Packers Run Through Cowboys 28-7
Facing a struggling Dallas Cowboys team turned out to be just what the doctor ordered for the Green Bay Packers running game. Head Coach Mike McCarthy resumed play calling duties Sunday after Tom Clements failed to coordinate the high powered offense that the Packers have grown accustomed to over the years. It certainly didn’t hurt that Eddie Lacy returned to form after a lackluster start to the season, and one can’t help but wonder if McCarthy just has a better feel for the running game than Clements does. Often throughout the season opposing scouts and coaches would remark at how often Green Bay would run to the left, perhaps trying to take advantage of their best lineman, Josh Sitton, playing left guard. However, predictability makes even the most potent offenses easy to beat and Lacy and the Packers offense struggled more than even the biggest detractors predicted after the injury to Jordy Nelson.
Playing in an afternoon downpour, Lacy and fellow running back James Starks expected to be the focal points of the offense for much of the game. Rushing 44 times for 230 yards and two touchdowns, their highest yardage output since 2004, the Packers ground game got back on track after weeks of languishing under Clements’ play calls. In fact, the ground game out produced Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns, which is something that rarely happens in Green Bay.
Rookie Damarious Randall and veteran Sam Shields did an excellent job negating star receiver Dez Bryant, who finished the night with one catch for nine yards despite being targeted six times. Shields got the initial assignment and held Bryant in check until a concussion forced him out of the game. When the rookie Randall was given the assignment, Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel targeted Bryant on the next play and throw deep to Bryant on a seam route. Bryant was unable to secure the catch and Randall never let up the rest of the game. Cassel would finish the game with 114 yards through the air and completed less than 50% of his passes.
The question that will be brought up now is whether or not McCarthy can return Rodgers and this offense to the fearsome unit that it once was. For this team to succeed in the playoffs Rodgers will need to play like the former MVP that he is. Lately, he has better resembled the quarterback that plays 90 minutes south of Milwaukee than the man who usually sports number 12 for the green and gold on Sundays.
In what is certainly a demotion for Clements, one has to wonder if he will return to Green Bay next year. He remains very close with Rodgers, who struggled hiding his disappointment in the change, but coaches rarely take demotions in stride. If he does stay it will either because of his relationship with McCarthy and Rodgers or because no other team was willing to let him call plays again.
Only time will answer these questions.