Packers put up points despite lack of success in run game

Dec 25, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Green Bay Packers running back AJ Dillon (28) runs with the football during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 25, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Green Bay Packers running back AJ Dillon (28) runs with the football during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite not being able to move the ball on the ground all that effectively against Miami, the Green Bay Packers were still able to put up 26 points, and they could have had more if they were more efficient in the red zone.

Since Week 10, we’ve seen the Packers’ offense start to find its groove a bit. In five of their last six games, the Packers have scored at least 24 points, and this includes two games with over 30.

The emergence of Christian Watson in Week 10 has, of course, been a big part of that success. He has provided big play ability as well as altered how opponents defend Green Bay. This has helped create opportunities for other pass catchers with the attention he draws, along with opening up Matt LaFleur’s playbook. However, even with that needed element added to the offense, Green Bay’s ability to put up points has still be tied to the run game.

Prior to playing Miami, Green Bay had averaged 29 points per game and scored at least 24 against Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles. In those games, AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones totaled 555 rushing yards at more than five yards per rush. On the flip side, in the two games against Detroit and Tennessee, where the Packers totaled 26 points, Dillon and Jones combined for 112 yards at not even three yards per rush.

A few weeks ago, offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich was discussing with reporters how having the run game and Watson’s home run ability on the outside can really simplify things for the offense. But he added that success all begins on the ground.

With that said, this wasn’t the case against the Dolphins. The run game was fairly non-existent in the first half, and it was very tough sledding in quarters three and four. Jones and Dillon would have just 17 total carries and rushed for 61 yards at 3.5 yards per attempt, well below their season average of 4.7 yards.

In part, the lack of attempts, especially early on, was due to how Miami was defending Green Bay, essentially daring them to throw the ball. This is also a Dolphins’ defense that ranks 26th against the pass by DVOA, so in terms of building a game plan to attack the opponent’s weaknesses, this was always likely going to be a more pass-heavy game for the Packers.

Credit also needs to be given to the Miami interior defensive line that very much controlled the line of scrimmage. Jones and Dillon were able to bust runs of 18 and 11 yards, respectively, but gained just 32 yards on their other 15 attempts. Miami’s Christian Wilkins was a one-man wrecking crew, giving the Packers fits, both in the run and passing games.

Green Bay’s inability to move the ball on the ground with any regularity likely played a key factor in what, at times, looked like a disjointed offense. The Packers faced several third-and-longs and, overall, were just 2-14 on third downs and only 2-5 in the red zone against what is statistically one of the worst red zone defenses this season.

The passing game, however, was able to do enough, even with Aaron Rodgers having far from his best performance. Without Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs came up with a pair of big second-half completions, while Rodgers was able to connect on two deep balls as well, one to Allen Lazard and the other to Marcedes Lewis. Patrick Taylor also had a key third down conversion via the passing game on an eventual touchdown scoring drive, and Robert Tonyan had a 13-yard catch that put the Packers in field goal range late in the fourth quarter.

The defense’s contributions of four forced turnovers can’t be overlooked either. Although the offense was inefficient at times, the Packers did run 20 more plays than Miami, giving themselves more opportunities, which helped them overcome some of those issues on the ground.

Regardless of how many games the Packers have left in their season, a relatively balanced run-pass mix and success on the ground will be a must for them as it creates for the rest of the offense. With that said, conditions aren’t always going to be perfect, and just as they did against Miami through the passing game and defensive turnovers, the Packers have to be able to find other ways to win.