Offense Kept Moving, Even Without Rodgers

Even without their MVP quarterback for half the season, the Packers piled up the second-most yards in franchise history. Mike McCarthy's brilliant decision on the offensive line and the monster rookie season by Eddie Lacy have the offense built for sustained success.

The Green Bay Packers fielded one of the best offenses of all-time in 2011. Their 560 points, at the time, was the second-most in NFL history.

In 2013, the Packers' offense had the potential to be as good. Maybe even better.

The Packers averaged 400.3 yards per game. Even with Aaron Rodgers missing about half the season and a watered-down corps of pass catchers, that ranked third in the league and was second in team history. In 2011, the Packers ranked third with a franchise-record 405.1 yards per game.

"I hate doing this, especially because I call the plays, (but) I felt that this was going to be the best offense that we've ever had here," coach Mike McCarthy said after the season. "I thought we were going to go past 2011. When we came out of the Minnesota game (on Oct. 27), I thought we really, really hit our stride because we had a couple of bumps there. We got the no-huddle offense where it needed to be; we changed a lot of the mechanics from the past. I felt very, very good about our offense and our numbers reflected it, too."

Obviously, rolling up and down the field is all well and good, but scoring points is what matters. Green Bay's 417 points ranked eighth in the league but was 143 points less than two seasons ago.

Still, the Packers were finding their groove. After managing 22 points against Detroit and 19 against Baltimore in back-to-back wins, the Packers piled up 31 points against Cleveland. Then came the blowout win at Minnesota. Without Jermichael Finley, Randall Cobb and James Jones, the Packers never punted en route to 44 points. After going 0-for-6 in the red zone against the Lions and Ravens, the Packers went 5-of-8 against the Browns and Vikings.

Then came Rodgers' broken collarbone on the first series of the Chicago game. After sputtering to just 312 yards with Seneca Wallace at quarterback against the Bears, the Packers gained 396 against Philadelphia and 394 against the Giants. But Green Bay went just 1-of-6 in the red zone and lost both games 27-13.

While this season ended with another crashing thud against San Francisco, the Packers might be better off in the long run.

A woebegone running game came to life behind the thundering legs of Eddie Lacy and a stroke of coaching genius by McCarthy in his sweeping revamp of the offensive line. The Packers ranked seventh in rushing with 2,136 yards. In the previous nine seasons, they averaged 1,675. They ranked fourth with 4.65 yards per carry. Lacy, the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year on Saturday night, had a great season. James Starks figures to leave in free agency after leading the league in yards per carry, but there shouldn't be much of a drop-off with the return of DuJuan Harris and a possible Year 2 leap by Johnathan Franklin.

Three starters are heading to free agency: center Evan Dietrich-Smith, receiver James Jones and tight end Jermichael Finley. Whatever happens with those three, the offense should be strong so long as Rodgers, Cobb and Lacy stay healthy next season.

"I think this is the end of a window and the beginning of a new one," Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on ESPN Milwaukee at the end of the season. "I think this is a year where we can really open up a new window that can last for four or five years. It looks really bright. I think if you look at the core of our team — our offensive line is looking the way that we want it, the receiver group looks incredible, we've got a big-time back in Eddie, not sure what James Starks will do, but the used-car salesman (Harris) is coming back. We have a lot of things that are setting up to be really good for a long time."

Remember, even with the injuries, the Packers scored 29 more points this season than they did when they won the Super Bowl in 2010. And the defense provided 28 of those points in 2010. With so much firepower on offense, the Packers can dedicate this draft to finding some firepower for its defense.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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