Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) rushes against
Minnesota Vikings strong safety Mistral Raymond (41) in the
second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013,
GREEN BAY —
Mike McCarthy has known for a while the Green Bay Packers' running
game would be in good shape.
better, I promise you that," the Packers eighth-year head
coach said in June after one offseason practice. "You can
write that down. In big letters."
Seven games into
the season, McCarthy's team is delivering on his promise.
After rushing for
182 yards — tying the team's season high — during Sunday
night's 44-31 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers are
averaging 141.4 yards rushing per game (fourth in the NFL) and 4.8
yards per carry (tied for third in the NFL).
Last season, the
Packers averaged 106.4 yards rushing per game (No. 20 in the
league) and 3.9 yards per carry (22nd in the league).
took over as head coach in 2006, the highest the Packers have ever
been ranked in rushing in the NFL is 14th in 2009 (117.8).
Only twice in
2008 and 2009, when Ryan Grant put together back-to-back
1,200-yard seasons — have the Packers finished higher than 20th
But when asked
Monday whether it was gratifying to see his plan come to fruition,
McCarthy took exception.
Bay Packers running back James Starks (44) runs into the end
zone for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football
game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013,
"Has it come
to fruition? We're not even halfway through the season,"
McCarthy said. "We're getting better."
Vikings, rookie Eddie Lacy ran 29 times for 94 yards and one
touchdown (giving him 395 yards over the past four games). James
Starks added 57 yards and a touchdown on seven carries in his
first action since suffering a Week 3 knee injury at Cincinnati on
After going 44
consecutive regular-season games without a 100-yard rusher, the
Packers have had three of them (Starks, Lacy and No. 3 back
Johnathan Franklin) in seven games.
statistics. There's one statistic that counts and we're working
our way toward it, and we're a long way from that," McCarthy
ball's part of it. We're getting better as a football team,
particularly on offense, the way we're playing, we're utilizing
our personnel. ... That's the way I look at it."
And what would
qualify as his promise coming to fruition?
talking about it in February, right?" McCarthy said referring
to the Super Bowl at the Meadowlands. "Isn't that what this
is all about?"
In the meantime,
it's hard to deny what a difference the running game has made in
the Packers' offense.
Aaron Rodgers remains the focal point, he is seeing defenses
approach the Packers differently.
While playing two
safeties deep to guard against the big-play passing game remains a
key part of defensive game plans, Rodgers said the run game is
"definitely changing the way teams are playing us."
Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy looks at the scoreboard
in the second half of an NFL football game against the
Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, in Minneapolis.
The Packers won 44-31.
Sunday night's victory if the run game has exceeded his
expectations, Rodgers said: "I think that's safe to say. It
definitely has. Eddie's done a great job, and then to get James
back this week, he's a slasher in every sense of that word.
some great cuts, (had a) big touchdown run for us. Eddie was just
pounding it. He's tough to bring down, he's like a bowling ball in
there. I'm really proud of the job those guys did, but the
offensive line again deserves a lot of credit."
Not only are the
Packers getting better execution from their offensive line and
have better talent at running back, McCarthy and offensive
coordinator Tom Clements said they have given Rodgers more
responsibility in the run game.
more on the plate of our quarterback and he's handled it very
well," McCarthy said. "I always worry about putting too
much on the quarterback's plate because at the end of the day he's
not paid to make run adjustments. He's paid to throw
Rodgers is doing
24 of 29 passes for 285 yards with two touchdowns and no
interceptions (130.6 passer rating) against the Vikings while also
getting into the running act with four scrambles for 34 yards,
Rodgers has completed 167 of 249 passes for 2,191 yards with 15
touchdowns and four interceptions (108.0 rating) this season.
But in the
running game, he's also making decisions on when and how to run
McCarthy has long
had as a component in his offense run/pass option plays, on which
Rodgers decides at the line of scrimmage whether to make it a run
or pass play.
But this season,
Rodgers is also making adjustments on run calls.
Clements, on many run plays, Rodgers comes to the line of
scrimmage with a menu of variations on a run call and has the
responsibility of selecting the best one.
"Aaron is a
guy that I think takes pride in making correct adjustments to get
us into a good plays. He's been very effective with that,"
"A lot of
the runs we get, obviously we're getting great running and great
blocking, but he's making some adjustments on his own or talking
with the line on the sideline to get us in the proper play.
"It's a fine
line. We don't want to overload him, we don't want overload any of
our players. But we have smart players and they're able to make