Friday, September 27, 2019

Pass-heavy Packers Fall to Eagles in Prime-time Matchup

By Eric Goska
The TNF crew set up shop outside Lambeau Field
ahead of the Packers-Eagles game.
Lose your balance and you might take a tumble.

Do so in front of cameras and the episode might wind up online as an epic fail sure to amuse thousands.

The Packers ran far less than they passed in Thursday’s clash with the Philadelphia Eagles. Predictably, this unbalanced approach didn’t pay off and Green Bay lost 34-27 before 77,509 fans at Lambeau Field and millions more who witnessed the prime-time misstep on television.

Most coaches will tell you they want to run the ball. Most coaches will tell you they want to maintain some type of balance between run and pass.

Matt LaFleur said as much in the days following his hire as the 15th head coach in Packers history.

“Certainly Aaron’s got incredible talent, and we’re definitely going to showcase that talent,” LaFleur said in January. “But I just think in your early downs, the more you can stay balanced and keep the defense off balance and keep them guessing whether we’re going to run the ball or pass the ball, I think that it opens up opportunities for big plays down the field.”

The Packers passed nearly three times as often as they ran against the Eagles. On 17 first downs in the first half, they ran eight times. On 20 first downs in the second half, they ran five times.

The score dictated some of that. After leading for much of the first half, Green Bay did not hold a lead over the final 32 minutes, 45 seconds.

Lack of success dictated some of that. The Packers gained but 28 yards on their 13 first-down runs.

Aaron Jones churned for seven the first time Green Bay ran on first down. Receiver Geronimo Allison grabbed seven the second time the team did so.

From there, the Packers gained a meager 14 yards on 11 first-down running plays. Jones was knocked backward three times.

After Jones lost four on a first-down run with 6:04 remaining in the third quarter, Aaron Rodgers passed or scrambled on 29 of the team’s last 30 offensive plays. Jones got one last try just before a Rodgers’ pass was deflected and intercepted by Philadelphia linebacker Nigel Bradham in the end zone with 20 seconds to go.

So run-averse were the Packers that Rodgers fired four straight incompletions from the Philadelphia 1-yard line on the team’s first drive of the fourth quarter. Those failures accounted for nearly half of his nine incompletions in the period.

So much for balance.

Historically, Green Bay doesn’t win when its offense is so skewed. With 54 pass attempts that included one sack against 20 rushes, it was nothing if not pass-heavy against Philadelphia.

Since 1950, the Packers are 6-39 in games when their pass-to-run differential is greater than 30. Their last win in such a scenario came at MetLife Stadium last year when Rodgers put up 55 passes against the team’s 20 rushes in a 44-38 overtime victory against the Jets.

Rodgers has presided over two other wins with such lopsided differentials. He and the Packers dispatched Chicago 26-10 in 2016 (plus-35) and the Bengals in overtime 27-24 in 2017 (plus-31).

The Packers fare much better when they run more often than they pass. Since 1988, they are 85-2 in games in which they have at least one more rushing attempt than passing attempt.

One problem: the team has not had more rushing than passing attempts in each of its last 24 games. That streak is the longest in team annals.

Another area of concern: Green Bay’s top rusher was its quarterback. That often spells trouble.

Rodgers scooted to 46 yards on five scrambles. He accounted for three of the team’s four rushing first downs with gains of 14, 14 and 11 yards in the second half.

Quarterbacks have led the Green and Gold in rushing 50 times since the team moved to the T-formation in 1947. Green Bay’s record in those contests is 11-39.

Tobin Rote (3-12) was the quarterback to lead most often. Rodgers (4-7) has been the most successful.

The Packers last won with Rodgers as their leading ground gainer (4 carries-27 yards) in a 27-23 win over the Lions in 2015. Of course, No. 12’s 61-yard Hail Mary to tight end Richard Rodgers was needed to secure that victory.

Having a running back at the forefront is preferable. But Jones could generate only 21 yards on 13 trips against the Eagles, though he did score from three yards out on the Packers’ first possession.

Green Bay was also dealt a considerable blow when running back Jamaal Williams was lost to a head/neck injury on its first offensive play. With Williams out, Jones and fullback Danny Vitale were the only backs active for the Packers.

To date, the Packers have 98 rushes to go along with 154 pass plays. A total of 61.1 percent of their offensive snaps have been dropbacks.

That may seem high, but the team has finished above 60 percent nine times this century. Last season the Green and Gold settled in at 67.5 percent to become the most pass-oriented team in franchise history.

Extra Point
With 107 yards on six receptions, Davante Adams became the eighth receiver in Packers history to amass 100 or more receiving yards in the first quarter. The others: Don Hutson (109 yards), Bill Howton (106), Carroll Dale (107), Antonio Freeman (129), Donald Driver (111), Javon Walker (121) and Randall Cobb (101).

Off Kilter
Streaks of 17 or more regular-season games in which the Packers have had more passing plays (including sacks) than running plays.

No.          Years             Record
24        2017-2019         10-13-1
22        2005-2006            6-16
21        2006-2007            15-6
18        2011-2012            14-4
17        1989-1990             9-8
17        2010-2011            12-5

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