Sunday, September 30, 2007
Packers' running game taking them nowhere
By Len Pasquarelli
MINNEAPOLIS -- Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre always has been one of the league's more candid performers.
And after his record-breaking performance here Sunday, that candor was obvious when he addressed his surprise at the 4-0 start of a resurgent Packers team that leads its division by a game and can all but bury the playoff aspirations of its most notorious rival when it hosts the Chicago Bears next week.
"To be honest, I've probably played on teams here with more talent, but maybe we didn't win as much," Favre said after Sunday's 23-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. "But the fact is, this team is winning. People say we're not playing that well and our offense hasn't been that balanced. And I can't argue with that. But I'll keep taking these wins as long as they keep coming."
The question confronting Favre and Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, however, revolves around how much longer the Packers can continue to win with a running game the quarterback referred to as "non-existent." And how deep into the playoffs the Packers might be able to advance with such a lopsided offensive attack.
Green Bay statistically ranked last in the league in rushing offense entering Sunday's game, and it did little against the Minnesota defense -- which led the league in stuffing the run in 2006 -- to indicate that rank was undeserved.
The Packers rushed for just 46 yards on 20 carries, a microscopic average of 2.3 yards per attempt. Of their 18 rushes that preceded two kneel-downs by Favre to end the game, the Packers netted 2 yards or less on half of them and had only three carries of more than 3 yards. One of those, a 7-yard gain, came on a fake punt. Take away a 15-yard run by Ryan Grant on a blast over right tackle in the fourth quarter, and the Packers averaged a puny 1.9 yards per carry on the rushes that didn't involved kneel-downs.
The Packers have just 217 rushing yards on 79 attempts, an average of 2.7 yards per carry. Green Bay entered the game with the fewest rushing yards in the NFL and the second-worst average per carry.
"It's something we've talked about every week," right offensive tackle Mark Tauscher said. "We've got to be able to run the ball better, to be better balanced on offense, but it hasn't clicked yet, that's for sure."
In fact, Favre all but acknowledged that the Packers are in what he called "throwing mode" because it's the only way they can move the football. And, obviously, based on his play calling, McCarthy is playing to his team's strength.
Of the Packers' 257 snaps through four games, only 30.7 percent have been runs.
"By nature, I am a run-the-ball, offensive-minded person, but we are not doing it as well as we want to right now," McCarthy said. "I need more confidence in calling the (running) plays. That's a hurdle we need to get over."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.