Packers offense gets away from run and quick passing games and sputters

Oct 2, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur talks with quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during overtime against the New England Patriots at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur talks with quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during overtime against the New England Patriots at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Green Bay Packers leaned heavily on the quick passing and run games against the New York Giants, and the strategy was very effective early on. However, the offense got away from it in the second half, and moving the ball became difficult.

The quick passing game, along with the run game, have been staples of the Packers’ offense this season. Aaron Rodgers entered Sunday’s game incredibly efficient and effective when getting the ball out in under 2.5-seconds, completing 82% of his passes at 8.2 yards per attempt with six touchdowns to one interception, per PFF ($$). The run game, meanwhile, was averaging 5.0 yards per rush this season, with Aaron Jones being among the best in big plays created.

Led by the run game and the Packers’ ability to pick up yards after the catch, they entered Week 5 as one of the best offenses at generating big plays.

Against the Giants, that all continued, at least in the first half. According to NFL NextGen Stats, Rodgers got rid of the ball in an average of 2.09 seconds, which was the quickest by a quarterback in a game since Week 7 of the 2020 season. Rodgers’ average air yards was also just 4.2. He finished the half 13-16 for 64 yards with two touchdowns and the Packers had 20 points.

In the run game, Jones was averaging over 4.0 yards per rush, and AJ Dillon was over 6.0 yards. Green Bay was finding the bulk of their success on the ground through their wide zone running scheme, running away from Dexter Lawrence, and also outside the tackle box, an area that the Giants’ defense as a whole has had issues defending.

The quick passing game was able to put less stress on the Green Bay offensive line, who was facing the NFL’s top blitzing defense in the Giants. In large part, because of the ball coming out quickly, Rodgers wasn’t pressured all that often early on.

These quick passes also put the ball into the hands of the Packers’ pass-catchers, who entered Sunday’s game ranked among the best in total yards after the catch. Nine different pass-catchers had at least one target, and Randall Cobb led the way with nearly 100 receiving yards.

Although overall, the Packers weren’t overly effective on third downs, their early down success via the quick passing and ground games kept them out of third down situations–an important aspect given that New York entered the game with the NFL’s second-best third-down defense.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen multiple times over the years, the Packers went away from both of these aspects in the second half, and the offense sputtered.

Rodgers ended the game with six pass attempts of over 20-yards — most of which came in the second half — and didn’t complete any of them. This was his most deep passing attempts without a completion since 2016. As a unit, New York has been very good against the deep ball, allowing a completion rate of 22.2%, the seventh-best rate in football, according to PFF.

A crucial moment in the game came with the Packers down seven and with the ball. The Green Bay defense was reeling and the offense proceeded to go three and out after three straight passes, two of which were shot plays by Rodgers. Then later in the game with the Packers nearing the goal line and needing two yards, they threw the ball on back-to-back plays, both of which were batted in the air.

New York was without Leonard Williams in the middle, has allowed 5.1 yards per rush this season, and can be exploited by the quick passing game with how often they blitz. Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale wanted the Packers to rely on the passing game by playing with heavy boxes and cover-1 looks, particularly trying to get Rodgers to push the ball downfield, and in the second half, Green Bay happily obliged.

Rodgers entered Sunday’s contest ranked 19th out of 32 quarterbacks in completion percentage on passes of 20-plus yards.

Jones and Dillon finished the game with 19 total carries, while Rodgers had 39 pass attempts. Entering the fourth quarter, Jones had just nine carries and Dillon only five. And it’s not as if they were struggling to pick up yards, in the fourth quarter, Jones had several carries of five-plus yards.

We saw a similar imbalance Week 1, and following the game, both Rodgers and Matt LaFleur were adamant about having to get Jones the ball more than they did. I imagine there is a similar feeling following Sunday’s game in London.

The run game, specifically with Jones, is the catalyst behind this Packers offense. He is their playmaker, and regardless of the opponent, or the look the defense is giving, he needs to be a focal point in the offense–again, the Packers have one of the NFL’s most explosive ground games because of him.

Success on the ground also benefits the rest of the offense by providing Rodgers with extra time in the pocket while also opening up the playbook for LaFleur, which we did see some of in the first half, particularly on that touchdown to Marcedes Lewis, as well as the passing game.

A balanced run-pass mix, quick passes with downfield shots sprinkled in — not dominating — and the ball being spread around is this offense’s path to success in 2022–they just have to commit to it.

The Packers’ offense has battled inconsistency all season. We’ve seen stretches where they move the ball and can put up points with relative ease. But on the flip side, those instances of success are often followed or preceded by cold stretches.

That again happened in London against New York, and perhaps this time more than others, the inability to move the ball felt self-inflicted. I’m sure Rodgers and LaFleur will correct things, but the issue is that this keeps happening.