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Archive for Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pack’s ‘Big Five’ to make comeback

January 15, 2008

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— For much of this season, the Green Bay Packers have been causing fits for opposing defenses with their "Big Five" formation - five wide receivers and an empty backfield.

But with the weather turning bad against Seattle on Saturday, the Packers temporarily put their signature spread formation on ice and mostly ran their way to a dominant 42-20 victory.

The Big Five hiatus shouldn't last very long, though.

With the Packers preparing to face the New York Giants' banged-up secondary in Sunday's NFC championship game at Lambeau Field, there's every reason to think they'll turn their receivers loose.

Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said coaches went into Saturday planning on using the five-wide formation, but decided to steer clear of it as the game unfolded.

"We just felt like we had better things in our game plan to utilize," Philbin said. "And obviously the score being what it was, the weather being what it was later in the game, it didn't make a lot of sense at that point."

By unofficial count, the Packers didn't use their Big Five formation at all against Seattle on Saturday. Green Bay did deploy a similar personnel group with four receivers and tight end Donald Lee lined up wide - but they only used that twice.

Instead, the Packers went in the opposite direction.

Not only did they run the ball 35 times while passing only 23 times - only the third game all season in which the Packers have run more than they've passed - they often did it out of full-house formations featuring two fullbacks and running back Ryan Grant.

It was an offbeat look for a team that until then had seemed to be spending more and more time with nobody lined up behind Brett Favre.

Philbin said the Packers' two-fullback attack is designed to make a defense commit to defending one side or the other, then exploit it.

"It's like anything else, you just try to figure out what they're trying to stop in that particular formation and then work off of that," Philbin said. "Are they geared up for the run? Maybe you've got some throws you can do. Are they geared up one side? Maybe you can work the other side. So it's not unlike many of our formation groupings that we're trying to just gain an advantage, a little bit here or there."

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