Packer Hustle: McCarthy restores balance to offense
Mike McCarthy has restored balance to the Green Bay offense.
Months ago, Packers fans rejoiced in McCarthy surrendering play-calling duties – even your humble columnist celebrated the move. But for Sunday's game, the head coach took back the play-calling and served up a balanced attack that took home a 28-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Despite signs of life (bumpy though the road has been) from the running game all year, offensive coordinator Tom Clements thought it best to stick with a flaccid passing game, obnoxious shotgun formations and a rather annoying tendency to correct his chronic mistakes at the last possible second. Sometimes I actually pictured him saying “Just go deep” when feeding the play call to Aaron Rodgers.
Sunday, wide receivers were called upon to run more curl routes and bubble screens, rather than tedious, downfield routes they struggled to get open on. And the Packers ran 39 pass plays (for 205 yards) and 40 run plays (for 230 yards).
That is some zen-like, meditative-oneness, yoga-level balance for Green Bay.
Forces of Victory
1. Eddie Lacy (Last week: Doghouse No. 3)–When he's on his game, nobody else in the league runs like him. He is equally skilled at running train over someone and spinning past them. He carried defenders for about 14 yards on his almost-touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter. And the spin move! The spin move will make you swoon. (Major props to James Starks, as well, for 103 total yards and two scores.)
2. Mike McCarthy (Last week: Not ranked)
[Packers' locker room.]
Tom Clements: [Sighs. Hands over clipboard.] I'll be in my booth.
3. Defensive backs (Last week: NR)–It helped that Tony Romo was on the bench and that Dez Bryant dropped a few passes, but the secondary had things on lock down. Damarious Randall stayed on Bryant after Sam Shields had to leave, and even Micah Hyde covered the tight end pretty well.
4. The offensive line (Last week: NR)–Dallas' defensive line isn't much, but with injuries across the line, the big boys up front carved up the defenders with ease Sunday and kept the QB reasonably protected.
5. Randall Cobb (Last week: Doghouse No. 2)–Dude was by far the most valuable target for the passing game. He caught eight of 12 passes for 81 yards. He also got up in the face of defenders several times, providing key blocks while Lacy and Starks busted big runs.
Dropped from FOV: Richard Rodgers (he caught only one pass, but it was a touchdown, so hey, whatevs), Aaron Rodgers* (a few bad throws aside, he had a sound game. Didn't have to make any standout efforts with a free-flowing run game and better play-calling) Sam Shields (held up decently well against Dez Bryant before his concussion, although the interception was a stroke of luck), Julius Peppers and Mike Daniels (see “the front seven” down below).
Forces of Doom
1. The front seven (Last week: NR)–It held steady in the first half, but after that the hinges snapped off. The run defense was made to look like chumps several times in giving up 171 yards on the ground. Aside from two gimme sacks, the pass rush had little influence.
2. Everyone who has ever played offense on third- (or fourth-)-and-short for the Green Bay Packers within the last – I don't even know – FOUR YEARS? (Last week: NR)–For years now this offense could convert on fourth-down-and-a-mile, but if you ask it to move the ball three feet (such as the fourth and goal against Dallas) it's like everyone's all of the sudden drunk.
3. Davante Adams (Last week: Doghouse No. 2)–On a better night for the passing game, Adams didn't do much to help things along. Two catches for 12 yards. Sophomore slumps are fine, but he was overly hyped in the offseason.
Ascended from FOD: Tom Clements (you just sit back and enjoy the game, Tom), the wide receivers (they got open and they hung on to the ball), the running backs (the up-and-down season continues).
Next week: Oakland Raiders
Green Bay will attempt to not be a hot, steaming mess for two consecutive games for the first time since mid-October.
*Rodgers' performance is judged based on superhuman standards.
Reporter Elliot Hughes has been with GazetteXtra since 2015. His sportswriting has appeared in The Huffington Post, the Isthmus and The Classical. Follow him on Twitter @elliothughes12 or email him at [email protected].