Running to Daylight

Green Bay's old school approach is new again, and no one could be happier than the team's offensive general, Brett Favre. Laura brings us the story straight from the aftermath of today's win at Lambeau...

The punishing performance of Green Bay's running game cemented what has become the story of the 2003 season and a new chapter in Packer lore – one that may sound comfortably familiar. This team can run the ball down anyone's throat, in any weather, on any surface.

Ahman Green turned in another muddy masterpiece, gaining 154 yards. While Green ran over more milestones with this fourth consecutive100-yard game and 8th of the season, the Packers are not a one-weapon operation. Najeh Daveport added 62 yards as Green Bay consumed 243 yards on 48 carries in Sunday's 20-10 win over San Francisco on a rain-sodden Lambeau Field.

The Packers' running game has no bigger fan than their field general. Brett Favre is enjoying his front row seat for the Packers' new version of running to daylight.

"From my standpoint it's fun to watch. I love to watch our offensive line, I love to watch our backs," said Favre. I would hate to be a defensive player against our guys. If you don't get blasted by our offensive line, you're going to get blasted by one of our backs. It's pretty impressive."

It is fitting, and probably no coincidence, that Favre met the press after Sunday's victory wearing a No. 15 throwback jersey. The jersey - the only other number that one could picture Favre wearing - stood in silent tribute to a legendary QB who presided over Jim Taylor's record rushing seasons under a coach who perfected the classic approach to the game. Like Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi before him, Favre understands every nuance of this game, including the marriage of the run and pass which winners must possess.

"We proved we can pound the ball and keep them off the field," Favre said. "We are very capable of scoring points running or passing. In order for us to get to where we want to be, we have to play exceptionally well in the run game.

"When you have the offensive line that we have and the backs that we have, we would be dumb not to utilize that," Favre said. "We were going to run the ball – they knew it and we knew it, but they weren't able to stop us. I don't mind a bit, because when you run the football the way we are, you're going to have one-on-one somewhere."

Favre found the matchup he was talking about in the Packers' first offensive set. Recalling that Favre experienced trouble hanging on to the ball on a pass in the rain two weeks ago vs. Philly at Lambeau, the Packers' options seemed limited facing 3rd-and-5 in their own territory. With the 49ers defensive probably looking for the ball to go to Green again on a short pass or hand-off on 3rd-and-5, Favre took advantage of the fact that the Niners loaded the line and left receivers in a simple footrace. Favre found Javon Walker sprinting away from cornerback Jason Webster down the left sideline, and hit the wide receiver for a 66-yard touchdown pass.

The yardage on that TD accounted for nearly one half of Favre's total in the win. The Packers are 6-1 this season when Favre throws for less than 200 yards.

"I'm getting old. I need a break," Favre said. "My job might seem boring or easy to do at this point, but we are winning games, we are 6-5 and fighting our way back."

Earning a reputation as a team wins by rushing first, passing second may seem foreign in the Brett Favre Era. The Packers re-established a long-dormant winning tradition, and won a Super Bowl, by forcing teams to defend against Favre and his dangerous passing attack. Favre's prolific passing was a constant threat to defenses which had to concede some opportunities to the Packer ground game.

Now that the tables are turned, Packer observers are treated to both a new-look team and a history lesson about an old one.

During 1961, the Packers' first championship year under Lombardi, Starr threw 295 times during the regular season with 16 touchdowns, while Jim Taylor rushed 243 times for 1,307 yards and 15 touchdowns and Hornung added 597 yards and 8 TDs.

This season, Favre has 317 attempts and 20 touchdowns, while Green has 1,326 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns and Davenport adds 296 yards and 2 TDs.

The pattern repeats itself throughout the Lombardi Era. Taylor's record-setting rushing gave Starr a host of options which the QB and his coach knew exactly how to use.

At 6-5, following Lombardi's path might not seem likely. But following his blueprint of running to daylight with a wise QB at the controls gives them a fighting chance.


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