Craig: No star runner? No big deal for Packers

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 11, 2013 - 7:16 AM
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Aaron Rodgers

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The Packers have the second-worst running game among the eight NFL teams still in the playoffs.

Big whoop, says Jimmy Johnson.

"I think in years past, you tried more so to have some balance," said Johnson, the Fox studio analyst and former two-time Super Bowl champion coach of the Cowboys. "But I think because of the rule changes and the way the passing game is orchestrated right now, you can go and have tremendous success with very little running game. Some teams have proven that."

A year ago, the Giants won the Super Bowl while ranking last in rushing (89.2 yards per game). Two years, ago the Packers won the Super Bowl while ranking 24th (100.4).

This season, the Packers rank 20th (106.4) while averaging a measly 3.9 per carry. On Saturday, they travel to San Francisco to play a physical 49ers' team that ranks fourth in rushing (155.7), third in total defense (294.4) and, oh yeah, beat the Packers 30-22 in Week 1 at Lambeau Field.

Again, big whoop. Or so says Jimmy.

"[Patriots coach] Bill Belichick and I were talking about how important the quarterback position is," Johnson said. "Before, the staunch position was always run the football and play defense. And now the only thing that matters is get a great quarterback. If you've got a great quarterback, regardless of what you do with the rest of your football team, you got a shot."

With reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers always have a shot. In fact, considering the disparity in experience between Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the Packers are the most likely among this weekend's four road underdogs to pull an upset. Kaepernick has seven career starts -- all in the past seven games -- and a 5-2 record, but is making his playoff debut.

Like all great quarterbacks, Rodgers' skill level would make any receiver he played with better. But it's a huge mistake to suggest the Packers' top four wideouts -- Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings -- could be replaced by just anybody.

So says Troy Aikman, Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback and Fox's top game analyst.

"It speaks to the job that [Packers General Manager] Ted Thompson has done," Aikman said. "Aaron ultimately is the ring leader and makes it all happen, but you couldn't just plug him in anywhere around the league and have him be able to do the same things he's doing. Believe me."

The Packers were the only team in the league this season to have four wideouts catch at least 36 passes and four touchdowns. Cobb led in catches (80) and yards (954). Nelson led in yards per catch (15.2). Jennings missed eight games, but had three of his four touchdown catches in Weeks 16-17. And all Jones did was lead the league in touchdown catches (14).

If what Aikman said next is true, the receiver-starved Vikings will be looking for more than just a No. 1 receiver this offseason.

"When I was playing, I felt that our passing game was only as good as our third receiver," Aikman said. "Now, I think passing games are only as good as their fourth receiver.

"And what I mean by that is you can do things to take away a No. 1 guy. You can do some things to slow down a Michael Irvin. You can do some things to slow down the [No. 2] guy. But the mismatches really start coming into the middle of the field at that third receiver."

The Vikings won 10 games and made the playoffs with a 2,097-yard rusher (Adrian Peterson), the 11th-ranked run defense and a passing attack that wheezed in at No. 31. Clearly, they want more from quarterback Christian Ponder, and they'll try to give him the receivers he needs to improve. But as long as Peterson is around, the Vikings believe they can win a championship as a run-oriented, defensive-minded team.

"Well, they did get into the playoffs this year," Aikman said. "But, in my opinion, you can't win a championship playing like that."

Johnson agreed.

"You just have to be so good on defense and so good at every other position, if you're going to try to win with so-so play at quarterback," Johnson said.

"It's been proven you can win big with a great quarterback and being so-so in other areas. I think with the way the league is now, in order to win big, you got to get outstanding play from your quarterback."

  • SATURDAY'S GAMES

    Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos 3:30 p.m.

    Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers 7 p.m.

    SUNDAY'S GAMES

    Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons Noon

    Houston Texas vs. New England Patriots 3:30 p.m.

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Cincinnati - LP: J. Broxton 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson 2
Minnesota - LP: T. May 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: M. Gonzalez 9
NY Yankees - WP: C. Capuano 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3
Philadelphia - LP: J. Diekman 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 4
Boston - WP: A. Ranaudo 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: C. Archer 4
Miami - LP: C. Hatcher 2 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: D. Carpenter 5
Cleveland - WP: D. Salazar 6 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 7 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: S. Carroll 1
Texas - WP: S. Baker 13 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Oberholtzer 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: N. Ramirez 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: P. Neshek 2
Colorado - LP: R. Brothers 2 FINAL
Arizona - WP: B. Ziegler 5
Oakland - LP: J. Lester 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 4
Los Angeles - LP: K. Correia 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 3
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 8 FINAL
Seattle - LP: F. Hernandez 3
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 2 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: R. Vogelsong 13
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Houston 3 FINAL
Sporting Kansas City 1
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 71 FINAL
Phoenix 85
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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