Green Bay had undoubtedly their best full game of offense in 2016 against the Falcons.
Aaron Rodgers put up 246 yards and 4 TDs while completing 73% of his passes. Three little-used receivers (Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis, Geronimo Allison) each became big parts of the gameplan, seeing their season-high in snaps (58, 36, 19, respectively) and catching TDs. The unit put up 32 points (2nd-most on their year) while scoring on 5 of their 9 drives (including 4 of the first 5). The effort is one that would win most weeks.
It probably isn’t sustainable for too long however, due to the startling lack of balance displayed in their play-calling.
According to Pro Football Focus, of the 62 offensive plays for the Packers on Sunday, just 13 were designed runs. The leading rusher for the team was Rodgers, garnering a career-high 60 yards on six scrambles against man defenses which left big blocks of space for him to attack with his legs. Outside of him though, the Packers managed just 48 yards between the sad hydra of Don Jackson, Aaron Ripkowski, and the since-released Knile Davis.
Rodgers has done well so far in this run-allergic attack (past two games: 71.2% completion percentage on 94 throws, 572 yards, 7 TDs, 0 INTs, 113.85 passer rating, 84.2 QBR), but expecting him to shoulder this much of a load for a long time could be dangerous on multiple levels.
For one thing, he could wear himself down with all these throws (especially if he’s running often as well). Defenses can also hone in on just one facet of the game as well, not worrying about a running threat while stacking up in coverage and letting their pass rushers pin their ears back to rush every down.
The biggest problem could be with their offensive line though. The line has been the best in the league to this point in pass blocking, but forcing them to hold their ground every down (rather than in the running game, where they can plow forward) will tire them out not just in a single game but cumulatively across the year.
We already might be seeing some of the pitfalls of this, with T.J. Lang having to miss time in both of the past two games due to injuries; when he goes down, the immortal Don Barclay has been getting the call, and it’s instantly noticeable how much worse the blocking becomes. Besides just that one aspect, we see a team in Atlanta — which has not rushed the passer well since the days of John Abraham — managing to apply pressure much more often than we should expect given the matchup.
According to PFF, Rodgers saw pressure on 17 of his 47 dropbacks (36%), and the defense managed their three sacks on those plays. This was surprisingly done without blitzing too; only 6 of 47 snaps saw Rodgers get blitzed, and two of the three sacks came on non-blitzes.
Green Bay is kind of stuck in a tough spot due to the injuries and ineffectiveness at running back right now (Eddie Lacy is on IR, James Starks is out for at least a couple more weeks with his meniscus injury, Ty Montgomery apparently has the sickle-cell trait, and the other guys left have not yet shown to be reliable enough to carry the load of being a top running option), but they need to find some way to make their running game something teams at least have to consider trying to defend before their line crumbles under the strain of endless pass blocking.