Packers' 2013 run game wasn't streaky
Last season's resurgent Green Bay Packers running attack ranked among the team's best of the past 60 years.
Surprisingly, the NFL's seventh-best ground game also established a franchise low.
From 1954 through 2012, Green Bay fielded 15 teams that averaged better than 125 rushing yards per game. Many of them featured high-profile backs such as Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung (1959-64) or John Brockington (1971-73).
Of those 15 teams, only one was from the past 25 years: the Ahman Green-led outfit of 2003.
Time to add another to the list.
Last year, the Packers returned a measure of respect to the ground game. They averaged 133.5 yards per game, up from 106.4 in 2012.
Powered by rookie sensation Eddie Lacy, Green Bay gained 2,136 yards on 459 carries for a healthy 4.7-yard average. Lacy, James Starks and others uncorked 54 runs of 10 or more yards.
Nowhere was the rebound more dramatic than in the red zone. After gaining only 99 yards and nine first downs in 2012, Green Bay amassed 248 yards and 33 first downs, numbers not seen since the early 1960s.
Yet for all they accomplished, the 2013 Packers never ran on more than five straight plays in any game. That's a first in team history dating to 1921.
Running the ball is as old as football itself. Those Packers teams that did it well always unleashed a flurry of runs (10 or more in succession) at least once in a game.
When Green vaulted to a team single-season record of 1,883 yards rushing 10 years ago, the Packers ran 10 or more times in a row on four occasions. They reeled off a season-high 11 straight early in the fourth quarter of a 20-10 victory over the 49ers.
The 1971 Packers ran 24 consecutive times in forging a 14-14 tie with the Lions. Eleven years earlier, coach Vince Lombardi's team ran on 27 plays in a row to clinch a 13-0 win over the 49ers.
Even teams that didn't run particularly well could be counted on to squeeze out at least one stretch longer than five. The 2007 Packers, coach Mike McCarthy's most lacking in terms of carries, closed out the Lions and the season with eight straight runs: Brandon Jackson (two), Vernand Morency (four) and quarterback Craig Nall (two kneel-downs).
Yes, kneel-downs count.
Given that, it's even more surprising that last year's team never ran more than five straight times. It had seven streaks of that length including two in defeating the Vikings 44-31 in Minnesota.
Six of the seven streaks came in victory. One occurred in a 26-26 tie with Minnesota.
Three did not involve kneel-downs. Lacy and Starks gained 16 yards on five plays during an advance that led to a 30-yard Mason Crosby field goal and 10-7 lead in Minnesota. In the rematch, Scott Tolzien scored from 6 yards out to forge a 7-0 advantage, and Lacy followed with four runs for 28 yards on the next drive.
Then, in the third quarter of the season finale against the Bears, Lacy dashed 17 yards before Starks reeled off four carries for 51 yards. Aaron Rodgers hit Randall Cobb with the first of two touchdown passes two plays later.
In addition to not producing any streaks of length, the 2013 Packers also employed more solo shots than any of the other top 16 rushing teams of the past 60 years. The team did not follow a run with a run on 172 of 459 carries (37.5 percent).
That's a higher percentage than 10 years ago (30.2). It's a far cry from 1972 (8.5) when the Packers clinched a playoff spot under coach Dan Devine.
This can be attributed in part to the fact that McCarthy's Packers don't shy from using the pass to help run out the clock. Up 38-20 over Washington in Week 2, Rodgers mixed in five passes on a 13-play drive that chewed up the entire second half of the fourth quarter.
Circumstances also played a role. In the seven games in which the Packers led or were tied after three quarters, they often continued to throw because opponents — outscoring them 80-43 in the fourth quarter — didn't back down. And in those games in which they trailed, they were forced to pass to have any chance of mounting a rally.
Longing for more
Since 1954, those seasons in which the Packers averaged better than 125 yards rushing per game yet failed to run the ball more than a dozen times consecutively in any game (regular season only).
Key: Lg. — longest streak; No. — number of streaks of 6 or more; Avg. — average rushing yards per game.
— Before 2013, the Packers teams of 1999, 2000 and 2005 were the only to never have run more than six times in succession in any game.
— The Packers' longest streak in one game under McCarthy was 12 straight in a 26-0 win over the Lions in 2009.