What’s the old saying, you can’t have it both ways – and should the Green Bay Packers adhere to that adage?
Early on in the season and especially following the debacle in Seattle, Green Bay Packers offensive linemen were muttering about how opposing team’s defensive linemen were, to paraphrase, pinning their ears back and coming after Aaron Rodgers. No respect or consideration for that matter was given to the Packers running game. Opposing defenses were simply charging hard for Aaron Rodgers, an offensive lineman’s nightmare.
All season long Packers Coach Mike McCarthy has been trying to establish the running game. Now after two consecutive 100-plus yard games by-committee efforts, the pundits are up in arms.
The argument, and it’s a good one, is you can’t take the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands and expect to win. There are no Adrian Petersons in the Packer backfield. This is true. Alex Green, DuJuan Harris, Ryan Grant, and when healthy, James Starks are not going to win you Super Bowls. But they might ensure Packers fans that Aaron Rodgers stays on the field so they have a fighting chance.
Of course it would be nice, but the Packers don’t need an Adrian Peterson. They simply need a respectable running game. They need the opposing team’s defensive lineman to hesitate just a second to see if the Packers are running the ball. That second is the difference between Aaron Rodgers finding an open receiver and Aaron Rodgers running for his life.
The other portion of the argument is opposing defenses simply don’t respect the Packers running backs enough to slow their charge of Aaron Rodgers. There is probably some truth to this perspective. But as Packers fans know, Mike McCarthy is stubborn. His commitment to running the ball this year is evidence of that. The success of the running game against the Vikings and the Lions is proof that you don’t need an All-Pro running back to run past defenders. It simply means the Packers running backs need to capitalize on opportunity. And it seems they have the talent to do so.
Establishing the running game will open up the short passing game and ultimately the deep pass. In 2011 the Packers were able to score at will by throwing the ball and then throwing the ball some more. Opposing teams have caught on to this scheme.
Now it’s time to migrate back a bit closer to the roots of the West Coast Offense on which the Packers predicate their scheme.
Establish the run, get yards in chunks with the short pass, and then take it to the bank with the long pass. Despite what the pundits say, you can have it both ways.