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Packers hope they sent message: Come on down

Posted Dec 10, 2012

Revival of running game might force future opponents to change defensive strategy

GREEN BAY—Maybe the Packers were trying to send a message to future opponents.

“It shows we have the ability to move the ball running,” Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said of the Packers’ seven-play, all-runs touchdown drive that produced the winning points in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game against the Lions.

“The more a defense has to defend against, the better it is for the offense. If teams want to play us in two-shell, we have to be able to run them out of it,” Clements added.

Two-shell is terminology for a defense that employs two safeties in the middle of the field, a strategy a defense would use when it is more concerned with defending against the pass than against the run. It’s a strategy of which the Packers have seen a steady diet this season.

The Bears have traditionally been a two-shell defense, and the teams in the NFC North have used that strategy against the Packers because they know the Packers are built on the pass and quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ strong right arm. It’s everybody else on the Packers’ schedule that has identified what the rest of the NFC North already knew.

As a result, the Packers haven’t enjoyed the kind of prolific passing stats they produced last season. Rodgers threw for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns in 15 games last season. Through 13 games this year, Rodgers has thrown for 3,297 yards and 29 touchdowns.

They’re good numbers, just not the equal of last season’s. Rodgers’ whirlwind season in 2011 would seem to have caused a concentration among opponents to stop the Packers’ passing attack in 2012.

So with Sunday night’s seven-play touchdown drive, in which a pass-catcher was replaced by an extra offensive lineman, the Packers hope they’ve sent a message that will cause opposing defenses to focus more on stopping the run and less on stopping the pass.

“Teams don’t like to get run on, so one of the things they do is bring a safety down. Teams with great running backs, like Adrian Peterson, don’t see anything but one high,” Clements said.

The Packers unveiled a three-headed monster in the seven-play touchdown drive. Alex Green started the drive, Ryan Grant came in for a carry, and DuJuan Harris finished the drive with a 14-yard touchdown burst.

Harris became a player of interest as a result of the darting style of running he brings to a stable of big power backs. He’ll offer a change of pace.

“Alex and Ryan are more power runners. DuJuan, because of his size, has looked to make things happen when they’re not there,” Clements said.

A season-long desire to improve the running game seemed to blossom in that drive against the Lions. All of a sudden, the Packers’ running game couldn’t be stopped.

“The line is blocking better and the backs are seeing the holes,” Clements said. “It was a good drive. I’m sure the linemen were fired up. It’s a good feeling.”

Will it send a message to future opponents?

Additional coverage - Dec. 10

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