GREEN BAY PACKERS UPDATE 

lIF BALANCED OFFENSE WAS THE GOAL, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Mike McCarthy had a strong hunch a few weeks into the Packers' offseason workouts.

"We made some changes to our offense," the head coach reflected this week. "I thought we were definitely going to be more physical as an offensive line, and that's held true. We've added some new faces to our running back group, and these guys have stepped up. I thought it was clearly evident we would be better in the spring."

Yet, even McCarthy probably would have been hard-pressed some six months ago to predict how well his offense that has long been predicated on passing the football is running with it.

As the Sports Xchange notes, not only have the Packers had a player rush for at least 80 yards in each of the last six games for the first time in the team's illustrious history, but consider this as the NFC North leaders get ready to host division rival Chicago on Monday night:

Eddie Lacy, who has a team-high 446 rushing yards in the Green Bay's first seven games, needs only 19 yards against the Bears to surpass Alex Green's club-leading total of 464 yards for the entire 2012 season.

"That's kind of how this team is shaping up," Aaron Rodgers said. "The identity of this football team has been proven. It starts up front. We've done a great job controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, stopping the run and running the football effectively. We haven't had both of those things working here really in my time" with the Packers since 2005.

"We haven't run the football this well since I've been here, and it really takes a lot of pressure off of the passing game when we can open up those kind of holes."

Green Bay's renewed rushing attack has yielded a robust average of 141.4 yards per game. That ranks the Packers No. 3 in the league - a season high.

The Xchange went on to remind readers the last time Green Bay was so prolific on the ground was a decade ago. Buoyed by Ahman Green's franchise-record 1,883 yards, the Packers finished the 2003 season third in the NFL with a per-game average of 159.9 rushing yards, their highest output and loftiest league ranking since the 1970 merger.

This season's Packers are in prime position to go higher.

Besides having a favorable schedule in which its remaining nine games are against teams with a combined record of 27-40, the majority of Green Bay's upcoming opponents is deficient in defending the run.

Other than facing a pair of current top-10 run defenses with Philadelphia (No. 9) and the New York Giants (No. 10) in back-to-back weeks following Monday's game, no team left on the Packers' regular-season schedule ranks in the top half of the league.

The Bears, whom Green Bay will play twice, are down near the bottom at No. 25, allowing an average of 117.3 rushing yards per game.

Of course, Chicago will be focused first and foremost on trying to contain Rodgers and the Packers' prolific passing attack, which ranks No. 5 in putting up nearly 300 yards per outing despite being decimated by injury at the receiver positions.

Yet, as Minnesota quickly discovered and had to adjust to in the Packers' blistering 44-31 road win Sunday night in which they scored at will and didn't punt once, the Green Bay offense isn't so predictable anymore.

"The (offensive) line, they're controlling the game for us," Rodgers said. "We had 40 rushes (Sunday) and I think 29 or 30 or so passes called. When you can have that type of ratio, that's foreign for our team. We haven't been doing that much (running of the football) in the last few years. It gives us a lot of confidence in the passing game, gives us a lot more one-high stuff (in the secondary) and run the ball against some tough looks and making them count."

Rodgers admittedly didn't see the high rate of success thus far by the complementary run dimension coming as he prepared for this season.

"Eddie's done a great job, and then to get James back this week, he's a slasher in every sense of that word," Rodgers said. "Eddie was just pounding it (Sunday). He's tough to bring down; he's like a bowling ball in there. I'm really proud of the job those guys did, but the offensive line deserves a lot of credit."

After all but abandoning running the football as Green Bay languished in the 20s in the league rankings for rushing average each of the previous three seasons, McCarthy isn't reveling in the highly productive fallout from his decision-making back in the spring.

"Has it (really) come to fruition?" McCarthy posed. "We're not even halfway through the season. We're getting better."

From a fantasy perspective, a potent rushing attack that makes the passing game even more dangerous is more than we could have hoped for. Continue to enjoy it down the stretch, when your games matter most.


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