Head Coach Mike McCarthy would love to run the ball 40 times per game. Or at least 50 percent of the time. He's said so often, and it's how he'd prefer his offense to operate.
But the running game is clearly not the strength of the Packers right now, so McCarthy has no problem with Sunday's play selection against the Chargers, which featured 47 pass plays (45 attempts, two sacks) to just 12 runs (not including a late kneel-down).
That nearly 4-to-1 ratio is not ideal by any means in terms of developing a balanced offense, but McCarthy and the coaching staff determined the best way to attack the Chargers was to spread out their defense with multiple-receiver packages.
That forced San Diego out of its base defense and into nickel and dime packages, from which the Chargers weren't equipped to blitz as often. As a result, quarterback Brett Favre was sacked just twice and threw for 369 yards, his highest total since Nov. 21, 2004 (383 yards at Houston).
"I would prefer to be a heavy run team, but that's just not the way we're built right now, and that's not the way that gives us the best chance to score a lot of points in my opinion," McCarthy said. "Now that's week to week. But there will be a time here where we'll pound the football."
For the season, the Packers have run 132 pass plays (125 attempts, seven sacks) and just 59 runs, nearly a 70-30 split.
Last year, Minnesota led the NFL in rushing defense, and stout defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams are back on the interior of the Vikings' defensive line. So this week may not be the time to over-commit to the run either.
But McCarthy emphasized that staying pass-focused isn't a long-term solution, particularly with cold-weather games coming up. The Packers play four home games from Nov. 11 to season's end, plus a road game at Chicago in late December.
McCarthy, as the offensive play-caller, also needs to continue getting more comfortable with the strengths of the team's different young running backs. The return to health of Vernand Morency, who carried the ball 96 times in a reserve role last year, would help as well.
"It's not that I don't believe in our players," McCarthy said. "I am getting more comfortable with our runners, as far as the different things we're asking them to do. You have to have a comfort when you call particular plays in certain situations, and there have been some growing pains there."
Need to execute
McCarthy defended his decision to go to an empty-backfield set on fourth-and-goal midway through the fourth quarter on Sunday because the formation had been productive all game long.
He also feels he had a good play called against the defense the Chargers were running, but he hinted that Favre might not have thrown to the best option. The Packers' receivers were one-on-one against Chargers defenders on the outside, but Favre tried to go over the middle to tight end Bubba Franks and the pass was deflected and incomplete.
"Actually seeing the play, I'm still very comfortable with the call," said McCarthy, who admits he second-guesses a few play calls late at night after every game, including this one. "I haven't seen Brett yet, and I don't know if he's watched the film. But he'll be disappointed when he sees the play.
"It's amazing to me to be as productive as we were in that formation, and then all of a sudden it's a bad call on fourth-and-1. I don't understand that, particularly with the defense they were in. We had a very favorable play selection on that play, and I'm comfortable with it."
McCarthy addressed a few injuries from Sunday's game, though none of them appears to be too serious.
"We have a number of guys nicked up," is how McCarthy put it.
The injured players are safety Nick Collins (low back bruise), receiver Donald Driver (sore knee), running backs Brandon Jackson (shin bruise) and DeShawn Wynn (ankle), defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (side), and cornerbacks Al Harris (back spasms) and Charles Woodson (hip flexor).
NFL Network's NFL Replay will re-broadcast Sunday's Packers-Chargers game at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday.
The replay will be in a condensed, 90-minute format, without halftime and other elements not critical to the outcome. NFL Network replays five games from each weekend from Monday through Wednesday of the following week.