There has been a recent trend in the Green Bay Packers offense. There has been plenty going around about Aaron Jones being the most effective player in the offense, but there is more to it. While the Packers have only shown moderate success this season, the best success has been when they commit to running the football. The other surprising point is the correlation to how Aaron Rodgers’ numbers are actually better when the Packers focus on running. After getting beaten by a Tennessee Titans team quarterbacked by Ryan Tannehill, it might be time to finally embrace their methods that make Tannehill work as well as he does.
Warnings About Stats
First off, this is all correlational. Everything is based on the pure statistics in the games and not any DVOA adjustments. Also, while there is plenty here to show that when running more the team does better, there is the obvious counterbalance that some of the running is due to winning.
Getting Doubled Up
There are five games this season where the Packers had twice as many pass attempts as rushing attempts (I am excluding the rushes by Rodgers as those are not designed runs). The Packers are 0-5 in those games. Let’s take a deeper look at a few of these games.
One of the best examples to review is the Washington Commanders game. This is important because the Packers went into halftime with the lead and the game was not such that the Packers needed to abandon the running game as it was close throughout. In the first half, Rodgers had 15 pass attempts and the team ran the ball ten times (one was called back on a holding penalty). Also, this 10-15 split was exacerbated by a two-minute drill with six passes and no runs. This was good enough for a 14-10 halftime lead. The second half saw three more rushing attempts. The packers were outscored 7-13 in that half and lost the game. The final count was twelve rushes to 35 pass attempts.
Against the Jets, the Packers started immediately abandoning the run. In a closely contested first half, the Packers only rushed 10 times and threw 19 passes. The Packers were able to hang around for a 3-3 halftime score. There were also two sacks in that half. By the end of the game, the Packers had rushed 19 times and thrown 41 passes.
The Detroit game is another good example as the Lions were bad on defense in both the run (27th DVOA) and the pass (24th DVOA). The Packers' very first drive was four runs and eight passes including an interception. The Lions scored a touchdown just before the end of the half, but the Packers had 17 pass attempts to 12 rushes. This game ended with 43 pass attempts and 21 rushes.
In games where the Packers have at least twice as many passes as rush attempts, they are 0-5.
Even Or Better
There are two games this year with more rushes than pass attempts and one game where they were even. The recent win over the Dallas Cowboys saw the Packers run 37 times and only attempt 20 passes. Even down 28-14 in the second half, the Packers came back with a drive of four passes and five runs (with an additional scramble by Rodgers). Then they ran a drive with six rushes and just four passes to tie the game. This showed a commitment to the run even when losing.
The one even game was the game against the Buffalo Bills. 30 rushes and 30 pass attempts. They started off with an opening drive with three rushes and four pass attempts (plus a sack). The next drive was a three pass, three and out. Then the Packers were down 14-0. From that point on the Packers had 27 rushes and 23 passes (and outscored Buffalo 17-13 the rest of the way).
Rodgers Stat Swing
In the five games where Rodgers is doubling up the run game, his stats are far below his career numbers. He is 118-of-191 (61.8%) for 1,153 yards (230.6 per game) with six touchdowns to five interceptions. Now, the interceptions are boosted by the three picks against Detroit, but still, this leaves Rodgers with a 78.3 Rating.
In the two games where the running game gets more rushes than Rodgers has passing attempts, Rodgers is 33-of-45 (73.3%) for 458 yards (229 yards per game). He threw five touchdowns in these games and no interceptions. This is good enough for a 137.1 Rating. Even adding in the one 5/50 game the numbers are good. He has 69.3% completions for 216 yards per game and seven touchdowns to one interception. This is still a Rating of 121.42.
Running more not only gives the Packers a better chance of winning, but it helps Aaron Rodgers to have better numbers. We are at a time when Rodgers' role ought to be a play-action quarterback keeping defenses honest.