GREEN BAY — All season, Mike McCarthy has stepped to the podium inside the Lambeau Field media auditorium and stressed the importance of finding balance on offense.
While the path to equilibrium usually is best reflected in a team’s run-pass ratio, this particular directive goes further than just that for the Packers’ head coach.
McCarthy’s vision for the Packers is based on creating a multifaceted passing game that isn’t predicated on the utilization of one personnel formation or philosophical approach.
For example, the Packers threw several different looks at Chicago during Thursday night’s 26-10 win over the Bears. After rotating packages throughout the first half, Green Bay reverted back on its no-huddle principles after halftime.
The Packers had success with both approaches en route to the offense tying its season-high with 406 total yards in the team’s most convincing victory of this season.
“The ability to have both is important because it definitely takes advantage of our offensive line, our quarterback is exceptional at it,” said McCarthy of balancing the standard and no-huddle offenses.
“We’re trying to use everybody, particularly in the perimeter. That makes for a more versatile offense. It definitely makes us more explosive and it clearly fits the vision and long-term plan of being successful throughout the season.”
The impetus for the changeup had to do with how the Packers utilized veteran receiver Jordy Nelson in the first two games of the 2016 campaign.
Nelson, who was coming off reconstructive knee surgery, played 122 of a possible 135 snaps in the first two games in which the Packers stuck mostly with their no-huddle system.
He was productive with 11 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns, but McCarthy felt too much was being asked of Nelson in his first in-game action in more than a year.
So the Packers chose to switch to using more standard huddles and balanced packages to better utilize their depth at receiver and complement the strength of the offensive line.
Over the past two weeks, receivers Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis, tight end Justin Perillo and fullback Aaron Ripkowski all have seen their workloads spike.
After combining for only 87 offensive snaps in the first three games, the four have been involved in 268 offensive plays in the past two games through a steady diet of spread, two tight end and I-formations to keep defenses off-balance.
“If you look at the stress I thought we put him under in Jacksonville and Minnesota, no-huddle primarily was not the best solution,” McCarthy said. “I think you’re seeing the other players get opportunities, starting in Week 3, but now because of injuries, it’s maximized and they’re taking full advantage of it.”
Injuries have played a part in the Packers’ adaptation. With running backs Eddie Lacy (ankle) and James Starks (knee) both out, Green Bay deployed Montgomery and Randall Cobb more as running backs against the Cowboys and Bears.
Montgomery played a career-high 60 snaps vs. Chicago with most of those coming in the backfield. Along with 10 catches for 66 yards, the second-year running back had nine carries for 60.
After lamenting about not getting Cobb enough touches against Dallas, McCarthy was pleased to get Cobb a career-high 16 touches from scrimmage for 116 total yards Thursday.
Why is it so important to get Cobb the ball? Well, the Packers are now 5-0 in games in which the Pro Bowl receiver accumulates at least 10 combined carries and catches.
“Last week, Randall Cobb was supposed to carry the ball four, five times against Dallas,” McCarthy said. “I didn’t get that done. Last night, I wanted him to have five rushes in the game and he had five rushes. You try to create opportunities and have a vision and build a plan based off of the availability of your players week-in and week-out.”
Time and availability will tell what direction the Packers’ offense takes going forward, with the team hoping to get tight end Jared Cook (ankle) back in the coming weeks.
Montgomery and Cobb proved they have no issues handling backfield responsibilities until Starks returns and newly acquired Knile Davis gets caught up to speed.
Thursday’s showing was promising, though. Green Bay used all of its available offensive personnel for the second consecutive week en route to dominating the Bears in snaps (81-45), first downs (32-13) and time of possession (39:36-20:24).
After surviving the short week, the Packers are giving the team the weekend off before returning next week to prepare for its showdown with the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons.
“It’s a 10-week stretch,” McCarthy said. “We need to get into the routine and flow of every week and how you handle Mondays will be important and how you handle Wednesdays will be important when you forecast out training your football team.
“At the end of the day, it’s about health and we have to make sure we’re training all 63 of our guys and make sure they’re ready to go.”