Davenport runs through Rams

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle proclaimed Monday as Brett Favre Day. While it was Favre's day, it definitely was Najeh Davenport's night.

The 250-pound running back, despite a couple of suspect hamstrings, showed off his speed on several carries en route to a career-high 178 yards on 19 rushes as the Packers ran their winning streak to six games with a 45-17 shellacking of the St. Louis Rams on "Monday Night Football."

Pressed into service with Pro Bowler Ahman Green forced to the sideline due to a painful rib injury, Davenport exploded onto the scene and provided the type of balance that has become a hallmark of this Packers offense.

Thanks in large part to Davenport's big night — his total ranks fifth in Packers annals — the Packers rushed for a resounding 231 yards on 28 attempts and wound up with 446 yards of total offense. The Packers have topped the 400-yard mark in five of the six games on the winning streak. Head coach Mike Sherman has called the plays in each of those six games.

"Najeh's performance as well as (Tony) Fisher's was significant," Sherman said. "They did a great job. When you lose a back like Ahman Green, a difference maker, and Najeh is coming off of two hamstring injuries and the way he performed tonight certainly shows the type of player he is and how he rose to the occasion. I remember going to him in the beginning of the week and I said, ‘You have to be ready, you have to get well, you have to play.' And he did. He played."

The Packers surpassed the 200-yard rushing mark with a fourth-quarter gamble by Sherman. With the Packers up 31-17 and the ball at the Rams' 40, Sherman elected to go for it on a fourth-and-1 situation with two minutes left. Had the Packers been stopped, the Rams would have had a short field to work with to make a last-gasp rally.

If the Rams had one gasp left, however, the Packers stomped on their throats. With the Rams crowding the line of scrimmage in a goal-line-type defense, Davenport found a huge hole on the right side behind blocks from tackle Mark Tauscher and tight end Bubba Franks to break into open field. A couple of devastating stiff-arms later, Davenport had reached the end zone with the clincher.

Davenport did his more-damaging work earlier in the game. In the second quarter, with the Packers up 14-3, Davenport rumbled around left end for 31 yards to the Rams' 19. William Henderson made the lead block and guard Mike Wahle made an equally devastating block about 10 yards downfield. That set up a Favre-to-Javon Walker 10-yard touchdown to make it 21-3.

In the third quarter, with the Packers leading 21-10, Davenport ran off right tackle for 37 yards immediately after the Packers' special teams thwarted a Rams fake field goal. That helped set up a Favre-to-Donald Driver 16-yard touchdown that put the Packers back up by 18.

The Rams quickly answered that touchdown with one of their own to get back in the game, but Green Bay responded with a big-time drive that led to a field goal. This time, Davenport was on the sideline as Fisher ripped off a 24-yard run to help set up a 27-yard kick by Ryan Longwell that made it 31-17.

Davenport and Fisher combined for 220 yards, an amazing figure considering Green had accounted for all but 376 yards of the Packers' rushing total entering the game.

Equally amazing is Davenport admittedly isn't at full strength. He injured his left hamstring in the opener and his right hamstring against Dallas about a month ago. The injuries had limited him to only 32 rushes on the season entering Monday's game. Davenport during the days leading up to the game said he was in the fourth of his five gears. It didn't show on Monday, however, as his speed played a bigger role in his success than did his power.

"I'm a fast dude," Davenport said. "I'm faster than a lot of guys. I'm maybe like the sixth of seventh fastest guy on this team. I wanted to turn it on. A couple times I could have ran away, but I didn't really want to turn it to that next gear. I didn't want to pull it (the hamstring) and have a setback."

With Davenport's devastating performance, the Packers were their vintage, balanced selves. Favre didn't have to carry the load, as he did last week against Houston, as he threw just 27 passes and completed 18 of those for 215 yards and three touchdowns against no interceptions. With the offense balanced and the defense making just enough plays, the Packers were able to keep pace in the NFC North with the Minnesota Vikings at 7-4.

"I don't feel pressure. There was pressure on the whole team to come up with a win," Davenport said. "We're tied with Minnesota for first place in the NFC North. That's the only amount of pressure I had. I didn't really have any pressure. I know what I can do. It's just more about winning."


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