Run Game: If at First You Don't Succeed ...

... The Packers have tried and tried again. You know the Packers' run game has struggled. We dig much deeper to get the scoop you won't find anywhere else. For instance, are the Packers running the ball more or does it only seem that way? The answer might surprise you.

For consecutive games, Green Bay Packers running back Alex Green has taken the handoff and run into a brick wall.

After carrying 20 times for 35 yards against St. Louis, Green mustered 54 yards on 22 attempts on Sunday against Jacksonville. That's a two-game average of 2.1 yards per carry.

Coach Mike McCarthy was stumped for a moment when asked if he's made a conscious effort to stick with the run.

"Not really," McCarthy said after a pause. "I know every game that I call is really its own entity. I don't ever check run-pass percentages anymore. I used to. We played off it. The offenses today are different. The mind-set of how you approach the game and the research and the information is a little more versatile than lining up and just running it to run it or throwing it to throw it."

When the Packers signed Cedric Benson, it seemed to signal a desire to be more balanced and more versatile, to provide the offense another avenue for success in a potential bad-weather playoff game.

The big carry counts by Green and Benson, however, mask a surprising reality.

The Packers are throwing the ball more than any time in franchise history.

Through eight games, the Packers have run the ball 37.4 percent of the time (195 running plays and 327 passes/sacks). Compare that to the rest of the Aaron Rodgers era: 40.0 percent running plays in 2011, 42.1 percent in 2010, 42.0 percent in 2009 and 43.2 percent in 2008.

The only other season on par with this year was 2005, when Samkon Gado replaced an injured Ahman Green, the team trailed for most of a 4-12 season and Mike Sherman ran the ball 37.9 percent of the time.

On the other hand, McCarthy is focusing a little more on running the ball on first-and-10 than the past couple seasons. This season, the first-and-10 run percentage is 46.9, compared to 45.6 percent in 2011 and 46.2 percent in 2010. However, that's still less than 2009 (48.1 percent) and 2008 (49.1 percent).

However you slice it, the running game hasn't been good enough. The Packers are 26th with 3.7 yards per carry — a figure padded by Rodgers' 4.8-yard average. Against Jacksonville, the Packers averaged just 2.5 yards and the long run was for merely 8 yards.

"We obviously didn't run the ball the way we want to run the ball, and that's partly due to Jacksonville, partly due to the blocking, partly due to the runner," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said.

Of Green's 22 attempts, he was held to 2 yards or less on 12 carries. He topped 3 yards just five times. On first-and-10, Green averaged 2.9 yards. The offense faced second-and-8 or worse six times following Green runs.

"Well, we'd like to turn most of those 1s and 2s into 4s and 5s and that would allow you to stay on schedule a little better," Clements said. "We were in a number of third-and-1 and third-and-2s, which that's good. If you get 4 yards instead of 2 yards, then you don't have those third-and-1s you have to convert. We hope to be more productive with the running game. It didn't work out yesterday, and we're going to keep working on it."

The coaches wouldn't point fingers, and running the ball is a team effort. However, McCarthy twice said that Green has "earned" the right to be the No. 1 ball-carrier. That seemed to signal that more of the blame should fall on an offensive line — the only healthy unit on the team and a veteran bunch that's played a lot of football.

"Anytime you try to run the ball and you don't have success, they're a prideful group, and the running backs are prideful, and they want it to work out a little better," Clements said when asked directly about the line. "So, we're gong to work at it and try to get it done."

If there was any bright side, Green converted two of his three chances on third-and-1. He should have moved the chains all three times but tripped over Bryan Bulaga; Mason Crosby missed a 32-yard field goal on the next play.

However, the Packers got the ball twice with a 21-15 lead in the fourth quarter. Green carried five times for 12 yards, and the Packers only put the game away because of pass interference on Rodgers' long pass to James Jones on third-and-7.

"There's a point in every game you need to buckle down and run the ball," McCarthy said.

The Packers are still waiting for the run game to make that statement.

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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

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