Packers Xs and Os Film Session: Feed Eddie

Photo credit: Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, not much went right for the Green Bay Packers in their loss to the Buffalo Bills. You could classify the game as one of those late season letdowns where the film should be burned.

However, there was one lone bright spot on the offensive side of the ball: Eddie Lacy. He had an outstanding game against one of the better defenses in the NFL. In fact, he rushed 15 times for 97 yards and a 6.5 yards per carry average.

With the passing game off rhythm and stagnant, it’s perplexing that the Packers didn’t use Lacy more. Running the ball in the winter months is extremely important, especially when the weather turns bad and the winds gust, which is exactly what happened in Buffalo.

The Packers should have fed Eddie more. Moving forward, if they want to play better December football in hopes of continuing through February, they’ll have to feed him more.

We’ll use the Bills game film to discuss some of the runs that worked particularly well against a stout defense. While the game was disappointing, the running game is a source of optimism moving forward.

Against the Bills, I saw the Packers use Lacy in only two different running concepts: the inside zone and the fold block. This goes to show that offenses don’t need super thick playbooks; they only need a subset of plays that they execute at a high level to ensure to success.

The Packers used these two play concepts to attack the Bills, particularly in a manner to deal with the linebacker stack they like to run; the stack they like is to play their middle linebacker directly over a defensive tackle to make the offensive linemen’s job of blocking him even more difficult.

The Inside Zone

We’ve discussed the inside zone run several times this season because it’s the Packers’ bread and butter play, particularly if Lacy is on the field. We’ll look at it in a little more detail now.

The inside zone uses zone blocking, which calls for the entire offensive line to slant in one direction as one cohesive unit.  The rules of who blocks whom are quite straightforward. Usually, the lineman blocks the man directly over him or the man directly in the gap he will be blocking towards. If the lineman is uncovered, he will advance to the next level and block a linebacker or defensive back flowing to the gap. The inside zone is effective against linebacker stacks.

In the play below, which is inside zone right, we’ll look at the blocking assignments from left to right. The left tackle (69) is initially uncovered, so his primary responsibility is to block the outside linebacker/nickel defensive back (23). He first sets the edge as a decoy to invite the linebacker/defensive end (55) upfield. The left guard (71) has a man directly over him (96), so he slants to the right while sealing the middle. Because the middle linebacker (53) is stacked directly above the defensive tackle (96), he is the blocking assignment of the fullback (30). The fullback has to race the gap inside the left guard to cut him off. The center (63) has a man (97) in his right gap, which is the playside gap, so he must block him to the right. The right guard (70), since he is uncovered, is responsible for the linebacker (52) off of the line of scrimmage. The right tackle (75) is responsible for the defensive end (94) in his right gap.

Zone blocking doesn’t create one specific hole for the running back. Rather, it creates multiple lanes, or creases, that the running back should see and attack. The idea is the running back will choose the best one.

Note: all GIFs have been slowed down to show player movement. Your computer and internet connection are working normally.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind
Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Fold Blocking

The Packers put new wrinkle in their run blocking schemes that I haven’t seen them use too often. Against the Bills, they unveiled the center/guard fold block.

The center/guard fold block involves the center and guard exchanging assignments in the hole the ball carrier is supposed to run through in a man-to-man blocking scheme. It’s a useful strategy to help contain very strong and aggressive front sevens, which the Bills certainly have.

Man-to-man blocking, unlike zone blocking, does call for a specific hole that the running back is supposed to run through.

The basic rules of the fold block call for the uncovered offensive lineman to block down to form the inside wall. The covered lineman rotates around his counterpart and enters the hole, blocking the linebacker who is entering the gap, forming the outside wall.

This is a variation of cross blocking. It is not a trap, power, or pin and pull.

In the play below, the left guard (71) was uncovered because the nosetackle (99) was slanting towards the center (63). The run was called to go in between the left tackle (69) and left guard (71). The left guard blocked down to 99 and the center folded around to block 53. The H-back (81) led Lacy into the seals created by 63 on the left and 71 on the right. I perfectly executed lead play in a fold block.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind
Credit: NFL Game Rewind

The Packers came back the fold block again later in the game, also with good success. The center (63) and left guard (71) again switch blocking assignments and create an alley for Lacy to run through. The variation in the play below is the fullback (30) does not lead Lacy through the hole. The middle linebacker (52) was stacked above the defensive tackle and came on a stunt with the defensive tackle, which actually took him out of the running lane. However, if the fullback didn’t block the linebacker, he would have stuffed Lacy in the backfield.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind
Credit: NFL Game Rewind

If you look closely at the formations, you can see a little hint that the fold block is coming. When the fold is called, the two linemen doing it need to tighten their splits a little bit to speed up the exchange. So, the center and guard are closer together when executing the fold than they are when running the zone. You can see 63 cheating towards 71 for the folds, but 63 is equally spaced between 71 and 70 for the zone.

It will be a mystery why the Packers didn’t run Eddie Lacy more in this game, especially considering it was working and they Packers put in a new wrinkle specifically to attack Buffalo’s excellent front seven and their tendency to stack their middle linebacker.

Here’s to hoping the Packers feed Eddie more in the future.

I believe the GIFs embedded above to be fair use under the premise of being short clips of the original broadcast that are transformative for news reporting, commentary, critique, illustration, and teaching purposes.


Jay Hodgson is an independent sports blogger writing for and

Follow Jay on twitter at @jys_h.


27 thoughts on “Packers Xs and Os Film Session: Feed Eddie

  1. Again, thank you! I will say that Eddie might still fighting that hip injury from earlier. But with that good blocking I think James Starks would fits perfectly, because he has little more speed than Eddie!

    1. I agree.

      The hip injury may have been why Lacy was on a snap count for the Bills game. Starks could easily have run as effectively with that kind of blocking. I think I could have run effectively with that kind of blocking!

      But, croatpackfan, you and I have debated this before. Compare this play-calling to the NE game and you see why I criticize MM periodically. His choice to abandon the run didn’t help GB at all against Buffalo.

      1. I did not say, and I do not think that MM is over mistakes, or bad play-calling. But as we understand that Aaron has the right to change the call on every snap, we can not say that MM is the only one responsible… The result is amazing in pass run ratio, but it may just be some misunderstanding between QB and coach! And I think that Aaron was trying to push pass play on the premise that at one moment it must start… We can question everything, from game plan to the very execution, but we do not have enough information to judge who & what is guilty for that bad day, That is my opinion!

        1. Yes, Rodgers can and does audible. But this is a long-standing issue. If MM doesn’t like what Rodgers has been doing, as HC he should be able to rein in Rodgers. If MM can’t do that, then MM isn’t the coach I think he is, and it becomes MM’s fault.

    2. I agree Croat and Larry. The shame of it is this was James Starks homecoming. He had a ton of people at the game wanting to see him. Mentally he was as motivated as you get to have a great game. MM simply didn’t play him. Had some good runs then he benched him when he totally whiffed on a pass by Rodgers. We all know Starks isn’t the best of pass catchers but damn “The Buffalo Bruiser” certainly could have broke a couple big runs with the blocking the o-line was doing as witnessed in the videos above. MM blew it in this one. I don’t think he makes this mistake again but unfortunately he’ll probably be calling plays at Seattle vs at Lambeau Field.

  2. Stunning. For years, the hue and cry was ‘the Packers need a back that can dominate on the ground in December and the post-season.’ So they finally get one, but Mikey didn’t get the memo.

    Bet me. Pass/run ratio against Tampa runs somewhere around 2:1.

    1. In a west coast offense, and with a qb like Rodgers, you typically use the pass to set up the run. As long as you win, who cares what the pass run ratio is?

  3. “Running the ball in the winter months is extremely important, especially when the weather turns bad and the winds gust, which is exactly what happened in Buffalo.”

    Are you sure about that weather???

    1. From what I understand, the wind was pretty bad and was swirling in the stadium, giving Rodgers and Masthay some problems.

      1. Seriously as a viewer watching on tv I would have liked to know this but those two bozo announcers never mentioned the weather. All I heard the entire game was that effin annoying train whistle. It’s worse than the Viking horn. I don’t know how those Buffalo fans can stand it.

  4. Excellent breakdown Jay.

    Since CM3 moved to ILB on running downs, there are 2 problems with this team.

    1. They are too light in the pants at DT. There’s nothing that can be done about it this year. Use your secondary quality to it’s full potential and continually put a safety in the box.

    2. MM and AR’s stubborn insistence on chucking it deep. This has been a hallmark of their time together from the very beginning. The book on how to beat GB is written: On defense, have a great front 4. Play both safeties back and make them run the ball to beat you. On offense, just don’t turn it over. GBs D struggles to get off the field without a turnover.

    The 1st point is a TT failure. Maybe Raji would have made a difference this year. Who knows.

    But the second point is SO DARN FRUSTRATING to watch. Just. Run. The. Ball. For the first time in 10 years, you have the personnel to whip the opposition, regardless of their quality up front. Having long drives also has the benefit of keeping your vulnerable defense off the field for large portions of the game. And it also opens up the play action game and would result in more 1 on 1s deep. We’d wreck the league.

    I haven’t given up yet, but unless MM and AR put their pride on the shelf, this is not a team that can beat Seattle. Maybe not Denver with their newfound running game (notice how THEYRE using it MM??) either. Maybe not even New England with Chandler Jones back.


    1. I really do not understand how you find a way to blame TT for every bad thing that happen to Packers, I can bet that you can find TT responsibility for B. J. Raji injury.

      1. Croat, as you can see by my name I am a Ted Thompson worshipper. I noticed it too regarding Bearmeat. He’s clearly a Ted Thompson hater. He probably was one of the people that stood outside Lambeau in 2008 and demanded Murphy fire TT for getting rid of Favre and promoting a qb who never started a single game. I bet he was there. I also bet he will deny it.

        1. I am NOT a TT “hater” at all. I’ve been to GB 5 times in my life – all to see Packer games, and I was of the opinion that it was time to let ARod prove his worth in 2008. Please don’t let facts get in the way of your cast aspersions though.

          As a matter of fact, I think TT is a top 5 GM in the league. I’m glad we have him. But I’m also not going to sit here and say that everything he does is wonderful. I wish he’d supplement his roster with more mid level free agents. I wish he’d stop striking out so much at DL and LB in the draft – especially with the higher picks.

          Raji’s injury was not TTs fault at all – and we needed to get faster on all 3 levels of the defense. And we have. But I WAS concerned before the season started that we’d have trouble stopping the run once we missed out on the top 5 ILBs. Sure enough, we have.

          That is failure on the part of the personnel department. Which has TT at its head. You can’t stop the run in this league without either a dominating DT combo (or a NT in the 34), or domanint ILBs. We have neither.

          1. There you go again with the word “failure” followed by TT. You would think we are the Bears. We have everything ahead of us yet. Anything can happen once you get in the playoffs. The Packers have Mike Pennel, B.J Raji, and Guion, all TT picks helped to stop the run. TT also drafted Sam Barrington who’s ascending every week and could turn out to be a Patrick Willis type middle linebacker. You need to put your trust in TT instead of your negativity. Think positive Bearmeat. TT is the best in the NFL.

            1. Positive and fan boy are two very different things TedTomsin.

              Barrington is playing ok right now and could get better. But he’ll never be Patrick Willis light. Never. Raji was the only proven run stuffing commodity at DT coming into the year, and even then, that was a risk because he’s sucked since 2010.

              Guion was a low risk option that was well done. Ditto Pennel. But neither of them are season savers.

              Yes, I used the word “failure” because it is exactly that. TT is a great GM. Not an infallible one. And not the best in the league either.

      2. Dear Croat, I don’t think Bearmeat is a TT hater. I am not. TT and GB staff made a conscious decision to employ lighter defensive linemen even though they knew it might impact GB’s ability to stop the run. All GM’s utilize scarce resources in the way they think best, knowing that unless one of some of their rookies are gems (for Ted, if Pennel had become a gem at NT, that would have saved TT’s bacon, and Pennel might yet become a nice player), or a 2nd year player develops (like Boyd at NT or Datone at DE), those decisions normally come with trade offs. TT decided to pay his CBs, and his OLBs, and to try to economize on his D-line and to some extent, also on his ILBs (yes, I know Hawk is overpaid: that is an Oops, on TT’s part). We judge a GM like TT on overall success, knowing every NFL team has some weak spots. Here, Bearmeat is merely commenting on TT’s decision that Raji, Guion, and Pennel could man the NT spot. Raji got hurt (I never thought much of Raji, but still), and Guion has been adequate after shaking off the rust. Since TT paid Guion less than $1 million, TT is getting excellent value from Guion, but even so, Guion is not a stud at NT.

  5. Truth be told, I really think the reason MM didn’t run more is because he believed the group would pull it together. There were a LOT of drops and off-target passes that were true anomalies for this team. Yes, MM probably should have just accepted that it would be one of those days, but right or wrong, he knew the shots were going to be open and expected the physical mistakes to get cleaned up.

    1. Yes, I think you are right. I went back and looked at the play by play box score. GB had 5 possessions in the 2nd half. On 2 of them, holding calls negated nice runs (inc. the 21 yd run by Lacy), and put GB in passing situations (result of Sitton’s hold was 2nd and 14). On a 3rd possession, GB got the ball back with 1:58 on the clock and no TOs, so there were no running plays there. On another drive, GB did score a FG and had a pretty long drive. Yes, GB could and should have run more, but there were at least some reasons for some of the decisions to pass.

    1. A cross block is when both offensive linemen are directly covered by defensive linemen and they exchange assignments. Fold blocking is when the uncovered lineman blocks down and the covered lineman folds out to block a linebacker off of the line of scrimmage.

  6. Great job (as usual), Jay. Regarding feeding Eddie, although I am not an apologist for MM, the issue is whether a case be made for the 2nd half play calls?

    1st Drive – 2nd half: Pass to Cobb for 20. Lacy off LG for 9. Lacy off LT for 6 (called back for holding on Bakhtiari. 2nd and 14 now. Inc. Pass. Inc. Pass. Punt. [Holding call puts GB in a passing situation. I see no fault in play calls. Completed pass, 2 runs and put into a passing situation by the holding call.]

    2nd Drive: Lacy LT for 3. Interception. [I see no obvious fault. I suppose on 2nd & 7, could have pounded Lacy again.]

    3rd Drive: Lacy Middle for 4. Inc. Pass (drop). Pass Quarless for 7. 1st & 10. Lacy Middle for 2. Inc. pass. 3rd & 8: Pass Nelson for 16. 1st & 10. Cobb from backfield up the middle for 12. 1st & 10. Cobb again RT for 3. Pass Cobb for 14. 1st & 10. Pass to Adams for 6. Inc. Pass (pressure). 3rd & 4. Pass intended for Boykin intercepted. [Looked to me like Boykin would have picked up the first down but for his butterfingers. GB moved the ball – I see no obvious fault with the play calls.]

    4th Drive: Lacy RT for 6. Lacy LT for 21 (holding on Sitton). Pass Cobb for 16. Cobb from backfield LE for 0 gain. Facemask on Buffalo 1st down. Inc. pass. Nelson for 20. Cobb for 17. Pass to Cobb for -1. Rodgers scramble for 3. 3rd & 8. Inc. pass. Field Goal made. Score 19-13 [I don’t see much fault. Passed on 1st & 10 twice, but also got first downs on those passes. Third time GB passed on 1st and 10, Cobb lost a yard. Someone might argue GB should have run there, but I didn’t go back to see how many guys Buffalo had in the box, and the prior two passes on 1st & 10 gained 20 yards and then 17 yards.]

    5th Drive: 1:58 to go – no Time outs, starting at GB 10. Have to pass, pretty much. Sack, fumble for a safety.

    Bottom line is I don’t see that much to criticize in the 2nd half play calls. I so see where a couple more runs could have been called based on down and distance, but again, I didn’t go back to see how many Buffalo had in the box on these pass plays.

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