But if not for the Green Bay Packers' dormant running game, they might have run into a buzzsaw on Sunday.
With the Minnesota Vikings having rallied and a bipartisan crowd at the Metrodome roaring, the Packers' offense trotted onto the field with 2:30 remaining and nursing a 33-27 lead.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier had just gambled everything on his defense. At the time, it didn't seem like much of a gamble. After taking control with back-to-back touchdown drives in the third quarter, the Packers' offense had managed 14 yards and one first down on its last three possessions.
With the Vikings owning all three of their timeouts and having the two-minute warning for a fourth stoppage, the Packers needed to run the ball if for no other reason than to get Frazier to burn through timeouts.
"We wanted to finish them out," left guard T.J. Lang said. "Not much had to be said. Coach McCarthy just looked at us and said, ‘Finish the game.' That's exactly what we did."
The odds weren't exactly in the Packers' favor. Not in this game and not the way this season has gone, with offensive coordinator Joe Philbin lamenting on Monday and Thursday about the running game's inability to finish blocks and runs the week before against St. Louis.
"I really believed we could go out and stop them from running the football," Frazier said. "I don't know what they had rushing up to that point but there was nothing that they had shown me that they could run the ball."
The Packers had run the ball 19 times for 60 yards – barely 3.0 yards per carry. The Vikings' perennially strong run defense entered the game ranked fourth with 83.5 yards allowed per game and had yielded just 3.5 yards per carry for the season.
Instead, the Packers did as they've done all season. When plays have had to be made, they made them. With James Starks carrying the ball on six consecutive plays, the Packers ran out the clock to improve to 7-0.
"Oh, man, it's huge," right guard Josh Sitton said. "Any time you can get three first downs like that – it's tough enough to get one first down let alone three when they know you're running the ball. It's a pretty special way to end the game. It's probably the best win in the last few minutes of a game that I've maybe been a part of. It's not easy to do, especially when they know we're running the ball. It shows the character we have."
On first down from the 20, tight end Andrew Quarless pushed defensive end Brian Robison around the corner and right tackle Bryan Bulaga and John Kuhn led the way as Starks rumbled for 16 yards and a first down.
The Vikings called the first of their timeouts, but Starks' run really didn't change anything. If the Vikings could get a stop, the Packers would have to punt on the first play after the two-minute warning.
A false start on tight end Jermichael Finley and a 4-yard run by Starks made it second-and-11 after the Vikings called their second timeout with 2:05 remaining. McCarthy sent out two tight ends (Finley and Quarless), two receivers (James Jones and Jordy Nelson) and one running back (Starks), with Rodgers lined up in the shotgun.
Given the situation, the Vikings were right to be expecting a pass, since the clock would have struck 2 minutes regardless of what play McCarthy plucked off his call sheet. Instead of a pass, it was an inside handoff to Starks, who ran around right end and got blocks from Bulaga and Sitton for a 20-yard run.
That pretty much put the game on ice, but Starks and his linemen delivered the clinching blow on third-and-7, with center Scott Wells making the key block as Starks blasted up the middle for 13 yards.
"Simple enough: We're running an inside zone," Kuhn said about that final run. "They know we're running it, we know we're running it. It's just which side we're going to run the ball. James made a fantastic cut, the backside had it sealed off and he was able to scamper for (the first down)."
A moment later, Rodgers took a knee and the Packers entered their bye week with a franchise-record 13th consecutive victory.
"That's probably the best feeling, when you know that you're in a four-minute offense and you have to get a couple first downs," Lang added. "Not putting your defense in a sticky situation by making them make a last-minute stop. We were able to get a couple first downs. They had all three of their timeouts and the two-minute warning, so being able to run out the time was definitely a good feeling for us. A lot of good execution there."
On the last drive, Starks had 55 yards on six rushes. Before that, he had been stymied for 20 yards on seven attempts.
"That's what running backs live for: big plays at the end when you need to grind it out," Starks said. "That's hat's off to the offensive line, receivers, John Kuhn – just getting on their guys and making clear lanes for me and making it possible for me to get those yards. It was a total team effort."
So, on a day when Rodgers extended his season-starting streak of 110-plus passer rating games to seven, all he had to do was hand the ball to No. 44 with the game on the line.
"I'm not crazy about the six consecutive handoffs," Rodgers joked, "but it's nice to finish out a game like that. We haven't done that I don't think since maybe Detroit last year at home. It's been a while it feels like. You know you've got to run it. It's a tight game. And we were able to do that. James ran the ball great, I mean a couple of really good runs, but there's a lot of good blocking in there to spring him. It's fun to end a game like that."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.