Packers fans have been calling for a more “balanced offensive attack” for several years now, and rightly so. But the thought struck me this week…”What does that mean?” Most of the time when you hear of a balanced attack people mean they want more of a 50/50 split between the run and the pass. And when NFL announcers talk about the new Packers run game they often mention that we hadn’t had a 100 yard rusher in 44 games before this season, but is this really a good way to look at it? I think not.
Here’s my definition of a balanced offense: A balanced offense is one that has the pieces in place to deal with whatever the opposing defense throws at them.
That’s it…it has nothing to do with how many runs or how many passes or whether we have a 100 yard rusher or not. If the defense is strong against the run and stacks the box…sure we can pass the ball. If, however, the defense tries to limit Aaron Rodgers’s available wider receiver targets, we can run it down their throats. If that ratio is 50/50, so be it…if not, so be it. But success also has a lot to do with what plays are called and what sets are put in vs. the defense as well as how the players play so let’s take a quick look at three elements that give a team a balanced offensive attack…three things that the Packers now seem to have coming together at the right time. Here’s part one:
1. Play Calling:
Play calling is integral to the balance of the offense because no matter how good your players play, if the opposing defense is in your back pocket the play will not be successful. But the most important mistake we can make is to assume that the play calling comes down Mike McCarthy alone. It is not quite that easy. The quarterback is also involved in the play calling (audibles) and the center gives feedback as to what he sees as the “quarterback” of the offensive line. Each of these parts of the play calling come together and when we get it right, the play will be successful if well executed.
Early in the season the Packers were very bipolar, either passing or running the ball in long stretches. It was as if we knew we could be successful passing the ball and suddenly found out we could run it too but were a little too Cybil about it. It was either one or the other personality and not the proper use of each based on the situation. We saw this in the 49’ers game and the game versus against the Bengals.
As the season has progressed though, the Packers have become a lot more natural and organic about the plays called. As trust grows, McCarthy and Co. can call plays based on the situation without fear of a breakdown. The best example of this was the genius play calling in the Packers most recent game against the Browns where in rainy weather the ground game was significant but when all was said and done Aaron Rodgers had three touchdowns through the air in a game where he was missing two of his most potent receiver threats (one of which, James Jones, led the league in TD’s last season). The Browns focus on the run opened up the passing game in weather where passing could have been risky. The Packers play calling in the game against the Browns was fantastic, especially when you consider how often we had to use the one receiver and two tight end set. Good stuff!
So the play calling is coming along, and if we continue to improve it bodes very well for a Packers team that could have a shot at home field advantage in the playoffs. In Part 2 of the “Balanced Attack” we will talk about another element in the Packers new-found ability to respond to any defense…the running backs.