Packers 230-Yard Effort Puts New Lease on 2015 Season
In a remarkable turnaround, Green Bay’s rushing attack surged to life in the previous week, amassing an impressive 230 yards and steering the Packers to a resounding 28-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
This performance was particularly astonishing when juxtaposed with the mere 67 rushing yards the Packers managed against Detroit just ten days prior.
This season, with a distinct emphasis, the Packer offense finds itself in greater need of a potent running game, more so than any previous year since Aaron Rodgers assumed the mantle of starting quarterback.
Amidst the notable shortcomings exhibited by the Green Bay passing game this season, one truth remains self-evident: few elements in football rival the restorative potential of a commanding run game.
So, what were the pivotal factors contributing to this stark shift against the Cowboys?
To begin, the resurgence was undeniably fueled by the mental resurgence of their primary workhorse, Eddie Lacy.
Faced with a barrage of inquiries surrounding his weight, health, starting role, and a curfew violation in the lead-up to the Detroit game, Lacy appeared to have encountered a setback.
However, the subsequent week witnessed Lacy engaging in a candid discussion with Head Coach Mike McCarthy—a conversation that appeared to cleanse the air.
Post this dialogue, McCarthy extended a fresh slate to Lacy. The results from Sunday’s game reflect a palpable rejuvenation in Lacy’s performance, in tandem with his revitalized mindset.
This narrative underscores the profound impact that a player’s mental state can exert on their on-field prowess.
Lacy’s resurgence serves as a potent testament to the interconnectedness of mental clarity, motivation, and the execution of football skills.
The Packers, by prioritizing Lacy’s mental well-being, seem to have unlocked a latent potential that significantly contributed to their dominant rushing display against the Cowboys.
To grasp the recent improvements, one must delve into the Green Bay Packers’ core running principles. Their ground game hinges on a foundation of zone-blocking strategies.
Firstly, synchronization between the running back and offensive line is pivotal. This harmony ensures coordinated movement to exploit defensive gaps. Secondly, on outside zone plays, the running back stretches the defense laterally, creating opportunities.
Thirdly, the runner’s success pivots on patience and keen vision. Lastly, decisive action is crucial. The runner swiftly chooses between continuing outside or making a sharp cut against lateral defense movement.
Equally vital are the efforts of the offensive linemen. They must thwart potential penetration that halts momentum, locking onto their designated targets seamlessly.
The efficiency of this approach falters when the offensive line struggles in target recognition or penetration prevention, undermining the execution of zone-blocking principles, as evidenced throughout the season.
Furthermore, the linchpins at the forefront of the action bear a significant responsibility. Their task is to nullify any possible breaches that could abruptly arrest the runner’s progress.
Simultaneously, they must exhibit remarkable accuracy in their assignments. Their acumen lies in swiftly identifying the optimal targets to block and then resolutely engaging with those designated opponents.
As the season unfolded, it became evident that the efficacy of this running game falters when the offensive line grapples with issues related to target selection or the prevention of penetration.
This struggle is particularly pronounced when the meticulous orchestration of zone-blocking principles falls short of its intended execution.
In the previous week’s match against Dallas, the Packers’ running game operated at peak performance.
In the ensuing video clip, Lacy adeptly maneuvers towards one flank of the formation, inducing lateral movement from the opposing defense.
The coordination between the offensive line and the lead blocker is impeccable, with each executing their assignments precisely.
The moment Lacy identifies an opening in the defensive line, he accelerates through the gap with unwavering resolve, rendering arm tackles ineffective.
This swift and resolute action not only showcases his decisiveness but also propels him through the line of scrimmage at such a pace that the lurking safety is unable to become a determining factor in the play (refer below).
In a different scenario against the Cowboys, Lacy strategically extends the play laterally.
At the precise moment when he detects the opening generated by the formidable offensive line, he executes a single decisive cut and rapidly propels himself through the newly created gap.
What amplifies the significance of this sequence is the profound impact that triumph at the line of scrimmage can exert on the overall defensive dynamics.
With Lacy consistently achieving breakthroughs on the primary side, a natural inclination emerges within the defense to overcommit toward neutralizing those advances.
These well-timed cutback maneuvers serve as masterful countermeasures against an assertive defensive front (see below).
Contrast those two runs with some from the week before.
In the depicted play, Lacy begins by shifting laterally; however, inexplicably, he abruptly halts his momentum and displays hesitation.
Instead of persisting towards the exterior where the clear pathway awaits, he opts to cut inward, directly into the path of pursuing defenders.
Opting to remain on the outside could have potentially yielded a gain of around four to five yards, even considering the possibility of the overlying linebacker’s involvement. The “stop-start” style of play does not align with Lacy’s strengths and tendencies (see below).
In the subsequent play versus Detroit, the offensive line noticeably felt the absence of their key players on the right side: guard Josh Sitton and tackle Brian Bulaga, both sidelined due to injuries.
Taylor Lane (No. 65) valiantly attempted to step in for Sitton, but unfortunately, in this particular instance, penetration was conceded, leaving the running play devoid of any opportunity to develop (see below).
The interplay between a delayed running action and the unwelcome intrusion of excessive penetration places immense strain on any rushing strategy.
Given the unique composition of Green Bay’s personnel and their distinctive proficiencies, this becomes a detrimental factor that can prove catastrophic to their game plan.
The Packers’ recent triumph can be attributed to the synchronized effort of their stalwart offensive linemen and the impeccable execution of the runners adhering to zone-blocking principles.
While a prevailing belief holds that a formidable running game hinges on possessing an elite ball carrier or a robust offensive line, the ultimate determinant rests in the meticulous execution of intricate aspects.
The Packers’ season-long performance underscores this principle: proficient execution of these nuances correlates directly with their running success, while lapses in execution manifest in struggles and related issues.
With upcoming matches against the Raiders, Cardinals, and Vikings, and considering the high stakes of playoff seeding, a well-orchestrated running game emerges as the pivotal offensive asset that could propel the Packers toward a substantial playoff journey.
Conversely, neglecting this facet could see the resurgence of other shortcomings.