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Film Study: Packers run game plays right into Saints’ strengths

Something’s got to give!

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one solace that we can take from Monday night’s 34-24 loss in Las Vegas, it’s that the 100-yard rusher streak is still intact. Josh Jacobs ran for 88 yards on the Saints and with it, the streak continues. It’s now been 45 games since the Saints last allowed a 100-yard rusher, and Aaron Jones will be the next man hoping to break that streak.

The Packers have had tremendous offensive success so far in 2020, and while most of that can be credited to the beautiful mustachioed Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and the Packers O-Line have done their fair share as well. In their win this past Sunday over the Detroit Lions, the Packers ran for 259 yards on 35 carries and 2 touchdowns, with Jones contributing 168 yards and both of the touchdowns. Jones also managed a staggering 116 yards after contact, however 65 of those can be attributed to this run.

The start of this run is created by the Packers offensive line, mainly Elgton Jenkins (LG #74) not letting Jamie Collins (#58) get over to the gap in time to stop Jones. Jones then splits the Lions defensive backs, running right through an attempted arm-tackle from Will Harris (#25) and then hitting paydirt approximately 75 yards later.

This details the Packers strengths in the run game. While that run was certainly an outlier, they’ve gotten most of their success running between the tackles so far this season, particularly up the middle, with 198 of their 417 coming on runs to either side of the center.

Packers rushing stats per run direction

Direction Att Yds Y/A TDs Long
Direction Att Yds Y/A TDs Long
LE 3 14 4.7 0 8
LT 5 22 4.4 0 12
LG 4 9 2.3 0 4
ML 9 112 12.4 2 75
MR 12 86 7.2 0 18
RG 5 41 8.2 0 13
RT 7 23 3.3 0 5
RE 12 47 3.9 0 11

We can look at this in contrast to how the Raiders ran against the Saints this week, when 67 of their 116 yards coming off runs to both edges, including the 20-yard rushing touchdown by Jalen Richard late in the game.

Well that was infuriating to watch again. Richard does a good job of ducking to the outside right when Malcolm Jenkins (#27) closes in to make the play followed by avoiding Chauncey C.J. Ceedy Duce Gardner-Johnson (#22) who’s still stumbling out of bounds as we speak before finding his way into the endzone. This play highlights another issue the Saints had on Monday, 12 missed tackles, the most they’ve missed in a game since Week 5 of 2019, where they also missed 12 tackles. Part of that is Josh Jacobs being amazing at avoiding tackles, part of that is sloppiness from the Saints defense not just in the rushing game but in the passing game as well.

Last week I detailed that the keys to the Raiders rushing attack succeeding would be to get to the outside and to force missed tackles. This is exactly what the Raiders did, and it resulted in success. The key this Sunday night will be if the Packers attempt to keep doing what’s worked for them, or if Matt LaFleur tries to adapt to what’s been proven to work against the Saints.