In the past day there has been a lot written about Ty Montgomery and whether he should have taken a knee to give Aaron Rodgers one more opportunity with 2 minutes to go to engineer a game winning drive. How many more opportunities to did Rogers and the offense need? Sure one more in the two minute offense would have been great, but the offense had opportunities throughout the game and couldn’t put points on the board. The Packers went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the league, which was an accomplishment considering how the team has played this season. When the game kept moving along with the Packers leading the Rams and trailing, McCarthy, Philbin and Rodgers panicked and abandoned what was working….the run game.
Think back to the game for minute. How many times did the Packers on third and short throw the ball long instead of run it to keep the chains moving? How many times did the Packers run the ball in the second half against the Rams after starting the game out featuring Aaron Jones? McCarthy and company panicked too early in a game against an undefeated team that they could have won.
The current rotation at running back isn’t working and it isn’t helping the running backs get in any sort of rhythm. Against the Rams, Jones started the game as the number one running back. McCarthy and Philbin utilized him on first and second downs early in the game and then abandoned that. The Packers decision makers appear to not have faith that Jones is a three down back. If that is case, what they should be doing is featuring Jones on first and second down and then bringing in Williams on third down.
On Sunday, the Packers had 18 runs for a total of 106 yards. Aaron Jones lead all running backs with 12 carries for 86 yards, a touchdown and averaged 7.2 yards per carry. In the first five plays of the game, three of them were running plays to Aaron Jones. In total, the Packers ran the ball 12 times for 49 yards. Now we all know that Jones was tackled for a safety on one of those runs, which could have been avoided. All the boys upfront had to do was block and get a couple of yards of breathing room for Rodgers to operate. Since the Rams stacked the box, the other option was for Rodgers to run a play action and hit the slant. As Aaron Nagler points out, the slant was staring you right in the face.
The slant… *stares blankly into the distance…* pic.twitter.com/Iz0xTkXI56
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) October 29, 2018
In the second half they ran the ball 6 times for 47 yards. It was highlighted by a 33 yard run by Aaron Jones for a touchdown.
“All too easy..”
*Vader voice* pic.twitter.com/0o6PIpeVyp
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) October 29, 2018
What happened to the running game in the second half? The yardage was nearly identical in the second half as it was in the first half. Granted, 33 of those 47 yards came on one play. On 4 of the third down plays in the second half, McCarthy didn’t call 1 single run play. He opted to throw the football every single time. The result was either a sack or incomplete pass. They would run the ball on 2nd and 2 but when it comes to 3rd and 2; Rodgers is either in shotgun to drops back and throws the ball 10 yards down field. With the running game being effective in the first half of the game, McCarthy and Rodgers needed to stick to it in the second half. By doing so, it may have extended drives and increased their time of possession. Having two drives not even last 1:30 in second half is not going to cut it. The Rams controlled the clock, having the football for 34:10 compared to the Packers 25:50. Being able to convert on third down by running the football instead of throwing it would even that out. Who knows, then it may not even have come down to a decision to come out of the end zone with 2 minutes remaining in the game.
Sometimes the best defensive strategy is a running game that keeps the opposing offense off the field and your defense resting and fresh on the sidelines. The offense is still sputtering, even though there were glimpses of them coming out of it against the Rams, but with a stronger more balanced run game things can turn around quickly.
Moving forward, McCarthy, Philbin and Rodgers need to stick to the run game in the second half. By running the football they will open up the passing game even more. Plus, the play action pass would become lethal with Rodgers executing it. With Aaron Jones becoming a threat every time he touches the football, the safeties will start to creep up, making the defenses susceptible to the deep ball. Jones is the key to the Packers offense. Running the football more provides this team with more opportunities and could turn the offense around.
Anthony Haag is a writer for PackersTalk.com. He has been a Packers fan since the day he was born and truly bleeds green and gold. He makes annual visits to Lambeau Field and has attended his fair share of games. You can follow Anthony on Twitter at @anthony_haag