OAKLAND, Calif. – The Green Bay Packers once again received a lift from their backfield in Sunday’s 30-20 win over Oakland.
Only this time it wasn’t Eddie Lacy, James Starks or rookie John Crockett, but rather receiver Randall Cobb providing a much-needed change of pace in the second half. The Raiders operated heavily in their 3-4 defense with a single-high safety, making life difficult on both Lacy and Starks, who combined for only 24 yards in the first half.
The Packers used Cobb in the backfield extensively in the second half, including on their 19-play, 92-yard series between the third and fourth quarters. By lining up Cobb in the backfield with fullback John Kuhn, it forced the Raiders to spread out their secondary and open up more running lanes.
Cobb carried the ball four times for 18 yards on the series and was targeted for a pass or carry on eight plays, including a 19-yard catch on second-and-17 and a defensive pass interference call in the end zone. On the next series, the Packers flipped back to Starks, who had three consecutive carries for 31 yards.
“We had to find a way to try to get them out of their 3-4 defense because when they’re in that personnel it’s pretty tough to run the ball against,” right guard T.J. Lang said. “We found a way to do that. Put Randall in the backfield with John to get them in their nickel defense and found a few more lanes where we could run the ball. It was just an adjustment we made that ended up being pretty successful.”
Cobb had only five catches for 40 yards in the passing game, a microcosm of the receiver’s up-and-down day. James Jones (six catches for 82 yards) provided the offense with its only touchdown with a 30-yard catch in the third quarter, as the unit missed on several other chances.
Davante Adams could’ve provided another score in the third quarter, but dropped what would have been a 14-yard touchdown on first-and-10 from the Oakland 14. The Packers pulled Adams and substituted in Jeff Janis, but he then dropped a short slant that would have been good for a first down. Instead, Mason Crosby kicked a 24-yard field goal.
The package with Cobb and Kuhn in the backfield allowed the Packers to get Jared Abbrederis (three catches for 33 yards) on the field more in the slot as the fourth receiver. His 13-yard catch on third-and-5 in the middle of the field was key to getting the 19-play series off the ground.
“With that particular group, we felt like we had some better looks so we stuck with it,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Randall’s a playmaker. Randall Cobb has to touch the football. It’s one of the things in the forefront of my mind every time we step on the field. That’s part of it. We had a good run and pass mix there and had some good matchups. I thought our receivers really stepped up in the second half.”
Cobb has been used in the backfield in the past, but Sunday was his most carries and rushing yards of the season.
"I don’t know if it was surprise," Cobb said. "They saw us run out there before, so they had time to figure out what they were going to do, what they were going to call. We were able to throw that in as a wrinkle and be able to create some opportunities for us."