Bigger workload gets Green in the groove
Monday, September 15, 2003
Green Bay News Chronicle
By Tim Froberg
Ferraris aren't meant to be hidden in garages - just like Pro Bowl running backs like Ahman Green aren't meant to be handed the ball on an occasional basis.
A week after the Green Bay Packers were heavily criticized for not calling Green's number enough in a stunning loss to Minnesota, the Packers increased Green's workload and the numbers were impressive: 160 rushing yards on 23 carries (a 7.0 average) and a 65-yard touchdown dash which allowed the Packers to jump on Detroit early and breeze to a 31-6 NFC North rout of the Lions on a soggy Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.
It was Green's third-most productive rushing performance of his distinguished six-year NFL career, his 16th 100-yard rushing game as a Packer - second only to Jim Taylor - and the seventh time that he has rushed for 150 yards or more as a Packer. Green moved past Clark Hinkle (3, 860) and Dorsey Levens (3,937), and into fourth place on Green Bay's all-time rushing list with 4,105 yards.
The Packers piled up 200 rushing yards - their best rushing output since a 211-yard outburst in a 37-34 opening day win over Atlanta last season - and Green Bay's 35 carries were the third-most in the team's last 19 games. The Packers did it against a Detroit defense that was supposed to be significantly stronger against the run this season with the addition of massive free agent defensive tackle Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson. The Lions surrendered just 95 rushing yards last week in a 42-24 blowout of Arizona.
"I don't know if we're capable of getting 200 yards every week, but we're very capable (in the running game) because we have a great back and probably the best offensive line since I've been here," said Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who threw for only 132 yards but had a solid efficiency rating of 75.3. "In order for us to be successful, we've got to establish the run because a lot of what we do in our passing offense is off the run."
Much of the contest was played in a steady drizzle, which hampered the passing game.
"I told Ahman (Green) and Fish (Tony Fisher) before the game that this is your type of weather - you're going to get a bunch of carries," said Favre. "I knew it was going to be tough to throw, especially if you got behind early, and that's what happened to Detroit."
A week ago, the Packers basically ignored the running game, finishing with just 62 rushing yards on 19 attempts. The Packers opened the Minnesota game with six consecutive pass plays and didn't rush the ball until their third offensive series. Green was limited to 53 yards on only 15 carries.
This time, though, Packers' offensive coordinator Tom Rossley came out with a smash-mouth approach and made an early commitment to establishing the ground game by running the ball on 11 of the first 15 plays. The Packers gained a quick burst of momentum on their second play from scrimmage when Green sliced off the right tackle, broke a tackle attempt by Detroit safety Corey Harris and raced 65 yards for an instant score. The play was superbly blocked by right tackle Mark Tauscher, and left guard Mike Wahle, who pulled to the right side and led the way for Green.
"A play like that is like hitting a home run," said Green. "I've played baseball and it's the feeling of hitting the ball just right. It was just one of our bread-and-butter plays, a counter, a misdirection play. If it's blocked right and I hit it just right - at just the right speed - the only person I have to outrun is the safety. That's what happened."
Green's quick touchdown did more than just put a quick six on the scoreboard. "After struggling last week, it was nice to get a big chunk early," said Tauscher. "Our confidence went up and it kind of snowballed. We wanted to get 200 yards rushing and we did."
By the intermission, the Packers had one more carry (21) than they did all of last week - along with 141 rushing yards and a 17-6 lead. It was a dramatic turnaround from the Vikings game, and proved the Packers' offense can play physically, contrary to comments made after last week's game by Minnesota defensive tackle Chris Hovan.
"When it's raining out, I don't know why it happens, but we seem to start clicking on all cylinders," said Wahle. "I wish it would rain every game. Coach Sherman put the onus on our offensive and defensive lines to take this game over. We really took that to heart. We were thrilled it was raining out because we knew we'd get to rush the ball a lot and prove ourselves."
The game enhanced Green's track record as a Lion killer. It was his fourth 100-yard rushing game against Detroit - the most he's accomplished against any team. He also has produced more touchdowns against Detroit (five) than any other opponent.
Green received strong blocking and displayed the extra gear that he seemed to lack last season, when he was slowed by nagging groin and knee injuries. In addition to the 65-yard dash, he had runs of 13, 25 and 11 yards.
"The O-line was doing its thing and I was basically jelling out there," said Green. "Establishing the run early gets you in the groove. It sets everything and keeps teams at bay, so if they want to blitz, they've got to worry about us getting a big run."
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