The Packers have no interest in becoming a run-oriented offense, but Mike McCarthy firmly stated on Monday that the run production in Sunday’s loss didn’t cut it.
Aside from quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ five scrambles, the Packers ran the ball just nine times for 18 yards, all by Cedric Benson. The 2.0-yard average was less than half of what the lead backs averaged last year for the season (4.2, for both Ryan Grant and James Starks).
“I’m not as caught up in the number of attempts, but the 2.0 is the area that we’re focused on as an offense,” McCarthy said.
“The way the game goes sometimes dictates where you’re heavy run and pass, but we don’t want to be running the ball for 2.0. That’s not acceptable.”
No one is pointing a sole finger at Benson or any other individual. McCarthy said the back’s decision-making and the line’s blocking are both evaluated and could have been better on Sunday. His players got the message.
“It’s our job to move the defensive linemen out of the way. I think we need to improve on that,” right guard Josh Sitton said. “And I think the running backs need to improve on hitting the holes, knowing which holes to hit, and where to bounce certain runs and where not to.”
The Packers were behind 23-7 midway through the third quarter against the 49ers, forcing them into catch-up mode. Benson’s last carry came with just over six minutes left in the third.
That factored into the production because the Packers couldn’t commit to the run. Also, the 49ers were able to keep their two safeties deep to take away the big play while the defensive front handled the few runs that came at them.
San Francisco ranked No. 1 in the league last year against the run in both yards per game (77.3) and per carry (3.5). Next up is Chicago, which ranked in the top 10 in both categories last year, as well.
“I thought San Francisco did a good job with their line stunts and doing some things they haven’t done in the past,” McCarthy said. “But we didn’t do our part as well as we could.”
The passing game may have to adjust this week, too, as receiver Greg Jennings sustained a groin injury on the final drive Sunday. McCarthy said Jennings felt better on Monday, but his status for the week appears iffy.
Donald Driver replaced Jennings for that final series, his only action in the game. When asked about the limited snaps for the franchise’s all-time leading receiver, McCarthy said it was “one game, and Donald understands that.”
Back after missing one game will be outside linebacker Erik Walden, who was suspended for the opener. He was encouraged to see the defense post four sacks of San Francisco’s Alex Smith, and he’s hoping to pick up where he left off in the preseason, when he was a steady force in the pass rush.
“My big thing is probably tackling,” Walden said on Monday, the first day he was allowed back in the facility following the one-week suspension. “Being out of the game for a week, you can’t really prepare yourself for tackling, just lifting weights and running. I have to make sure I’m fundamentally sound, prepped up and ready to go.”
There’s also a chance the secondary could see the return of cornerback Davon House, though that’s far from a certainty. McCarthy said he’s hoping House can do more in practice this week than he did last week, when he returned following three weeks of rehab on his shoulder injury.
With the game Thursday, though, the Packers won’t practice in pads this week, so it’s difficult to gauge how ready House can get. The Packers used both Jarrett Bush and Sam Shields at corner in base and sub packages on Sunday.
The nickel safety spot remains fluid, as well, after rookie Jerron McMillian replaced M.D. Jennings in the second half. McCarthy labeled McMillian’s outing “solid” but called on everyone in the secondary to contribute more.
“We do have a number of guys that are role players, and they have to focus on their role and perform at a higher level in that role,” McCarthy said. “That’s something we’ll continue to evaluate and game plan weekly.”