Packers: One key theme in each of Green Bay’s defeats in 2020

Green Bay Packers, Matt LaFleur - Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers, Matt LaFleur - Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Green Bay Packers only lost four times this past season, one of which costing them a chance to return to the Super Bowl.

At their best, the Packers won with their No. 1 scoring offense, able to throw or run on any defense.

Except when they lost, there was one apparent theme, which was abandoning the run game. In all four of their losses, the Packers’ offense became too one-dimensional and got away from their rushing attack, even in situations when leaning on it made complete sense.

To go into further detail, let’s look closer at each defeat.

Week 6 at Tampa Bay

The Packers began the game with a handoff to Aaron Jones which didn’t gain any yards. While it proved to be a tough day for the ground game against a strong Buccaneers run defense, Green Bay shied away from its rushing attack quite early.

Aaron Rodgers would drop back to pass on seven of the team’s next eight plays, resulting in a Mason Crosby field goal.

Green Bay’s next possession was its most successful with its lone touchdown of the day. On an 11-play scoring drive, the Packers ran the ball five times and passed six times. Despite only rushing for three yards on the first two, they stayed committed to the ground game and Jamaal Williams broke out a 25-yard gain. AJ Dillon then had a seven-yard gain which was called back on a penalty.

The next two drives saw Aaron Rodgers intercepted twice, a 10-0 lead evaporate and the Packers seemed to panic. After rushing seven times in their opening two possessions, they’d only have 12 more attempts on the following 10 drives. Five of those belonged to AJ Dillon when the game was effectively over late in the fourth quarter.

By becoming one-dimensional, the Bucs’ pass rush teed off and got pressure all game long, finishing with five sacks.

Week 8 vs. Minnesota

This one was particularly frustrating.

Green Bay’s offense looked unstoppable on its opening possession. It was a 13-play touchdown drive and the Vikings had no answer for whatever the Packers chose to do. Jamaal Williams had seven carries for 39 yards on the first possession alone and Green Bay made it look easy.

They would score another TD on a 15-play drive next. This time, AJ Dillon led the way with five carries for 21 yards with Williams carrying three times for nine yards.

The run game was working. At halftime, the score was tied at 14-14. The Packers had run the ball 16 times for 77 yards.

Then, all of a sudden, they stopped. They would carry just five more times for 19 yards in the second half. With the Vikings scoring a TD to lead 21-14 with the first possession of the third quarter, it seemed like the Packers panicked yet again. Rodgers dropped back and dropped back and the Vikings got a couple of stops.

It quickly became 28-14 and Green Bay had forgotten all about their run game.

Week 11 at Indianapolis

The Colts’ defense proved tough to run on throughout the game but the Packers achieved some balance in the first half. They ran 11 times for 43 yards and a touchdown in the opening two frames. Importantly, they went into the half in control of the game, leading 28-14.

It was the perfect time to lean on the ground game, control the tempo, and put the game away.

Yet again, the Packers got away from their rushing attack and as the Colts pulled themselves back into the contest (by running the football, no less), it became pass-pass-pass again for Green Bay.

Despite beginning the third quarter with a two-score lead, Green Bay ran the ball only four times for 10 yards in the second half, eventually losing in overtime.

NFC Championship Game vs. Tampa Bay

Unfortunately, there were too many similarities between the NFC title game and the earlier meeting with Tampa Bay. The Packers ran the ball only 16 times while Rodgers threw 48 times. That’s not the recipe for success against a dominant pass rush which, yet again, pressured Rodgers all day long.

From the get-go, the Packers were seemingly against staying committed to the ground game.

Now, I understand it more after two costly turnovers led to a 28-10 Bucs lead in the third quarter. But Rodgers marched the offense down the field for two quick touchdowns and before the third quarter was over, it was 28-23. Game on. No need to panic.

The Packers kicked off the fourth by intercepting Brady. With an entire quarter left to play and a chance to take the lead, this was the time for the offense to stay balanced, take their time and go take the lead.

Instead, they opted for three passes. Three-and-out. Here comes the defense with yet another interception to give the offense another opportunity. Pass. Pass. Pass. Punt.

While Green Bay did briefly get far behind in the game, it quickly pulled back and for the entire fourth quarter, this game was close. Yet in the fourth, the Packers ran the ball once for nine yards.

An impressive nine-yard run and the Packers decided, that’s enough of that nonsense, let’s throw the football. Needless to say, they couldn’t get in the end zone, kicked a field goal, and fell short.

Once again, they abandoned the run game far too soon.

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