Besides Favre's heroics, Packers may have found missing run game

Updated: October 30, 2007, 9:58 PM ET
Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- While Brett Favre's two long touchdown passes in Monday night's overtime win at Denver got all the attention, the Green Bay Packers might have found something even more important: a running game and a bona fide starting halfback in Ryan Grant.

The Packers beat the Broncos 19-13 Monday night when Favre hit Greg Jennings down the left side for an 82-yard TD on the first play of OT.

After relying on the pass their first six games, the Packers (6-1) had their first balanced offensive attack of the season with 28 passes and 27 runs.

Grant rushed 22 times for 104 yards, taking over for DeShawn Wynn early in the second quarter after the injury-prone Wynn sustained a shoulder stinger that landed him on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday.

"We talk about it here all the time," coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday of the running-related questions he's faced all season. "No. 1, we got the attempts close to where it needs to be. Twenty-seven attempts. I think it starts there.

"It's a performance we can build off of."

Although the Packers still rank last in average yards rushing (71.3) and 29th in yards per attempt (3.4) going into Sunday's game at Kansas City, it was especially gratifying for McCarthy and his players to see the extra time spent during the bye week on improving the ground game pay dividends.

"We've struggled all year with it," said right tackle Mark Tauscher, singled out by McCarthy as having had "an exceptional day" blocking on the back side. "To come out and execute after a bye week with all the emphasis on it was important for us."

Added center Jason Spitz, who started in place of Scott Wells for the second straight game: "It was nice to move the ball for once in that aspect of the game. We really emphasized the run in practice last week. It's been something that's obviously been vital for us to correct. And I think we corrected it. We still have a lot of work to do, but I'm satisfied with it right now."

Grant, meanwhile, seems to fit the Packers' zone-blocking scheme better than any of the team's other backs. At 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, he has better size than Wynn (5-10, 232), Brandon Jackson (5-10, 212) and Vernand Morency (5-10, 212). In addition, Grant looks like he runs harder and more decisively than the others.

"His body type, he's taller, he has longer leverage than the other running backs, he runs with a natural forward lean," McCarthy said. "He doesn't waste steps. He had that running style before he arrived here, and that's a big part of being successful in the zone schemes. The other guys are built differently, have different running styles.

"I'm very happy with the way Ryan took advantage of his opportunity, and he will be in the No. 1 slot when we go to Kansas City."

Grant, acquired from the New York Giants for a sixth-round draft pick on Sept. 1, gained four or more yards on 12 of 22 attempts, including three 7-yard runs, two 6-yarders, an 8-yarder, a 9-yarder and a 24-yard gain.

He was stopped for a loss or no gain just three times, a credit to the offensive line.

"They did a (heck) of a job. I just did my part. They made it real easy," said Grant, who had rushed six times for 27 yards before Monday night, in part because of a late fumble in the Packers' Sept. 30 victory at Minnesota. "One of the things we wanted to accomplish this week was running the ball. Hopefully this will help us build for next week."

It should also help the passing game.

Favre's 79-yard TD to James Jones and his 82-yard winner to Jennings came off play-action fakes.

"Play-action is kind of nonexistent when you're not running the ball," said Favre, who completed 21 of 27 passes for 331 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos.

"So both were down-the-field throws, but they came off play-action. You don't call those play-actions if you're not running the ball effectively. I always felt play-action was one of my better parts of my game, but it doesn't make a lot of sense if you're not running the ball well."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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