'Guitar fakes' and more, the Packers back to playing the hits on offense
After resorting to atypical game plans for most of the season due to injury issues, the Packers offense has gone back to its play-action roots over the past two weeks.
Playing without multiple starting linemen and several weapons on offense, Matt LaFleur reached deep into his bag of tricks on several occasions to keep the Green Bay Packers on the tracks.
Against the San Francisco 49ers, the Packers' head coach and offensive play-caller reconstructed the offense around empty formations, an approach designed to get the ball out of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' hands as quickly as possible. In a critical NFC matchup with the Los Angeles Rams, LaFleur used alignment tweaks and pre-snap motion to keep Jalen Ramsey away from Davante Adams and leaned even more heavily into run-pass options to take advantage of the two-high coverages.
LaFleur deserves considerable credit for those game plans. With all but one of the team's preferred starters along the offensive line missing time, the Packers could not have survived with a conventional approach. Those decisions have not only put Green Bay atop the NFC playoff standings entering Week 16, but they have also made LaFleur one of the front-runners for Coach of the Year honors.
Still, the Packers have lacked the offensive cohesion and consistency that made them so dominant throughout the 2020 season, a change largely attributable to the decline in their play-action game. While the regression doesn't seem surprising in light of the team's injury woes, the offense cannot reach its apex without returning to it in some capacity.
That process might have begun over the past two weeks.