Pass to daylight

Though the Packers have struggled to run the ball this season, Brett Favre and the offense has been effective with the passing game. So why mess with a good thing? PackerReport.com's Matt Tevsh offers his opinion on why the running game should only complement the passing attack.

Brett Favre has initiated the statement over and over the past couple of years – "We need to find something to hang our hat on."

How about a poor running game, Brett?

After a somewhat surprising 35-13 victory over the Giants at the Meadowlands last week, the Packers continued to defy unconventional football wisdom. Despite being one of the league's worst rushing teams, they are winning football games.

After seeing their running backs struggle for a yard or two with seemingly each running play, the Packers found an offensive flow in the second half last week. Should that continue, the Packers have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.

Favre had one of his best games in years. He threw to eight different receivers and was 29 of 38 passing. Most importantly, he led sustainable drives and found success in the red zone without the aid of a consistent rushing attack.

Of course having a strong ground game that harkens backs to the Ahman Green days would be ideal. That style, though, is unfit for this team.

Dating back to last season, the Packers have remarkably won six games in a row. In those games, they have rushed for just 91.7 yards per game (average of 3.2 yards per rush). Yes, the Packers' defense did its part to help win those games, but still the Packers' offense found a way to score enough points in each game to win.

This year, against better opponents in the Eagles and Giants, the Packers have just 129 yards on 46 carries, yet are 2-0 as a team. Without top back Vernand Morency, the Packers have had to adjust with rookies Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn and newcomer Ryan Grant, but more than anything their offensive line has played poorly.

"Their mistakes were in the run-blocking," said head coach Mike McCarthy of his evaluation of last week's game. "Their pass protection was a win. We felt that we won that phase of the game. It was the run-blocking, particularly in the third quarter."

While McCarthy will continue to stress improvement in the running game, he would be wise to take some focus off it and look more at what the Packers did well against the Giants. Everyone knows a strong runner is tough to beat, but what the Packers did on offense most recently is even tougher to beat. It was almost a flashback to the Mike Holmgren era. They got their backs involved in the passing game, they used the tight end up the middle and in the red zone, and they spread the ball around. The running game was merely a complement, most effective late in the game when the Packers were ahead. Wynn made some nice moves for the final score, a 38-yard touchdown run.

When McCarthy took over as head coach in 2006, he proclaimed the Packers would be a running team. In reality, they could not be more the opposite. Last season, Favre attempted a career-high 613 passes, something McCarthy would probably say was dictated by how each game unfolded. That, however, is precisely the point. When McCarthy gets involved in play-calling and the energy of game day, even his best laid-out intentions are put to rest. The Packers always defer to the pass, and thus, should emphasize strengths there. Continue to spread out the field, keep Favre in the shotgun, and take shots downfield only after the short pass has been established.

To further illustrate why the Packers should not force-feed the run is to evaluate their offensive line. It is a unit built to pass protect because of its size and agility. Why not play to those strengths?

The Packers desperately need Morency back in the lineup to kick-start their running game this week against the Chargers, but only for the reason that he could be dangerous if used in a limited role. Like Vince Workman and Edgar Bennett before him, he should be a great running weapon for a passing team.

In the meantime, the Packers are finding specific roles for Wynn and Grant as backups, something that should serve them well in situations, if not for the entire length of a game.

Maybe this whole "We need to establish the running game" thing is a little overrated. The Packers have found ways in the past to win with poor rushing teams and have found a way again with this team. In the process, they may just have found something to hang their hat on.

Matt Tevsh is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com.


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