Could Packers become greatest offense in history? 'It's all on the line'
James Jones.Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The folks who do the stat research for the four-letter network tweeted something this morning that reveals the incredible potential the Green Bay Packers' offense has.
Stat of the day: Packers are 1st team in history to have 450-yard passer AND 125-yard rusher in the same game.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 16, 2013
The team also came close to a record in blasting Washington 38-20, producing 295 yards after the catch, the second-highest YAC total in NFL history.
The Packers' incredible performance Sunday, and the yards they gained in their valiant loss to San Francisco on Sept. 8, have them leading the NFL in total offensive yards.
They're also on pace to break the all-time NFL record for most yards gained from scrimmage by a team: 7,474 by the 2011 New Orleans Saints.
(Of course, there's other records to look at - such as the possibility that Aaron Rodgers may not only break 5,000 yards passing, but even - mind-boggling to think about - 6,000 yards passing.)
But there's 14 games to go this regular season, and whether they get there is all based on how five men on the field at one time do: the offensive line.
Bakhtiari, Sitton, Dietrich-Smith, Lang and Barclay are a balance of experience and youth.
A lot of youth.
The very young twin B's are also twin offensive tackles, and they've had to face some of the toughest pass rushers in the game - guys like Aldon Smith and Ryan Kerrigan.
Aaron Rodgers has been slammed to the turf six times with the football in his hands - a pace of 48 sacks, slightly below his 2012 total, but still not the desired level of protection.
How do you solve that? Take the pressure off arguably the game's best player.
You can do that in many ways, the most obvious being solid pass protection.
But there's also getting the running backs involved with the running game and through screens, but especially with the ground game.
Notice something about what happened after James Starks got lathered up in the Washington win.
What did he do? Gain 132 yards, 130 after his first series on the field.
What did the Washington pass rush do after Starks's first series? Produce just one sack the rest of the game, and none until the score was 31-0.
(They'd sacked Rodgers three times beforehand, including Starks' first series.)
Certainly, lots of credit should come to Starks for that dominance.
But so much of it also belongs to the offensive line that turned Washington to mush.
Bakhtiari, Sitton, Dietrich-Smith, Lang and Barclay did the blue-collar dirty work that let the Packers have a record-setting day.
If they do their job all season long, just think of what the Packers' offense could do.
It is not out of the question to have five Packers players gain 1,000 yards from scrimmage this year.
Already, a quintet of skill position players are on pace to do it (breaking what's believed to be another record):
- Randall Cobb (242)
- Jordy Nelson (196)
- James Jones (178)
- Starks (176)
- Jermichael Finley (121)
That would take care of at least 5,000 of those 7,474 yards - slightly more than 467 per game overall.
If Eddie Lacy comes back healthy as well from his concussion, he and Starks could both be in the 1,000-yard mix if a two-back rotation system brings the necessary productivity.
But they won't get there if this young line, maligned last year for its lack of pass protection, doesn't get the job done.
Three things to remember, though.
The first: there are at least two other offenses in this yardage-happy era which have put up near-Packers-like numbers these first two games and could contend for history-making status.
1) The Denver Broncos. That team, with Peyton Manning at quarterback, lethally decimated the Baltimore Ravens to a record-tying extent, and it proved it could run the ball as well against the Giants.
2) The Philadelphia Eagles. The Chip Kelly offensive experiment is one of the most interesting laboratories the sport has seen in decades.
Does his quick-sprint offense have the capability to last an entire NFL season before running out of gas or being figured out by the league's defensive geniuses? If so, the game will have been revolutionized, and records will fall.
The second: This record possibility assumes health, which is never a completely safe assumption in the NFL.
Just think of Eddie Lacy's concussion from Sunday.
More importantly, think of a season-ending, and probably contention-ending injury to (gasp at the thought, fans) Aaron Rodgers.
That would end any record chase.
The third and most important: the offensive numbers don't mean squat unless they translate to wins, so the defense must play its own part in turning big offensive numbers into wins.
Still, records could fall at the hands of the Packers, simply due to the brilliance of Aaron Rodgers and his receiving corps, a running game that has suddenly awakened, and (crossing fingers) health.
It's all up to the guys Keith Jackson once-deemed the "big uglies." It's all on the line.