'Gash to Daylight'

Offensive line takes another step forward in victory over Cardinals

The opening drive in the second half of Sunday's victory over the Arizona Cardinals pretty much summed up the strides being made by the young, inexperienced but gritty offensive line of the Green Bay Packers: 13 plays, 74 yards, and 7 minutes, 19 seconds chewed from the clock. Brett Favre punctuated this impressive drive with a one-yard touchdown run and his first-ever Lambeau Leap. It was his first rushing TD since Dec. 3, 2001 against Jacksonville.

Nothing takes more out of a defense than a long, grueling drive accomplished with a solid running attack. The Cardinals looked tired and more than a little confused. Make no mistake. This attack wasn't Paul Hornung or Jim Taylor sweeping left behind the thundering blocks of Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston. The Packers' zone blocking scheme is just chip, chip, chip away. Find that first hole and explode through it. Two yards here. Three more over there. Then, suddenly, 27 more in your face.

Maybe the pundits should call it "Gash to Daylight." Ahman Green gashing 11 yards off right tackle. Green slashing left for another 14. Vernand Morency popping through a quick hole on the right side for another 11. Green pounding left behind a crunching Brandon Miree block down to the 19, setting the stage for Favre's score.

Gleefully watching it all from the sidelines was offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, a guy who's turning some doubters into believers in the zone blocking approach.

"I'm really happy for those guys in the locker room," said Jagodzinski of his offensive line and receivers. "I knew what (the scheme) was supposed to look like because I've seen it before. I was impatient because I knew what kind of guys we have up front. (General Manager) Ted (Thompson) drafted athletic guys and we're going to keep getting better and better. I told (offensive line coaches) Joe Philbin and James Campen after the game that they've really done the hardest part of installing this thing, showing it and having some success because the guys that come in after them will have a model to look at. We didn't."

Count left guard Daryn Colledge among the linemen who have bought into the system.

"It's just a process of us working inside of it, getting more and more used to it and more comfortable with it," said Colledge. "We think it's something that can still get better."

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. The offensive line opened the way for two 100-yard rushing performances against the Cardinals. Ahman Green carried the rock 21 times for 106 yards (5.0 average) and two touchdowns. Green now has 51 rushing TDs to move past Hornung into second place on the Packers all-time list behind Taylor (81). Meanwhile, Vernand Morency piled up 101 yards on 11 carries for a whopping 9.2 per carry average.

Of Green, Jagodzinski said, "I think he's running with a chip on his shoulder. There's a lot of people who didn't think he could play any more and he's showing that he can."

For his part, Green was quick to credit his blockers for creating some big holes in a hurry.

"This running game that Coach Jags and Coach (Mike) McCarthy have installed – these guys, like I've said, have been busting their butts since Day 1 in mini-camps and it's starting to show," Green said. "You're starting to see where we have a game with two running backs rushing over 100 yards, in the NFL that's big. It takes me back to my days when I was playing football at Nebraska with the Cornhuskers. That's what we did on a daily basis. To do it here on this level is a really big thing. I give all the credit to those O-linemen, the tight ends and the receivers blocking downfield and opening up holes to get us up to the second level against the defensive backs. This is going to be the fun part when we get on a little roll. We're definitely jelling so that's the big thing. We've just got to take one day at a time, one practice at a time. If we continue to do that, we'll get the results that we want out there."

The Packers still have plenty of work to do if they hope to dig themselves out of the gaping hole of a 1-4 start. But for now, with two straight wins, youngsters like Colledge have a more positive outlook.

"It's great. We're heading in the right direction," he added. "We feel like we're a team that's definitely better than our record so we're taking steps forward to try to correct that situation."

Tom Andrews is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at andrewst@charter.net.


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