Green closes in on Taylor's record

Green Bay Packers running back Ahman Green surpassed the 8,000-yard milestone Sunday against the Detroit Lions and is now on his way toward Jim Taylor's all-time career rushing record of 8,207 yards with two games left in the season. However, Green will need to run well against two stingy defenses, beginning tonight with the Minnesota Vikings.

With two games remaining, Ahman Green is on pace to become the club's all-time rushing leader by the end of the season.

Green might have squandered his best opportunity to ensure himself of overtaking Jim Taylor down the stretch, however. The Shaun Rogers-less Detroit Lions held Green to 79 yards on 22 carries Sunday, when the Packers eked out a 17-9 victory at home.

Green needs 159 yards -- or an average of 79.5 yards in the remaining two games -- to break Taylor's 40-year-old record of 8,207 yards.

With 8,049 yards to his credit in his seventh season with the team, Green joined Taylor as the only Packers to reach the 8,000-yard rushing plateau.

Green has made no secret that the record would mean a great deal to him. Minnesota and Chicago, though, stand to provide stiff resistance.

The Vikings come into Thursday night's matchup at Lambeau Field yielding a league-low average of 55.1 yards per game. Green mustered just 55 yards in the Packers' 23-17 win at Minnesota on Nov. 12.

Green Bay ends the season Dec. 31 at Chicago. Although the Bears will have little to play for with home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs secured, they have a top-10 defense against the run, giving up an average of 101.9 yards.

Green managed 110 yards when the teams first met to open the season, but most of those came in garbage time in the Bears' 26-0 win.

If Green were to fall short of the requisite 159 yards before the clock strikes midnight on 2006, the possibility exists that Taylor's record will remain intact for several more years.

General manager Ted Thompson will have a big decision on his hands early in the off-season on whether to bring back Green. The team re-signed him to only a one-year, $1.35 million contract after Green missed the last 10 games in 2005 with a ruptured thigh.

As Green closes in on his sixth 1,000-yard season (he's at 946) since he arrived from Seattle in a trade in 2000, he's expected to fulfill many of the incentives included in the deal.

His strong comeback season will give him leverage in seeking a lucrative, long-term contract from the team, but there's no telling how much the power-running Green has left in his proverbial tank. He turns 30 in February.

Thompson's M.O. his first two years on the job has been to build the team with younger players. He could go that route at running back, where second-year Vernand Morency has shown glimpses of becoming a capable starter.

Morency turned in his second straight efficient outing as Green's understudy with seven carries for 54 yards and his first two-touchdown game as a pro, on impressive runs of 14 and 21 yards.

The shifty, quick Morency, whom Green Bay acquired in an early-season trade with Houston for fellow running back Samkon Gado, is outgaining Green by an average of a half yard per carry -- 4.7 to 4.2. Interestingly, Morency has 143 fewer carries than Green.

"He just has an innate ability to make people miss, especially on the second level," head coach Mike McCarthy said of Morency. "Everybody keeps calling him a change-of-pace back. He's a pretty good running back. He takes full advantage of the opportunity he's given week in and week out."

In his most extensive duty of the season, Morency generated 99 yards on 26 carries in relief of an injured Green at Philadelphia in Week 4. Three games later, Morency topped that career high with 101 yards on just 11 rushing attempts against Arizona as a secondary back.

Morency is under contract for one more year, at what is shaping up to be a $435,000 bargain at that. Saying after Sunday's performance that he's benefited greatly from having Green as a teammate, Morency admitted that he wouldn't mind running in the potential record holder's shadow for another season.

"I'm in favor of Ahman being back. He can help our team," Morency said. "As a back, you always want to be a featured back in the National Football League. But, you need two horses in the National Football League to get the job done. It's a long season. Ahman is a great back."

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