Rushing attack peaking at right time
Backs contribute six scores in rout of Seahawks Friday, January 1, 2010
Journal Sentinel

Backs contribute six scores in rout of Seahawks

It took a little prodding, but Brandon Jackson finally came clean. Green Bay's third-year running back hasn't been overly thrilled with his role in 2009, and he desperately longed for a game like Sunday.

"Yes, I want to run the ball more," Jackson said of his role as a third-down back who specializes in blitz pickups. "I just have to do my role and bigger things will come."

They certainly started during Green Bay's 48-10 rout of Seattle. Jackson touched the ball eight times and made his way to the end zone on three of those.

Jackson ran the ball five times for 20 yards and had two rushing touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 19 yards and another touchdown.

Starter Ryan Grant ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns of his own, while No. 3 Ahman Green had a nifty 6-yard scoring run. Green Bay's five rushing touchdowns were its most in more than 21 years and tied for the third most in franchise history.

"When you're laying in bed on Saturday night, you're kind of hoping for five passing touchdowns," Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "But it's nice to have some of the burden taken off of you, and those guys did a great job."

The emergence of Green Bay's rushing attack has made it one of the NFL's most dangerous offenses heading to the postseason.

Through five weeks, the Packers were 22nd in rushing offense, a step down from their 2008 ranking of 17th. But Green Bay has been on a steady rise since and has moved up to 14th. The Packers' current average of 118.4 yards per game is the highest in Mike McCarthy's four seasons and would be their fifth-best total since 1988.

"We're definitely a multidimensional offense right now," left guard Daryn Colledge said. "The passing game has been pretty good all year long, and the running game has just kept getting better and better. When we have things working in both areas, we're pretty hard to stop."

Seattle certainly had no luck stopping Green Bay's ground game. The Packers piled up 153 rushing yards, their fifth-highest total of the year.

It's extremely rare for a team to unearth a new weapon in Week 16, but Green Bay might have done exactly that with Jackson. Known mostly for his work as a fearless protector of Rodgers, Jackson showed he could certainly handle an increased role.

Jackson gave Green Bay an early 7-0 lead with a nifty 13-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass. He also had a 4-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.

But his finest piece of work came on a 6-yard touchdown early in the third quarter that gave Green Bay a 31-3 lead. Tight end Jermichael Finley motioned left and then fullback Quinn Johnson and right guard Josh Sitton cleared a small crease for Jackson over the left side.

Jackson called an audible, though, stopped on a dime and reversed direction back to the right. Tight end Donald Lee sealed the edge, and Jackson beat linebacker Will Herring and safety Jordan Babineaux to the corner of the end zone.

"It's about opportunities, and I think Brandon is an excellent picture of that," coach Mike McCarthy said. "For him to get the opportunities in the run game today and to see him go out there and make the best of it. . . .  They all pull for each other; they all challenge each other. I think it's an extra boost for our running game and also for the running backs."

Grant certainly provided a boost himself.

Midway through the second quarter, with the Packers leading, 14-3, McCarthy called an outside zone play. Fullback Quinn Johnson eliminated Herring in the hole, and Colledge chipped down on defensive tackle Colin Cole and then took care of middle linebacker David Hawthorne. Left tackle Chad Clifton turned defensive end Darryl Tapp outside, and center Scott Wells helped tie up Cole.

Grant made a terrific cutback and hit the hole off the left guard hard. Grant quickly hit the second level and was left one-on-one with strong safety Deon Grant.

Grant appeared stuck in quicksand as Ryan Grant juked him and then took off on a 56-yard touchdown run.

Just two weeks earlier, Ryan Grant broke loose for a 62-yard touchdown on an inside zone play against Chicago.

"Once I got up on (Deon Grant), I realized he wasn't really playing too downhill," Grant said. "He was kind of sitting. I kind of attacked him and gave him something and left him kind of flat-footed."

The Packers know this much: Their ground game is getting closer to what they aspire. And with Rodgers and the passing attack rolling, the Packers figure to be a tough outfit to slow down in the playoffs.

"Running the ball is crucial this time of year, especially when it's getting cold outside," Wells said. "You want to be able to have a two-dimensional attack going into the playoffs.

"I think it's a great feeling to be able to go out there and have a well-balanced attack. You don't want to be having question marks about one part of your offense."

Right now, the Packers have very few questions on offense. That's why they're one of the dark horses for postseason prosperity.

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