Packers Running Backs: Cedric Benson in the 4th Quarter
For a team that doesn’t run the ball much, the Packers sure like to talk about the importance of running the ball.
Yes, a good running game is nice to have, but it’s not necessary, especially with a QB like Aaron Rodgers and the Packers talented WRs.
It would be nice to see the Packers get more production in the run game during the fourth quarter, though, especially when preserving a lead and killing the clock. That’s one of the reaons Ted Thompson plucked Cedric Benson off his couch and brought him to Green Bay.
Thompson probably had visions of Benson crashing up the middle late in games, moving the pile forward as the lead built on the arm of Aaron Rodgers became more insurmountable and precious seconds ticked off the clock.
That’s a cool vision and all, but how close is it to reality?
Benson in crunch time
Last season with the Bengals, Benson had 67 carries for 289 yards in the fourth quarter. That’s an average of 4.31 yards per carry.
When the Bengals were ahead in the fourth, Benson had 24 carries for 110 yards and a 4.6 average.
Again, not bad.
The first of those run-the-clock-with-a-lead carries was a 39-yard TD in the season opener against the Browns to ice the game. If you take away that long run, Benson’s average drops to 3.1 per carry.
Ball security was an issue with Benson when trying to preserve late leads. He fumbled three times with his team ahead in the fourth and lost two of them (on consecutive runs against the Cardinals in week 16).
With the game tied in the fourth, Benson had 14 carries for 41 yards, a 2.9 average.
When the Bengals were behind in the final quarter, Benson had 29 carries for 138 yards, a 4.6 yard average.
If you take away Benson’s 39-yard scamper, his overall fourth quarter numbers fall to 66 carries for 250 yards, a 3.8 average.
- These numbers should not be used to make a final judgement on how Benson will perform in the fourth quarter this season. I’m simply presenting this information for discussion. Put Benson behind the Packers’ offensive line in Mike McCarthy’s offense and maybe he’ll explode into a fourth-quarter juggernaut. Or maybe he’ll be so bad that the Packers cut him. We’ll see.
- The fumbles scare me. You simply can’t turn the ball over late. You really can’t turn the ball over late when trying to run clock and close a game. If ball security appears to be an issue with Benson, the Packers should cut ties. Normally I’m fairly liberal when it comes to running backs fumbling (I don’t blame guys for trying to make plays. Sometimes s**t happens), but it seems be a legit problem with Benson instead of a guy coughing it up trying to do too much. He’s fumbled 12 times the last two seasons.
- I don’t like using the “if you take away that one long run” argument, but I presented Benson’s numbers without the 39-yard run so we could at least discuss it. Yes, you want to see consistency out of your running back, but I don’t think any Packers fans will want to take away any long game-clinching runs Benson reels off while wearing the green and gold.
- As great as the 39-yard run to ice the week one game was, that’s how bad Benson was in week 14 with the Bengals trying to preserve a 19-10 lead against Houston. Benson in the fourth: 5 carries, minus-5 yards, and a 20-19 Bengals’ loss.
- Benson wasn’t the fourth-quarter go-to back with the Bengals. Bernard Scott got plenty of fourth quarter carries, too.
Final thoughts (for real this time)
The Benson signing has grown on me. It’s a low-risk move, so why not?
The only thing that scares me — check that, completely freaks me out — are the fumbles. Blowing just one game because of a late turnover can make that low-risk move look like a horrible decision.
Here’s hoping Benson covers up the ball, and makes some of those Ted Thompson visions a reality.——————