Green Bay has made it a priority to achieve offense balance between the pass and run games. Earlier in the season, they struggled to make gains against defenses that were allowed to sit back in heavy pass coverage because the Packers had no real running threat.
Two weeks ago against the Arizona Cardinals, coach Mike McCarthy made a big statement in his commitment to the running game when the Packers executed more running plays than passing plays. McCarthy carried over the play calling against the Lions with 27 pass plays and 29 run plays.
The running game, however, was not terribly successful. Green Bay gained only 95 yards on those 29 carries for a pitiful average of 3.3 yards.
Additionally, they were playing against a team whose secondary was badly injured. The Lions had already lost rookie cornerback Bill Bentley for the season, safety Louis Delmas was out with a knee injury, safety Amari Spievey was out with a concussion, corner Chris Houston was playing with an ankle injury, and corner Drayton Florence, who was just returning from a broken arm, suffered a head injury early in the game (though he did return).
I’m split on whether to praise or criticize the Packers’ approach. While I appreciate the dedication to the running game, I think the Packers could have done a better job taking advantage of the circumstances. Then again, Green Bay has gotten itself into trouble by becoming one dimensional when the run has not met with success, and Aaron Rodgers wasn’t particularly “on” at Detroit.
All in all, when you have the best quarterback in the league when facing an injury-riddled secondary and the running game isn’t going anywhere, it might be better to lean towards your strengths. I would have the liked to see the Packers throw more to see just how well Detroit’s injured secondary could have held up against the reigning MVP.
The Packers got the win, so my inner debate is pretty moot, but this scenario could easily come up again in the season. As long as the Packers are running enough to keep defenders from vacating the box, they should let Rodgers’ arm be the star.