Heading into Week 3, there was panic surrounding the Green Bay Packers offense despite the fact they were more than touchdown favorites at home against the Detroit Lions.
Despite only winning by a touchdown in a 34-27 home opener, the 2-1 Packers flashed the potential to be one of the league’s best offenses in 2016 on Sunday.
For the most part, you can measure an offense by its top contributors. Between Week 1 and Week 2, road games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings, quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a yard-per-attempt average of just 5.9, nearly three yards under his Week 3 result.
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Star running back Eddie Lacy had just 111 rushing yards off 26 attempts in the first two weeks of the season, while he posted 103 yards off 17 carries against Detroit. Rodgers’ favorite target, Jordy Nelson, had a six-reception, 101-yard and two-touchdown game after posting 11 receptions for 105 yards and two scores in the team’s first two contests.
In just about every facet offensively, the Packers had their best game of the 2016 season, which was highlighted by Rodgers’ 129.3 passer rating, his best mark since Week 3 of last year and his first 100-plus passer rating since Week 6 of 2015.
So what exactly was different about head coach Mike McCarthy’s approach to attacking the Detroit Lions’ defense, when he once had a 28-point lead, compared to his Week 1 effort, when he never had more than a touchdown lead over the now-0-3 Jacksonville Jaguars? The answer is personnel and formation diversity.
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Of the Packers’ 67 offensive snaps against Jacksonville, including penalties but excluding the kneel to end the game, the team used 11 personnel (one back and one tight end) 48 times, 01 personnel (zero backs and one tight end) 12 times and 20 personnel (two backs and no tight ends) seven times. Not one time did Green Bay line up with two tight ends on the field at the same time in Week 1 until they ended the game with a kneel with 14 seconds left on the clock with a 27-23 lead.
That was a completely different mentality to what was shown at Lambeau Field in Week 3. The Packers started the game off with back-to-back two-back formations, which extended throughout the game. During Green Bay’s first two drives, McCarthy’s offense used more two-back looks than they did in the first 43 minutes against the Jaguars combined.
They clearly wanted to establish the run, which was evident by their two-tight end formations, and that led to Lacy’s big day on the ground. Their tending toward fielding two hybrid blockers at the same time also forced the squad to decide who their true outside receivers were.
Against Jacksonville, the Packers had three wideouts on the field on every play. Against Detroit, they started to develop an identity by allowing Nelson, the team’s inside receiver on trips formations in Week 1, to hang outside more often opposite of either Randall Cobb, who is primarily a slot receiver in three-receiver looks, or Trevor Davis, a rookie fourth-round receiver who had zero receptions in the first two weeks of the year.