Packers ice Raiders, 38-7

Ryan Grant rushed for a career-high 156 yards and a touchdown, and Will Blackmon scored two touchdowns on special teams as Green Bay bounced back from its showdown loss to Dallas by whipping the Oakland Raiders on a frigid Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.

By beating the Raiders, the Packers (11-2) clinched the NFC North Division title, the earliest that the Packers have clinched the division since 2002. The Packers also ensured their first trip to the playoffs since the 2004 season, the last time they won the NFC North.

"I don't know if too many people gave us a shot to be at this position," said Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who passed for 266 yards and two touchdowns. "It says a lot about this team. I'm feeling good about my decision to come back, obviously."

The Packers, who finished with 445 yards of offense, took advantage of Oakland's porous rush defense from the get-go, taking pressure off Favre, who started his 250th straight regular season game (270th overall) after sustaining arm and shoulder injuries Nov. 29 in Green Bay's 37-27 loss to the Cowboys.

Grant, one of the top rushers in the league since Week 8, spearheaded a rushing attack that has now compiled 100 or more yards in six of the Packers' last seven games. The Packers rolled up 179 yards on the ground and 266 through the air against the Raiders (4-9). Grant carried a season-high 29 times, and also caught two passes for six yards.

"Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to try to take advantage of it," said Grant, "My opportunities, you never know when they're going to come."

The Packers took control of the game in the third quarter on big plays by the offense and special teams to stretch a seven-point halftime lead to 31-7. Favre's 80-yard touchdown completion to wide receiver Greg Jennings and Blackmon's recovery in the end zone of Tim Dwight's fumble on a punt return highlighted the quarter. Mason Crosby, who missed two field goal attempts in the game, made a 44-yarder in the 17-point quarter as the Packers snapped Oakland's two-game winning streak.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said that the team focused on running the ball against the Raiders all week, and it was able to accomplish its objective in front of a Lambeau Field crowd of 70,828 that braved a game-time temperature of 18 degrees that gradually fell by late afternoon.

"It was our primary focus coming into this game," McCarthy said about the rushing attack. "I can't say enough about Ryan Grant. He's really coming into his own. You can see the comfort level that he has in the scheme. He's doing a great job when he gets to the second level of breaking tackles. We're very pleased with him. The run-blocking unit is getting better. I thought our guard play was solid. We have some things that we need to continue to work on but I was proud of the way we ran the ball today."

Favre's 46-yard touchdown pass to tight end Donald Lee with 4 minutes left in the game gave the Packers a 38-7 lead. Favre finished by completing 15 of 23 passes for 266 yards, and is 183 yards shy of Dan Marino's NFL record of 61,361 career passing yards. Favre again spread the ball around to six different receivers and finished with a passer rating of 115.5.

But the Raiders, ranked 30th in the league against the rush, simply were no match for the Packers behind a revamped offensive line that featured Jason Spitz at left guard and Junius Coston at right guard.

"It's more important in these games as it gets colder that you're able to pound the rock and eat up time, keep our defense fresh, and really control the momentum of the game," said Packers center Scott Wells. "When you're able to run the ball, you're able to do that."

Grant, who rushed for 66 yards on 13 carries in Green Bay's first three series, scored on a six-yard run with 8:51 left in the second quarter to give the Packers a 7-0 lead. In between Grant's carries, Favre mixed in three passes for 23 yards as the Packers used a short field (47 yards) off a 30-yard shank by Raiders punter Shane Lechler to score first.

After forcing the Raiders to punt on the next series, Blackmon caught Lechler's low, line drive kick and shot through a gap en route to a 57-yard return for a touchdown. It was Blackmon's first punt return for a touchdown of his NFL career Green Bay's second of the season.

Blackmon returned punts for the Packers in place of Charles Woodson, who started at cornerback but did not play on special teams as a precautionary measure for his sore big toe. Woodson injured his toe on Thanksgiving Day while returning a punt and did not suit up against Dallas on Nov. 29.

The Raiders took advantage of Crosby's miss of a 43-yard field goal attempt and sliced Green Bay's lead to 14-7 on McCown's 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jerry Porter with 26 seconds left in the first half.

McCown's 22-yard strike to wide receiver Tim Dwight ignited the drive. He hit Porter on a crossing route for 20 yards to the Packers' 25, then went to Porter again in the left corner of the end zone as Porter jumped over Harris to make his team-high fifth touchdown catch of the season.

The Packers took the opening drive of the second half 56 yards before Crosby's 44-yard field goal gave Green Bay a 17-7 lead. Favre's 20-yard completion to Jennings and 37-yard completion to wide receiver Koren Robinson sparked the drive. Both Jennings and Robinson picked up most of the yardage after catching the pass, a category where the Packers have led the league all season.


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