Notebook: Offense Effective As Needed

On a weekly basis this season, the Packers have focused on going after their opponents’ weaknesses, and in the process they’ve developed a well-rounded offense that can execute the varying game plans. - More | Packers-Raiders Game Center Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 10


On a weekly basis this season, the Packers have focused on going after their opponents' weaknesses, and in the process they've developed a well-rounded offense that can execute the varying game plans.

That was evident again on Sunday, when the Raiders came into Lambeau Field with the NFL's 30th-ranked run defense and fifth-ranked pass defense. The Packers attacked that run defense right away, running the ball on four of their first five snaps and gaining 45 yards on those four carries.

That set the tone for the 179 rushing yards on 36 attempts, both season-highs for the team, while quarterback Brett Favre attempted just 23 passes in the 38-7 rout.

By contrast, when the Packers have faced a stiff run defense and weaker pass defense, they've attacked appropriately, and successfully. Against Minnesota for instance, which has ranked near the top in run defense and near the bottom in pass defense all season, Favre threw for 695 yards in two victories, while the running game played a complementary role with 166 yards in those two games.

"One thing I think we have shown offensively is we can play at whatever end of the spectrum we need to based on who we're playing," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said during his Monday press conference. "That to me is the ultimate goal of an offense, and it's a reflection of your system having the versatility. I think we have accomplished that."

The emergence of Ryan Grant has certainly helped the ground game become reliable as the focal point when needed, like Sunday. But it's also not just a coincidence that Grant's run of strong production began in Denver, when the offense was committed to pounding away at the Broncos' then-bottom ranked run defense. He posted 22 carries for 104 yards in three quarters of work, the first 100-yard game by a Packer this season.

Grant needed just over three quarters on Sunday to get his career-high 156 yards before he gave way to Vernand Morency for the final offensive series.

McCarthy has said many times he'd love to run the ball 40 or 50 times per game, and he certainly enjoyed calling a game like the one against the Raiders. But with Favre among the league leaders in several passing categories, McCarthy has clearly tailored his game plans to what the offense should do, not just what he would prefer to do.

"Just being a complete offense is really the most important goal," he said. "But the attempts is very important. When you're running the ball 35 times a game, that tells you a lot about what's going on in that particular game."

Two-headed punt returner

McCarthy indicated he would consider implementing the punt return strategy he envisioned at the beginning of the season but wasn't able to employ because of Will Blackmon's thumb and subsequent foot injury.

Specifically, McCarthy pictured a "two-headed monster" on punt return with Blackmon and Charles Woodson both being used. The field position and game situation would dictate whether to go with the younger, more explosive Blackmon or the veteran, sure-handed Woodson.

"Charles Woodson is outstanding in his decision-making, and Will is obviously a young talent," McCarthy said. "So as we move forward, that's how we'll evaluate it week in and week out."

Playoff picture

The Packers have clinched the NFC North title and could clinch a first-round bye as early as this week.

{sportsad300}If the Packers (11-2) beat the Rams and the Seahawks (9-4) lose at Carolina, Green Bay will get a first-round bye and a home game in the divisional round. Even if Seattle wins this week, if the Packers win two of their final three games, they clinch the first-round bye.

With that in mind, McCarthy said over the final three games he and the coaching staff would balance what needs to be accomplished with rotating players at certain positions, such as the secondary, to get the younger players more experience and while keeping the veterans fresh.

Against Oakland, Blackmon, Jarrett Bush, Tramon Williams and Frank Walker all saw snaps at cornerback in the sub-packages, while Aaron Rouse got some work at safety in place of Nick Collins.

"I think these last three games, probably the most important statistic is going to be the health of our football team," McCarthy said. "That is my focus, to make sure we enter the playoffs as healthy as possible."

Injury update

Offensive tackle Chad Clifton's shoulder injury is a sprain and could keep him out of practice for a couple of days this week, but McCarthy said Clifton would probably practice on Friday and be ready to play against the Rams.

Bush also strained a calf, and he may follow the same schedule as Clifton.

Linebacker Nick Barnett was scheduled to visit an eye doctor on Monday after receiving treatment for the poke in the eye he took toward the end of the first half against the Raiders. But the initial report from the medical staff is the eye injury is nothing serious.

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