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Amped-up run game fueling Packers offense

Oct. 11, 2013
 
Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) gets by Detroit Lions defensive end Devin Taylor (92) while making a run in the second quarter during Sunday's game at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) gets by Detroit Lions defensive end Devin Taylor (92) while making a run in the second quarter during Sunday's game at Lambeau Field. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

Where the Green Bay Packers sit today is exactly where they sat last year after the first quarter of the season: 2-2 in a loss-win-loss-win fashion.

How they got there this season, though, is dramatically different from last season, and one area in particular jumps off the statistics sheet: the running game.

This season, the Packers are averaging 141 rushing yards per game, nearly 57 yards per game more than last year at this point, when they ranked 13th in the 16-team NFC. This year, they’re fifth.

And while there can be arguments made about whether it’s an improved offensive line or better running backs, there is little doubt the running game has played a larger role. After four games in 2012, the Packers had run the ball 34 percent of the time (88 in 261 total plays). This season, they’ve run the ball 39 percent (106 of 269).

The contributions have come from many: three different running backs have reached 99 or more yards in a game. Leading the way with a team-high 187 yards on 34 carries (a 5.5-yard average) is now-injured veteran James Starks. Next is Eddie Lacy, the rookie second-round draft pick, with 150 yards on 38 carries (3.9). Even rookie fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin has cleared the 100-yard mark with 104 yards on 16 carries (6.5). Add in versatile receiver Randall Cobb’s 78 yards on four carries, and the Green Bay running game has become an aspect that opposing defensive coordinators now have to pay more attention to.

“I love to throw the football, but I love to win more, and we have some guys who can really get it done running the football,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. “And our line is gelling as far as the run game goes and they obviously played excellent on Sunday, gave the passing game a lot of time and opened up some big holes.

“I want to win, and if we need to run to set up the pass -- which is kind of, in this day and age, an old-school type of thought -- so be it, let’s do it. We had not a lot of passing yards going into the halftime and late third quarter and then we kind of busted open and got things going. I think a lot of that is due to the fact that we stayed patient with the running game, we didn’t force the ball in the passing game and finally late in the game we had some opportunities to throw the football.”

On Sunday, in a 22-9 victory over Detroit, the Packers rushed for 180 yards. After gaining 182 in the previous game against Cincinnati, it marked the first time they had back-to-back 180-yard games since 2003.

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