Rushing attack inches forward

Call it progress. Green Bay's rushing attack is far from the juggernaut that the team had in 2003, but it did take a baby step forward Sunday against the Detroit Lions. As Brett Favre sliced and diced the toothless Lions' secondary, head coach and play-caller Mike McCarthy made sure that the rushing attack wasn't totally ignored.

McCarthy said afterward that Favre probably could have passed for more yardage, but the coach wisely paid some attention to the rushing game. The Packers only finished with only 60 yards on 27 carries for a measly 2.2-yard per carry average. But the fact that the Packers rushed the ball 27 times was a sign of commitment to that area of the team by McCarthy. And sometimes a commitment to that area is all the difference between winning and losing.

In last week's disappointing 34-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Packers only ran the ball 20 times for 63 yards. More frustrating was the fact that McCarthy chose to pass more than run after his team took a 13-0 lead. There was no commitment. Running back Ahman Green was held to 42 yards on 16 carries, a week after he rushed 20 times for 110 yards in a loss to the Chicago Bears.

Green finished with 63 yards on 22 attempts for a 2.9 per carry average in Green Bay's 31-24 win over the Lions. That's not exactly eye-popping numbers, but it is more of a result of a young Packers offensive line trying to figure out the zone-blocking scheme and Green. The veteran running back is coming off a major thigh injury. On Thursday he tweaked his hamstring, which likely affected him against the Lions. His injuries and the fact that he's not getting any younger (29 years old) have put him on the downslide of an impressive career.

Still, McCarthy is at least trying to put as much as possible into the team's rushing attack. It will take some time, and the Packers will be wise to audition running backs till they find the heir apparent to Green. Vernand Morency got his first taste of action in Green Bay's offense, but only came up with 3 yards on 3 carries. Hardly a Samkon Gado-like start. Noah Herron has slipped into the role of third-down back, but his fumble on Detroit's 6-yard line after catching a pass cost the Packers points just before halftime. It was Herron's second costly fumble of the season – he had one against the Saints on a kickoff return – and it may cost him playing time in the future, possibly even his job.

In any case, by rushing the ball and staying committed to it, the Packers will open the door for Favre, who turns 37 on Oct. 10. For the second straight week, Favre played as well as McCarthy could ask of him in the offense. Mainly, he managed the offense superbly and played within himself. Favre completed 25 of 36 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns. His passer rating of 127.4 was his best since he had a rating of 130.9 in Green Bay's 52-3 win over New Orleans last October. Favre didn't throw any interceptions, didn't force throws into triple coverage, and he wasn't sacked. He probably could have done more damage on Detroit's secondary, which was playing without injured safety Kennoy Kennedy (foot) and cornerback Fernando Bryant (personal issues). But McCarthy stayed committed to the run, despite its ineffectiveness, and that kept the defense honest, which benefited the passing game.

"We have a number of things that go on at the line of scrimmage, in particular on the road with the crowd noise - I thought he did a great job managing that," McCarthy said. "We didn't have any things from a decision standpoint, he was 100 percent in that area. His performance in the passing game was excellent. I thought he was very smart with the football - pushed it down the field when the opportunity presented itself, took the check downs. I thought he had an excellent game."

As long as McCarthy commits to the run, it will eventually pay off. That doesn't appear to be the case now, but that commitment helped the passing game in other ways against the Lions. Nothing to write home about, but for Green and the Packers, it is at least satisfactory.

"Satisfactory yes - can we gat better, yes," Green said. "We did run satisfactory but there is still a lot of room to get better."

Todd Korth

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