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Cheese Curds, 9/15: Packers’ run game holds the key to unlocking defenses

The game script was a mess on Sunday, and the run game never really had a chance. But for the Packers to get their offense back to 2020 levels, they’ll need it to keep defenses out of two-deep shells.

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New York Jets v Green Bay Packers Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Those who have paid close attention to the Green Bay Packers’ offense over the past half-decade or so know the secret to defending Aaron Rodgers. It’s not really a secret by this point — after all, there is 13 years’ worth of tape on Rodgers — but it’s harder to actually stick to that game plan than to figure it out.

Perhaps the first time that the blueprint was laid out was way back in 2015, when Wade Phillips’ Denver Broncos defense shut down the Green Bay offense by using a two-high shell and doing so almost exclusively. Since then, there have been individual games or multi-week stretches where the offense has struggled, and most of those have been due to teams sticking to that philosophy.

In fact, Rodgers’ splits against single-high vs. two-high safeties are dramatic, even in his MVP campaign a year ago. One key difference between last season and week one is that throughout much of 2020, the Packers’ run game was effective and kept teams out of those looks. On Sunday, however, the Packers never even got a chance to get into their game script in the first half, thanks to a defense that allowed New Orleans to chew up almost the entire first two quarters en route to a 17-0 lead.

So if there’s a secret to preventing opponents from using this tendency to keep the Packers’ passing game down again for the rest of 2021, it’s to get Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon going. Yes, passing is more efficient than running, but passing all day long into a defense that’s designed to and proven to make that passing attack less effective isn’t the way to go. That, perhaps more than anything else, is why Matt LaFleur preaches balance on offense.

Now, on to the curds.

Aaron Rodgers has a Kryptonite, and the Saints exploited it | Touchdown Wire
The blueprint is simple: if you can get the Packers away from the run game, you can keep two safeties deep and stymie Rodgers and Green Bay's passing game. The Packers' adjustment, of course, must be to keep defenses honest with the run game to force defenses to bring more players into the box.

Aaron Rodgers believes Packers offensive line played ‘really well’ in Week 1 | Packers Wire
In general, the offensive line pass-blocked well, coming in 4th in the NFL in pass-block win rate. Unfortunately, one of the few blown blocks (by rookie Royce Newman on Cameron Jordan) led to Rodgers' first interception, when he said he took a "double nut shot" that caused his throw to be behind Davante Adams.

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Meanwhile, the team that the Packers just played on Sunday is now dealing with COVID issues, as six coaches, a nutritionist, and one player (Michael Thomas) have tested positive. There is no word on which individuals were vaccinated at this time, but it is notable that Thomas did not play in Sunday's game.

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As we begin to turn our attention over to week two, this will be the second time in three years and third time in five seasons that the Packers-Lions game at Lambeau Field will come on Monday night.

Lions RB Jamaal Williams, formerly a Packers fan favorite, eager to return to Green Bay this week – The Athletic (subscription)
There's one notable connection to Green Bay on the Lions' roster, and that is of course Williams, who had a nice opening game for Detroit with 100 total yards and a touchdown.

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The scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn't stop to think if they should.