Green gashes Denver defense with record-setting day
Monday, December 29, 2003
The Green Bay News Chronicle
By Tim Froberg
On paper, Denver's rush defense looked stellar entering Sunday's regular-season finale at Lambeau Field.
Ahman Green wasn't impressed, tearing through it like it was made of paper.
Green Bay's Pro Bowl running back shredded Denver's highly ranked run defense for a single-game franchise rushing record of 218 yards, and set two additional club records in a spectacular performance that propelled the Packers to a 31-3 victory.
Green's dominant day marked the first time a Green Bay running back has eclipsed the 200-yard rushing barrier in a game. The previous best was a 190-yard effort by Dorsey Levens against Dallas on Nov. 23, 1997.
Green also smashed a 64-year-old record for the longest Packers run from scrimmage with his 98-yard touchdown dash late in the third quarter. The former record belonged to Andy Uran, who had a 97-yard scamper in a 1939 game against the Chicago Cardinals.
In addition, Green's two touchdowns gave him 20 for the year, allowing him to nudge past Jim Taylor for most Packers touchdowns (19) in a single season.
"He's unbelievable," said Packers left guard Mike Wahle. "What a season he has had! He's an unbelievable player and an unbelievable guy. It couldn't happen to a better guy."
Predictably, Green, a humble, unassuming type, didn't try and blow his own horn when asked about his record-setting day.
"The biggest thing is that we got the 'W'," said Green. "We're just trying to do the things we're supposed to do out there, and letting the chips fall where they may."
Green, who averaged 10.9 yards per carry on 20 attempts, finished the regular season with a franchise-record 1,883 rushing yards, tops among National Football Conference runners.
Green's final and most sensational performance of the regular season came against a Broncos defense that had allowed an average of just 89.5 rushing yards per game, third best in the National Football League. While Denver didn't play six starters, cornerback Kelly Herndon was the only defensive starter to sit out.
Green was limited to just 52 rushing yards on 14 carries (a 3.7 average) in the first half, but exploded for 166 yards in the second half on only six carries, generating 145 of those on breakaway runs of 47 and 98 yards.
"It wasn't easy early on, because Denver did a great job in pursuit," said Packers head coach Mike Sherman. "They do a great job of run defense. It seemed like we were a shoestring tackle away from breaking some, and we just kept hammering away. I think our patience in the running game finally paid off."
Prior to his record-setting 98-yard run, Green felt like he should have scored on his 47-yard sprint late in the third quarter. He was dragged down at the Denver 7 by cornerback Lenny Walls, but scored on a 2-yard run two plays later.
Green's 98-yard touchdown burst came on Green Bay's first drive of the fourth quarter. It was a superbly blocked, misdirection play in which Green started left, then cut back to the right and ran untouched to the goal line.
"The backside 'C' gap opened up," said Green. "The play is designed to bait them to the left and then come back to the right with it. That's what happened to perfection. The offensive line blocked who needed to be blocked. All I had to deal with was the safety, and I think he got pulled in from the start of the play.
"On the first run (the 47-yard gain), I took too many peeks back to see where I was at. On the second one, I just looked back once. Then, I just looked at the end zone. I looked at it like it was the finish line, and I was running a 100-yard dash."
Green's stellar rushing performance coupled with Arizona's miracle finish against Minnesota sets the tables for Green to face the team (Seattle) and the coach (Mike Holmgren) that traded him to the Packers the eve of the 2000 NFL draft.
"It's irony," Green said. "I don't need to go into it, but it's kind of ironic."
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