Run Game Comes Out Of Dormancy

Green Bay's 24th-ranked running game showed life after productive games by Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn against New England last week.

When Ryan Grant went down in Week 1 with a season-ending ankle injury, the Green Bay Packers' running game became a wasteland.

Brandon Jackson thought he'd become the man but was wrong.

John Kuhn often was the most effective running back but became a forgotten member of the offense for a month.

Dimitri Nance was added to the mix but had just two carries in his first seven games with the team.

James Starks was the forgotten man, then the savior, then the forgotten man again.

Only once in the last 12 seasons have the Packers ranked lower than this year's 24th in the NFL rushing ledger. But then came Sunday night at New England.

The Packers lost to the Patriots 31-27 but, even without Aaron Rodgers, the offense was productive, thanks in part to the emergence of the running game. The Packers hope it's not a fluke, not with the Giants' quarterback-hitting and -stripping defense coming to town for a Sunday showdown.

Against the Patriots, Jackson got 22 carries and made them count by rushing for 99 yards. It was Jackson's season-high total for rushing attempts. He had averaged just 10.4 carries since becoming the de facto starter in Week 2.

The lack of work was frustrating, considering Grant averaged 18.6 carries in 2008 and 2009. He got through some of those lean weeks because of his wife and faith. And his faith was severely tested, like during the four-game stretch preceding last week's breakout performance. Against Minnesota, Atlanta, San Francisco and Detroit, Jackson gained 86 yards – total – on 35 carries (2.45 average).

"Oh, it was (difficult to handle)," Jackson said. "It was like, ‘OK, I'm the guy. … Where are the carries?' But it was never to the point where I was going after coaches, ‘Why are you not giving me the ball?!' It was just, continue to wait for that opportunity, because we are a pass-team first, then run. So, it wasn't too much about being frustrated, it was just waiting on that opportunity to get the carries that I wanted."

Jackson's yardage output was his most since a 113-yard day at Washington in Week 5. That game, however, featured a 71-yard burst to pad his total. Against the Patriots, Jackson's long run was 12 yards, meaning there was consistent production. Consistent production means more touches, which means Jackson got into the flow of the game. And once he got into the flow of the game, he was content to take what was there rather than hoping and dancing and hesitating in search of a big hole that wasn't forthcoming.

"I don't remember the last time I got the ball that many times in a row," he said. "The rhythm was just, it was perfect. I saw every hole, the reads were there, and I just felt so comfortable. That's the type of groove, the rhythm I like to be in."

Meanwhile, Kuhn added six rushes and three receptions in a performance in which he showed he can be more than just a bruiser and blocker. Those nine touches equaled his combined total from the previous four games – which followed his 13 carries for 50 yards against Dallas.

"I don't know that we necessarily featured him anymore," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "Protection-wise, he's a guy we count on, we're confident in that. So, I know he had one or two runs on third down out of the gun. He caught the ball on some checkdowns and made some things happen. He played very, very well the other night."

Kuhn's performance in the passing game was startling. One moment, he's juking past a linebacker and a safety. The next, he's going airborne to get the first down or score a touchdown. At 250 pounds and with a full head of steam, it appeared at least a few Patriots defenders had no desire to get in the way of the stampeding halfback-turned-fullback-turned-halfback.

"He definitely has good running skills and good instincts," Philbin said. "We're kicking around the Wing-T for next year, which he made famous at Shippensburg."

At the Division II school, Kuhn finished his career with 4,685 rushing yards and 53 touchdowns. Thrust into a new role this season, Kuhn has become something of a folk hero with the thunderous cheers of "Kuuuuuuuuuuuuhn!" at Lambeau Field and even some road games.

"It's been a crazy year, but it's been fun," Kuhn said. "Probably the funnest year of my career. Being asked to do a lot of things, you get a lot of responsibility, but I think it's a lot more fun. It really is. And I'm thankful for the opportunity."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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