Run Game Goes Nowhere Fast

Through three quarters, the Packers' running backs had gained minus-3 yards on the ground and the offense misfired twice in the red zone. With Brandon Jackson going nowhere fast, coach Mike McCarthy decided to spread the field and throw the ball.

Maybe Ryan Grant wouldn't have made a difference, but the Green Bay Packers' running game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday was horrible. Terrible. Pathetic. Pick a negative adjective and it certainly applies.

Brandon Jackson and Dimitri Nance combined for 26 yards on 11 carries. And even that woeful 2.4-yard average is skewed, considering Jackson rushed for 29 yards on four attempts in the fourth quarter, when the Packers mixed an occasional draw into their pass-happy attack.

The blocking was mostly horrible and the running backs didn't exactly turn chicken feathers into chicken soup.

That was evident when the Packers got inside the Falcons' 5-yard line twice in the first half. On third-and-1 from the Falcons' 4-yard line, Nance's second and third effort managed to get him back to the line of scrimmage. Coach Mike McCarthy said he tried to call a timeout because the Falcons substituted their goal-line difference after the play had been called. He didn't get the timeout, Nance didn't get the yard and the Packers had to settle for a 22-yard field goal to tie the game.

"We've got to execute better on those third-and-shorts," right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. "That's able to keep us on the field and keep drives going. We've been going pretty good the last couple weeks. We just weren't able to do it today."

In the second quarter, Rodgers moved the ball from the Packers' 15 to the Falcons' 2 on eight consecutive passes. On first-and-goal from the 2, Quinn Johnson got in the way of Rodgers' pass to an open Andrew Quarless in the end zone. On second-and-goal, Rodgers lined up in the shotgun out of an empty backfield and came to the line of scrimmage as if he was changing the protection, but instead called for a sneak. He but picked up only 1 yard and got hit on the funny bone. On third-and-goal, in a power formation with tackle T.J. Lang lined up as an extra right end, Rodgers was stuffed as he tried to slither between center Scott Wells and left guard Daryn Colledge and was stripped by linebacker Curtis Lofton for a game-turning turnover.

"As I got it, I went to bring it in and started moving and the guy hit me right on the ball and the ball came out. Inexcusable," Rodgers said.

It wasn't just in the red zone. On the Packers' first possession, Rodgers scrambled for 6 yards on first down but Jackson gained 1 on second down and the Packers punted. On the opening possession of the second half, Rodgers' 9-yard completion to Brett Swain set up a second-and-1, but Jackson lost 6 yards on second down and the Packers punted. Later in the quarter, Jackson lost 1 yard on second-and-1. Rather than run it, McCarthy called a flea-flicker, of all things, with Rodgers hitting Greg Jennings for 34 yards.

With the running game going nowhere, McCarthy basically scrapped any pretense of balance, turning to the mostly mothballed Big Five formation (five wide receivers), three receivers and a tight end, and four receivers. Of the Packers' 59 plays, Rodgers threw it 35 times, was sacked once and scrambled nine times. That's 45 of 59, or more than three-quarters.

"I didn't like what I saw in some of the running game and we had, we felt very good about the matchups we had outside so that's why we went with so much spread," McCarthy said.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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