By Eric Goska
|AJ Dillon (28) carried 10 times at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday.|
(screen capture from NFL Game Pass)
The Packers will never be known as a mauling, run-first operation as long as Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers remain with the team.
But one hopes the head coach and quarterback commit more to the ground attack than they did in losing 23-7 to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday.
Green Bay averaged better than six yards a carry in rushing 18 times for 111 yards. The Green and Gold popped five runs of 10 or more yards and tallied eight rushing first downs to Minnesota’s seven.
Aaron Jones skittered 29 yards in the third quarter, the team’s longest gain from scrimmage. A.J. Dillon and rookie receiver Romeo Doubs each dashed for 11 more as the Packers scored their only touchdown, a push-the-pile, 2-yard drive by Dillon.
The majority of yards on that scoring drive (57 of 75) arrived on foot.
Green Bay entered the season with unknowns in the passing game. Newcomers such as Sammy Watkins, Christian Watson, and Doubs – players who had never caught a regular-season ball from Rodgers – were primed to get significant reps.
Factor in that veteran Allen Lazard (ankle) was sidelined against the Vikings, and running the ball made sense. And yet the Packers never ran more than two running plays in a row.
Historically, that spells trouble. Since 1954, Green Bay is 9-49 (.155) in regular-season games in which it does not run at least three times in succession. Eighteen of those losses were by 16 or more points.
In Minnesota, the Packers followed a run with a run just once in the opening two quarters. Dillon picked up four and two on the team’s second drive before Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for six and a first down.
Green Bay’s other eight first-half runs were all stand-alones. The earliest of those, Jones’ scamper on the team’s second play from scrimmage, gained 10 and suggested that pounding the ball might prove profitable.
Instead, Rodgers’ threw 15 times completing eight for 76 yards and a passer rating of 39.9 as his team fell behind 17-0 at the break.
The third quarter indicated what might have been had the Pack employed an earlier reliance on the run. Dillon, Jones and Doubs combined for 79 yards on eight trips. Green Bay held the ball for eight minutes, 37 seconds to 6:23 for the Vikings.
But, alas, Jones’ 5-yard carry for a first down on the final play of the third quarter served as the Packers’ last running play. The team finished with 21 straight passing plays in the final 15 minutes.
In essence, LaFleur had waved the white flag. Since 1953, Green Bay is 0-13 in the regular season when it fails to run at least once in the fourth quarter.
- Green Bay’s streak of having won nine straight in Minnesota when rushing for 100 or more yards came to an end.
- Justin Jefferson’s 158 receiving yards in the opening two quarters is the second most recorded in a first half against Green Bay. New Orlean’s Eric Martin holds the record with 164 on three catches in the Saints’ 24-10 win over the Packers on Sept. 14, 1986.