The Green stampede
Ahman Green gave the Packers a semblance of a stout offense by running for 116 yards, including a key 28-yard run in the fourth quarter Monday, December 23, 2002
Green Bay News-Chronicle

Ahman Green gave the Packers a semblance of a stout offense by running for 116 yards, including a key 28-yard run in the fourth quarter

By Tim Froberg
News-Chronicle
With his game-breaking speed, it's no stretch to say Ahman Green can run like the wind.

He's not so bad running into the teeth of a wind, either.

With blustery conditions restricting Green Bay's passing game Sunday, Green picked up a struggling offense and gave the Packers the juice they needed to grind out a 10-0 win over the Buffalo Bills.

In his second start since returning from a bruised kneecap, which sidelined him 1 1/2 games, Green rushed for 116 yards on 26 carries (a 4.5-yard average) and produced 133 net yards to outshine Buffalo's productive Travis Henry.

Henry, who entered the game with 1,312 rushing yards to Green's 1,057, was limited to just 46 yards on 20 carries for a per-carry average of just 2.3.

Green was named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad Thursday for the second time in his five-year NFL career and played like one on a day when the Packers desperately needed him to deliver since franchise quarterback Brett Favre was experiencing difficulty in getting his wind-blown passes to fall into the hands of his receivers.

Swirling winds blowing at speeds between 25-30 mph created a wind-chill element of 13 degrees, which prevented a shootout between two of the game's ultimate gunslingers - Favre and Bledsoe - meaning the game would likely be decided by the better running game. Green wasn't about to let his Packers get thrown for a loss.

The Packers established Green early, giving him 15 first-half carries for 62 yards for a 4.1-yard average. He ran for 54 yards in the second half on 11 carries for a 4.9-yard average. Green also caught two passes for 17 yards.

In addition to pounding out the tough yards, Green showed a burst, with long runs of 16 and 28 yards, the latter of which set up Favre's game-clinching, 11-yard strike to Donald Driver with 7:23 remaining.

"It wasn't too bad out there," Green said. "We just had to hunker down and get what was there, 2 or 3 yards here and 6 or 7 there. We just kept pounding and pounding and got a couple of big runs near the end of the game.

"We knew going in that the weather could be bad, so we might have to depend on the run a lot. The wind just had the ball going every which way out there. At one point, I thought this game was going to be a pitcher's duel and end 3-0. I could deal with that, as long as we won."

While there was some concern a few weeks ago that the knee injury could hamper Green down the stretch, he has looked sharp in back-to-back games. Green rushed for 90 yards last week on 24 carries in Green Bay's 20-14 win over San Francisco.

"The knee feels good - it's getting better and stronger every day," he said. "I'm starting to get a little rhythm going. It takes a couple of good games like this to get going out there. The guys up front are doing their jobs. It makes everything easier when you get on a roll with your running game because then your passing game kind of clicks."

With Green rushing for all but 3 of the Packers' 119 rushing yards, Green Bay exploited a woeful Bills' run defense that ranks 31st of 32 teams in rushing yards allowed per game (135.9) and a per-carry average of 4.5.

"In this league, you have to be able to run the ball," said Packers' veteran center Frank Winters. "The conditions today were tough. We knew we weren't going to be throwing the ball all over the place. You could see the ball on punts and kicks kind of stopping in midair and floating around. We knew we wouldn't be successful today if we didn't run the ball well."

Pro Bowl right guard Marco Rivera added: "When we can run the ball, this offense is dangerous. When we started practice this week, we said the key to this game will be running the football. We just kept working at it and got the job done."

Green reached two milestones in the game. On a day made for tough, hard-nosed throwback players such as Paul Hornung and John Brockington, Green moved past Hornung and into seventh place on the Packers' all-time rushing list.

Green has 3,735 yards as a Packer compared to Hornung's 3,711. Green surpassed Hornung's career record for rushing and receiving (5,191 yards) and has 5,256 total yards.

In addition, Green generated his 14th 100-yard rushing game as a Packer to pass Brockington for second place on Green Bay's all-time list. Jim Taylor is the Packers' all-time leader with 26.

With one regular-season game left, Green's 1,173 rushing yards is the fifth-best single-season rushing mark in Packers history.

"The yards came slowly today," Green said. "If I needed 3 yards, I would barely get it. If we needed a first down, we'd just barely get it. We got just what we needed all the time. It was a workhorse type of day."

Despite his productive day, Green caused some controversy in the fourth quarter when officials ruled he dropped a short pass out of the backfield near the Buffalo 11-yard line. The Bills claimed he caught the pass, then fumbled, but it was not challenged via the instant replay-process because a play originally ruled an incomplete pass cannot be overturned into a fumble. The Packers went on to put the game away on Favre's touchdown pass to Driver.

"I'm pretty sure that I didn't have control of it because, by the time I turned around, I was getting hit at the same time," Green said.

Buffalo coach Gregg Williams disagreed with Green's assessment.

"To us, it's a fumble," Williams said. "You can't challenge it once it's ruled an incomplete pass. You can challenge the spot for a yard and a half, 2 yards, but I wasn't going to make that challenge. That's what instant replay is for, to have that play ruled a fumble."

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