No, I'm not talking about Jermichael Finley's famed catchphrase Year of the Takeover. The New YOTO is something much more substantial, the Year Of The Offense. That's right, I said it, Offense. Even when just a few months ago, one of the greatest offenses in history did battle with one of the greatest defenses, and lost. This post, however, is going to show where Denver came up short, and why the Packers are in position to dominate.
Finding Fault with Denver’s Offense
It may be hard to believe, but there were many faults with the seemingly unstoppable Broncos’ offense of yesteryear. Faults in scheme, faults in personnel.
The first major fault of the Denver Broncos’ offense was the lack of a power running game. Sure, Knowshon Moreno racked up over 1,000 yards on the ground, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Looking into the stats paints an entirely different picture. Knowshon Moreno had 241 carries last year, 169 of those came out of the shotgun. That means 70.1% of Knowshon’s carries were out of the shotgun! Us Packer fans know what happens when frequently running out of the shotgun… This is fault within scheme, the Broncos’ offense was based on an all-out aerial assault led by Peyton Manning. The Broncos wanted to run as many plays as they possibly could, which means a hurry-up offense where personnel swaps are unlikely. It’s hard to run the ball out of anything other than shotgun when your goal is to run a play every 20 seconds or less. This leads into the next fault with Denver’s offense, time of possession.
Control the ball, and you control the game. For most of the season, Denver did pretty well on time of possession, the short passing game did seem to supplement the lack of a power running game. Thus, the Broncos were solid on time of possession. Until the Broncos met the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, of course. What did the Seahawks do to take away the quick passing game that Denver needed to keep drives going? The Seahawks played close to the line of scrimmage, and forced Manning to beat them deep. Denver had a hard time sustaining long drives because running out of the shotgun against the Seahawks doesn’t work, and the short passing game was neutralized by the Seahawks secondary. We all saw what happened when Manning was forced to throw deep, and it wasn’t pretty. I would even put into question Manning’s arm strength at this point in his career. Which leads us to the final fault, Peyton Manning himself.
He will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game, but his days are numbered. For the longest time his combination of a golden arm and deadly smarts proved to be nigh unstoppable, but that arm isn’t so golden anymore, and there is another glaring flaw: his mobility. Peyton Manning is a statue. He is great in the pocket, like he has eyes on the back of his head. So what did the Seahawks do? They forced him out of the pocket, they disrupted the pocket. A quarterback can get in a rhythm if he’s allowed to stay in the pocket the whole game, and the last thing you want is Peyton Manning with rhythm. So the Seahawks blitzed, crowded the line of scrimmage, and hit Manning play after play. They knocked Manning off his rhythm, forcing two interceptions, one of which was returned all the way.
In short, the Seahawks had the perfect game-plan and the perfect personnel to silence the record-breaking offense. Seattle’s defense is a tough nut to crack, can the Packers offense rise to the challenge?
The Packers’ Offense Will Fare Better
One word can sum up the offense of the upcoming Packers: balance. This year’s offense will be one of the most balanced one’s we have seen, in theory. The Packers have an aerial assault of their own, but a ground game to go with it. Rodgers and Lacy is a match made in heaven. Rodgers can make every throw in the book, and then a few throws which aren’t in there, but how he differs from Manning is that he is mobile, and one of the best escape artists in the league.
After watching Rodgers highlights the past few days, I have come to a conclusion: that there is no flaw with Aaron Rodgers game. He can put the ball in the tightest of windows, audible into just the right play, and might even be more deadly outside of the pocket than in. We’ve all said "Give Rodgers time, and someone will get open." And we’ve seen it, time and again, he finds the open man. His ability to escape from imminent sacks is mind-blowing. The pocket closes in around him, edge rushers are bending past the Tackles, everyone is converging on him, they even get hands on him. But somehow he escapes, and then he still manages to find the open man and deliver the football with pinpoint accuracy. Rodgers strains opposing defenses on rollouts, because not only are the Packers WRs moving, but Rodgers is too, and he even instructs WRs to make cuts to get open. All of that, and he still poses a threat to run. To add to all of this, he rarely turns the ball over, most importantly in the red zone. What’s even scarier about Aaron Rodgers? He gets to hand the ball off to Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and Dujuan Harris.
The Packers have a power running game, the one Denver was missing. Knowshon Moreno took 70% of his snaps out of the shotgun, Lacy took 34.5% of his out of the shotgun. Not only that, but Lacy excels in between the tackles, something Moreno struggled with. Moreno averaged 3.4 YPC on runs up the middle, but averaged 5.1 YPC and 5.2 YPC on runs to the Left and Right sideline respectively. Lacy averaged 4.6 YPC up the middle, 4.2 YPC to the Right Side, and 5.1 YPC to the Left Side. He only averaged 3.3 YPC to the Sidelines, but that should be expected of a bruiser. Lacy even got better from the month of November to the month of December, when his YPC jumped from 4.0 to 4.6, he also got 5 of his 11 TDs in December. Lacy is indifferent when it comes to the playing surface, on Grass he averaged 4.2 YPC, on Turf he averaged 4.1 YPC. Moreno on the other hand, averaged 1.7 YPC more on Turf than on Grass, 5.4 vs 3.7. It also turns out, that Lacy had 29 runs of 10+ yards to Moreno’s 26, and Lacy averaged 16.8 YPC on those runs opposed to Moreno’s 15.6. We don’t think of Lacy as a particularly explosive back, but he can still get long runs, like his 60 yarder against Dallas. He’s even a reliable receiving option, catching 35 balls for 7.3 yards per. Lacy broke the 4th most tackles in the league at 56 total. He is a punishing runner, requiring multiple defenders to bring down. He even softens up the defense for fellow running back James Starks, whose YPC jumps from 4.7 in the first half, to 6.3 in the second half. Lacy and Starks complement each other really well, as they have different running styles that defenses must adjust to. Lacy sees a hole and bulldozes through it, sometimes there isn’t a hole. Starks waits for the cutback. Defenses get into a habit of flowing to Starks because it works with Lacy, then Starks cuts it back for big gains. Of Starks’ 89 carries, 13 of them were more than 10+ yards, what’s astonishing is that over half of Starks’ total yards come off of these 13 carries and that he averages 20.6 on such carries.
With such a potent power run game, it leaves defenses vulnerable to the play-action pass. Rodgers with a convincing play-action will be carving up defenses like never before. Teams are going to have to choose, death by blunt trauma, or death by pinpoint strikes. If there were a defense that could defend both, it would have to be the Seattle Seahawks. Which means this year’s season opener is going to be another classic battle in the ongoing war between Offense and Defense.