From the press box: Running game sets tone

It was a tough admission for a guy who's made a living slinging footballs up and down the field. But Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre couldn't deny the obvious. And when all was said and done, neither could the 70,244 souls who watched the Packers throttle the Detroit Lions 31-6 Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.<p>

Unlike last week's stunning loss to Minnesota, in which the Packers forced the pass early and finished with only 62 yards on the ground, they made a concerted effort to run the ball. And unlike last week, Green Bay's commitment to keep the ball on the ground not only set the tone early, but proved a big-time point, as well.

"As tough as it is for me to admit it, in order to be successful, you have to establish the run," said Favre. "If you establish the running game, you can pick and choose your passes. That's what we did. If we run the ball as well as we did today, we'll be tough to beat."

No kidding.

With Ahman Green slashing through the defense like a sharp axe through brittle wood and Najeh Davenport churning his legs like hard-driving pistons, the Packers wound up with 200 yards rushing on 35 carries. That's a healthy 5.7 yards per carry average compared to the 3.3 yards Green Bay averaged against the Vikings.

Green had 160 of those yards on 23 carries and hurdled past both Clarke Hinkle and Dorsey Levens for fourth on the Packers' all-time career rushing yards list with 4,015.

It's Football 101, really. Establish the run, get the defense on its heels and use the ground game to open up the passing game.

"(Head coach Mike Sherman) said we're putting it on both lines to get the job done," right guard Mark Tauscher said. "A week ago, we didn't do that. That's a lot of pressure e put on us, and we just wanted to respond to it."

Sherman wasted little time in seeing how his offensive line would respond to his challenge.

Out of the 19 total plays the Packers ran in the first quarter, 14 of those were rushes for a total of 126 yards. They also held the ball for slightly over 11 minutes. Not bad.

Following a 13-yard reception from Favre to wide receiver Robert Ferguson to open the game, Green's number was called.

Green, who carried the ball 15 times for 53 yards against Minnesota, took the handoff, found a hole around the right tackle and zipped through like a bullet. After that, it was a foot race between Green and a Lions defensive back, but trying to catch the Packers' speedy halfback would be like trying to get a good night's sleep on a bed of nails. It's nearly impossible.

Moments later, Green and the Lambeau Field faithful were celebrating his 65-yard touchdown run, which put the Packers on top 7-0. It was Green's longest touchdown run since Sept. 9, 2001 when he raced in from 83 yards out in a 28-6 win over the Lions.

"We know if we do that, we come out that first series and move the ball down the field, we're tough to beat," center Mike Flanagan said. "It sets the tempo for the game. We know if we can establish it, we can go at it, we can do it, and the confidence is just contagious. It makes it so much easier."

The Packers' second offensive series ended with a Favre touchdown pass to running back Tony Fisher from five yards out for a 14-0 first-quarter lead. It capped off an impressive 13-play, 59-yard march that at one point included seven straight runs.

"(Running the ball) helps get you in the groove, offensively," said Green, who posted his 15th career 100-yard rushing game as a Packer, second in team annals to Jim Taylor's 26, and his seventh career game of 150 yards rushing or more.

"One-hundred fifty, 200 yards rushing is a good day. It's a lot easier to play the game." Favre agreed.

"Unlike the Packers of old, our offense is based on running the football," he said. "(Former head coach) Mike Holmgren passed first and ran second. Now, we have a great running back and probably our best and most athletic offensive line since I've been here. I don't know if we're capable of 200 yards (rushing) every time.

But it sure doesn't hurt to try.

And with a solid offensive line and one of the NFL's top backs in Green, there's no reason why the Packers shouldn't, either. Packers get back to basics

Packer Report Top Stories