards per carry, the general notion was that Montgomery would carry his dominance into the following weeks. It turns out, big performances like what Montgomery registered are frivolous to Packers' head coach Mike McCarthy, even in the passing game.

"I don’t play that way," McCarthy said on Monday when asked about a future extended role for receiver Geronimo Allison. "We play personnel groups and there’s things that we’re going to do differently each and every week. Aaron throws it to the guy that’s open. We don’t hunker down and try to feature one player and so forth."

As much as a myth as it is — not really, offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett and McCarthy have a variety of different packages that utilize each player available in the rotation and on the 46-man game day roster. It's why week-by-week, you may not see the player from a week prior who sky-rocketed to stardom with a performance for the ages. It's a symbolic concept that epitomizes McCarthy's trust in the team's process. 

The bottom line is: if it works, the Packers are going to roll with it. 

Look no further than fullback Aaron Ripkowski, who was the team's leading rusher in the season finale. 9 carries, 61 yards and even a receiving touchdown for which Aaron Rodgers hit him underneath for and he powered his way across the goal line — a trend that is seen almost weekly from the bearded wonder.

"The Ripper," as fans call him, produced what was originally the team's first rushing touchdown of the season from someone not named "Rodgers" in Philadelphia. He had another the following week, and was relatively absent until the Packers ventured into Detroit.

In today's league, a fullback being the team's leading rusher is about as seldom as McCarthy not saying "football team" in one of his press conferences. It just doesn't happen.

Against a third-ranked run defense in the New York Football Giants, the Packers are going to need all of the functioning passes of a running game that they can get. Given the climate set for Sunday, that just may be ideal. The Packers are at their best this season when running off left tackle David Bakhtiari's back, where they've averaged 6.77 yards per carry. Yet, they've only steered 13.40 percent of their run calls in that direction.

They've run 20.25 percent of their hand-offs through the center, where they've averaged 3.60 yards per touch. It's their worst of any spot on the offensive line where they've run more than 26 times.

As if the stars have aligned, the left tackle is one of soft spots of the Giants' defensive front. They've given up an average of 3.73 yards when opposing teams run off the left end — yeah, that's bad, apparently. It is, however, one of their worst spots at defending the run. 

Without Rodgers playing out-of-his-mind football down the stretch of the regular season, the picture of stagnancy that is the Packers' running game may have been far more illuminated. Thankfully, they'll have a Wild Card game in three days to get it turned around — unless, Rodgers and co. have better things in mind.

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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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Comments (15)

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fatalflaw's picture

January 06, 2017 at 12:50 am

Hopefully secondary gets healthy in off season ( and progresses. ....) so RB can be addressed in the draft.

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Allan Murphy's picture

January 06, 2017 at 01:55 am

It's clear you have no clue about the packers that's good Clevland needs a scout you will do fine .

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marpag1's picture

January 06, 2017 at 05:37 am

The problem with a complete lack of punctuation is that anything you write will look stupid.

I suppose we should expect this from a dude whose CHTV profile pic was taken in a Steelers jersey.

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Amanofthenorth's picture

January 06, 2017 at 05:51 am

Murphy. I love this response and I love the fact that the packers know where the bread gets buttered in a field game like football. Big Men Forever.

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croatpackfan's picture

January 06, 2017 at 07:09 am

Well I'm with Mike McCarthy. Every week complete new kind of game plan. Keep your opponent guessing. Packers tried to run with Ty over Vikings - no success. Change to plan B, ruin the Vikings. The moment Vikings found out what happened, game was ended. Against Lions, ridiculous number of penalties keep Packers to low 10 points in the first half. After adjustment, second half was all but Packers. And Lions did not have the answer.
Why to push things opponent are prepared for. You are losing time, points, energy and rhythm of offense. Throw to opponent non scouted things and very quickly little panic will surface out. At that moment, you have your opponent in your hands.
So, for me it is interesting what will Packers plan for the Giants. What schemes and what personnel groups will they put on the field. How will Giants respond on that. It is not always one on ones, sometimes it is keeping opposed D what kind of play offense will be execute at what snap...

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RCPackerFan's picture

January 06, 2017 at 07:55 am

I do like how McCarthy has been calling the offense for the most part the last however many games.

One thing I disagree with is the Packers trying to run Ty over the Vikings. If I remember right Ty only had 2 carries the first 3-4 drives. In the first half Ty had 7 carries and Rodgers had 22 pass attempts.
They really didn't attempt to establish a run game in that game.

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SpudRapids's picture

January 06, 2017 at 12:12 pm

What does that even mean "establish" a run game. As far as I am concerned it is established and these teams have to respect which opens the field up for Rodgers and company. I don't care if we run it 55 times or 4... if the defense has to respect it the offense can operate effectively

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RobinsonDavis's picture

January 07, 2017 at 11:57 am

For what it's worth - Bleacher Report and their scouting team (not vouching for their expertise) published their end of regulary season rankings of players per position. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2685170-nfl1000-final-regular-season-...

Not surprisingly, the Packers offensive line ranked amongst the top individually in pass protection. Across the board their run blocking was down comparatively (exception Bulaga who was #2 Rt Tackle overall), but not as much as one might think. Overall positional rankings for Bahkt, Taylor, Tretter, Linsley, Lang, & Bulaga were #4, 33, 11, 16, 8, 2. Additionally the running backs were not ranked as bad as many may think (Lacy #10. Monty #22, Michael #35, Starks #54). Other interesting outcomes - Aaron #1 QB, Daniels top pass rushing 3-4 DE & #3 overall (Lowery #20!), Sitton #2 overall guard, Dix #6 Free Safety, Perry #7 OLB (we had 4 OLBs ranked in the top 35), Ripp #3 fullback (Kuhn #5), our WRs did not rank as high as I thought they would/should (especially Jordy #12), Clark ranked better than Guion, Hayward #8 CB - Top Packer CB.....Hyde #60.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 08, 2017 at 05:17 am

Thanks for posting the link to that article, Robinson. Although Kenny Clark didn't rank very well at 32 among DTs, he was ahead of Reed (33), Butler (43), Guion (47), and Robinson (84). I noted that Malcom Brown was #8 DT. Bleacher Report gave high marks to CM3 for coverage ability, something I've said he could do and received some dissenting replies. Ryan, Martinez and Joe Thomas ranked 33, 40 and 44, which perhaps isn't great since it near the end of the starter level but suggests some competence. OTOH, it gave bad grades to RR and Perillo for hands, but whatever I thought of Perillo, I thought he caught pretty much everything tossed his way. RR did have a couple of drops this year (Sporting Charts lists him with just 1 drop and an excellent 2.1% drop rate and Perillo is listed with zero drops).

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 06, 2017 at 09:01 am

"The bottom line is: if it works, the Packers are going to roll with it."

Dear Lord, let it be so.

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LayingTheLawe's picture

January 06, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Against Minnesota they did struggle to run. But the Packers ran for 150 yards as a team against the Lions and have scored over 30 points in 4 straight games. Against the Lions they ran out the game in the 4th quarter very effectively running and scoring. The Packer offense has been on a tear the last 4 weeks so I am not sure what the point of this article was exactly.

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dobber's picture

January 06, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Is the argument here that the Packers run offense has tailed off as the season has gone by, or that it never was any good? I can't tell.

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Johnnyt6752's picture

January 06, 2017 at 11:53 pm

This guy clearly has no idea what he's writing about. Should give it up already.

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al bundy's picture

January 07, 2017 at 10:32 am

Wasnt till this year I learned Ted and Mike look to draft guys who can be used in multiple positions if necessary. Per MIke.
Ya, I prefer someone who can play one position very well rather than two so so. Got way too many people on this team fitting the later.
Should have drafted quality and avoided all the injuries.
Monte is an ok guy but he is not a star receiver or go to running back. There were way better receivers out there when they picked him. He is never been consistent aka numerous others on this team.

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NickPerry's picture

January 08, 2017 at 08:29 am

He was injured his first season and had a pretty significant ankle injury. He's had a nice season this year after becoming involved which didn't happen until week 6 against Dallas.

77 rushes for 457 yards and 5.9 YPC
44 receptions for 348 and 7.9 YPR

Considering Montgomery switched positions in the middle of the season, I think he's done a hell of a job. Since he was injured in week 6 last year and wasn't used till week 6 this year, I don't think they've scratched the surface of what this guy could bring to the table.

McCarthy features a guy one week and might not feature him again for 3 or 4 weeks. It's just how they work. I'd look for Cook to be featured this week.

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