James Starks rushes for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings. Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports photograph
The Green Bay Packers dominant 44-31 win over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday night only proves that a balanced offensive attack is nearly impossible to defend.
The 2013 Packers look a little different than the teams in Green and Gold of recent memory. Defined by an air-it-out offense and opportunistic defense, previous Green Bay teams lacked the balance on both sides of the ball necessary to win tough games on the road.
Now, I can’t necessarily say the victory at the Metrodome was a “tough” game, nor did I think it was going to be. However, the Vikings are still a division opponent, and one that has given the Packers their fair share of challenges over the past few years.
With the amount of injuries the Packers are dealing with on both sides of the ball, it could have been a fair match when the Packers traveled to Minnesota on Sunday. Some even thought the Vikings were set up to pull off the upset.
But this Packers team is different. Their identity has changed. Whether that has derived by choice or out of necessity, it doesn’t matter. The Packers are a tough and versatile team this year. With Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and a revived offensive line, Green Bay can run the ball just as effectively as they can pass it.
When was the last time we’ve ever said that about a Packers team? Certainly not in the Rodgers’ era.
This Packers team can put up the yards and points with the best of them. Despite the injuries at wideout they still have the fifth-ranked passing offense in the league at 297.4 yards per game. This in large part has to due with Aaron Rodger’s excellence, but it also shows the depth on this roster and the Packers ability to adjust their game plan according to their personnel.
Heading into Sunday night, Green Bay decided they would beat the Vikings stout defensive front with their run game. They could silence the crowd at the Metrodome one last time with off tackle runs by Lacy and dive plays from Starks.
The Packers ran the ball 42 times and passed only 29 times. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen the Green Bay offense favor the run this much in a game. Not since the days of Ahman Green.
After Sunday night’s 182-yard performance on the ground, the Packers moved up to the fourth-ranked rushing offense in the NFL and average 141.4 rushing yards a game. They also average 4.8 yards a carry, which is tied for third in the league, and they have rushed for first down 53 times so far this season, which ties them for sixth in the league in this category.
Lacy is well on his way to breaking the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie this season, and Starks’ 6.0 rushing average makes him an effective change-of-pace back.
In six straight games rushing for over 100 yards as a team, the Packers have proven they can get it done pounding the ball on the ground. This will not only help them late in the season and during their playoff run, but it also helps them withstand all the injuries on offense.
Can you imagine the 2011 Packers, or even last year’s team, pulling off victories on the road without three of their four top receivers?
Me neither. But now we don’t have to worry. The Packers are getting it done and in convincing fashion without some of their key playmakers. They nearly doubled Minnesota’s time of possession on Sunday night and ended every offensive series with points.
When they play balanced football like this, they have the ability to maintain control of each and every game. They also have the ability to contend with anyone in the league.
Yes, even Seattle, New Orleans, and Denver.
I can’t wait to see more. As a Packers fan, you should be excited about this team.
And the best part is that this team feels like it’s getting better each and every week and still has room to grow. I can’t wait to see how they’ll look when they get Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Randall Cobb, and James Jones back.