The Green Bay Packers being a better running team this year isn't just a perception, it's a hard and fast reality.
They are better balanced, more successful running the ball, and more efficient passing the ball, despite passing it less.
"That offense doesn't need a running back that's going to just blatantly take off. But, yeah, you get 4, 5, 6 yards on first down that's tough because do you play for the run, do you play for the play action, is he going to go down (field)?" defensive end Jared Allen said. "You don't know."
After six games last year, the Packers were 3-3 and were relying on their passing much more. They had only 30 first downs rushing and 86 passing.
This year, they are 4-2 after six games, have 42 first downs rushing and 80 passing.
"It just adds an element to their offense that they haven't had before. It really keeps you more balanced as a defense," defensive end Brian Robison said. "You've got to be in tune to the run now as well as the pass. Not only are they able to run the ball better now, but they're actually running it pretty well. We've just got to make sure you shut down the running game and take care of Lacey and obviously you don't necessarily want the ball in Aaron Rodgers' hands, but we've got to get them in that mode where they feel they have to pass and we've got to get after them."
But the Packers aren't just running the ball more often (22 more rushes through six games), they are running it much better.
Last year, they were averaging 4.1 yards per rush after six games; this year, they are at 4.9. Last year they were averaging 97.5 yards rushing per game; this year, that has ballooned to 134.7 yards.
Rookie RB Eddie Lacy leads the way with 83 rushes for 352 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's powerful. He's one of those guys that he's not going to get brought down with arm tackles," Robison said. "He's going to keep his feet churning. We've got to make sure that we put some hats on him and when we do wrap up and bring him to the ground."
Cornerback Chris Cook said the Packers are still running the same plays they did last year, but having Lacy makes them more balanced. However, it's far from just the Eddie Lacy show in Green Bay.
James Starks has 34 rushes for 187 yards (5.5 average) and Johnathan Franklin has 19 carries for 107 yards (5.6 average).
"They're a lot more balanced than they were last year. They've been running the ball very effectively even though they haven't had a ton of home run hits from the running backs," Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "They keep the chains moving. You have to account for the back. The line has been very consistent with the guys that have been in there. That's the reason for the improvement up front. They're hitting on all cylinders and Lacy is a big reason for that."
That appears to be helping the always-dangerous passing game of the Packers, too.
They have six fewer passes, but instead of averaging 255 yards passing per game, like they were after six games in 2012, they are averaging 300 aerial yards per game.
Balance, it would appear, is the key. And the running game has allowed them to discover that balance.
"It is pick your poison, but bottom line, as we're seeing, the running game can hurt if you don't shut it down," Robison said. "It's awkward to sit here and talk about Green Bay running the ball and stuff like that, but the bottom line is they're running the ball and running it well."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Packers have a running game and it shows
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