Instead of sprinting for the goal line during a 57-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter, Grant put it in cruise control for fear of aggravating the hamstring that prevented him from carrying the ball during the preseason.
"Normally, I'd probably hit it in that sixth or seventh gear and try to get it into the end zone, but I realize I've got to manage the game and be smart about it," Grant said after Green Bay's season-opening 24-19 victory over Minnesota on Monday night. "I don't want any setbacks, and that was why I cut back at the end."
Grant was his big-play self despite not having played in a game in almost eight months. Grant, the only running back to top 100 yards against the Vikings' vaunted defense last season, rumbled for 92 yards on just 12 carries for a gaudy 7.7-yard average.
"Ryan's an explosive runner," right tackle Mark Tauscher said. "He showed that last year, that he can hit the home run. He didn't quite get the home run tonight; he got a long triple. But he was outstanding, especially on that play."
Grant absorbed his first hits of the season and emerged unscathed and without a fumble.
"One hit kind of jarred me up a little," Grant said. "It wasn't even a big hit. I was thinking in the huddle, ‘Man, if I was in the preseason, I wouldn't have felt that.'"
Coach Mike McCarthy said he purposely kept Grant's carries to a minimum because of the hamstring problem.
"I wasn't interested in seeing him play a bunch of plays tonight," McCarthy said. "I was just conscious of that, but I thought he did a nice job when he was in there."
QBs dangerous with feet, too
Rodgers' scrambling ability caused headaches for Vikings defenders, who seemingly were unprepared for the athleticism of the Packers' new starting quarterback.
Rodgers rushed for 35 yards, but that only tells part of the story. His 56-yard completion to Greg Jennings was on a designed rollout, one of many rollouts and bootlegs the Packers ran. The touchdown pass that punctuated that drive came when Rodgers bought time by shuffling to his left.
"A scrambling quarterback is important," McCarthy said. "It is a whole other factor the defense has to play to. Sometimes, it dictates certain coverages that you're able to see on particular situations on third down. Just look on the other side of the field (where the Vikings' Tarvaris Jackson rushed for 65 yards). I thought we struggled with that tonight. I thought both quarterbacks factored in generating first downs with their feet."
The Packers kept Rodgers' running skills under wraps during the preseason. The Vikings learned how dangerous he is out of the pocket.
"I think you saw another dimension to Aaron that he really brings, and that's his legs," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "I purposely haven't said anything about it. I knew it was coming. People will have to account for that."
Rodgers put the Packers ahead 24-12 in the fourth quarter with a touchdown on a quarterback sneak, then celebrated with his first Lambeau Leap.
"I've been dreaming about that for four years, to be honest," Rodgers said, "and I was hoping my first leap would be maybe something a little more flashy — a 10-yard, 15-yard run or something — but at that point of the game, I just said, ‘What the heck, I'm going for it.'"
McCarthy inexplicably decided to run down the clock at the end of the first half, even though it was third down and he had one timeout remaining. The conservative decision backfired when Mason Crosby's low field-goal attempt was blocked by Cedric Griffin, keeping it 10-3 at the break.
"I didn't like the down and distance," McCarthy said. "And frankly, I expected more out of the second-down call. At third-and-10, that particular situation, I was really focused on getting the game to a two-score game, and that's what the field goal would have done.
The Packers were penalized a whopping 12 times — a few others were declined — compared to nine penalties accepted against the Vikings.
"I told one of the refs, ‘Come on, man, I have my kids are in the stands. I gotta get them home in bed. They've got school tomorrow,'" defensive end Cullen Jenkins said.
While 21 penalties can be defined as sloppy play, there were no turnovers until Tarvaris Jackson threw a game-ending interception.
There were no surprises when the Packers announced their game-day inactives.
To get to the game-day limit of 45 players, the Packers deactivated Brian Brohm (No. 3 quarterback), cornerback Patrick Lee, safety Charlie Peprah, center Scott Wells, guard Josh Sitton, tight end Jermichael Finley, receiver James Jones and defensive end Jeremy Thompson.
With Wells out, Jason Spitz started at guard and Tony Moll took Spitz's place at right guard.
The Vikings' had John David Booty (third quarterback), safety Madieu Williams, cornerback Marcus McCauley, running back Maurice Hicks, linebacker Erin Henderson, tackle Drew Radovich, fullback Jeff Dugan and defensive tackle Letroy Guion on their inactive list.
The game-time temperature was 58, with west-southwest winds at 5 mph. … The Packers' captains were Donald Driver for the offense, Aaron Kampman for the defense and Korey Hall for the special teams. … Ryan Longwell kicked off the game at 6:10 p.m. … Referee Jeff Triplette left his microphone on during a second-quarter timeout, and a conversation between him and Nick Barnett — complete with a couple light-hearted expletives — was broadcast to the capacity crowd. One of Triplette's colleagues reminded him that he left his mic on, drawing a large cheer from the fans. … The attendance of 71,004 was a Lambeau Field record for a regular-season game. ... The Packers have won five straight in the series, the longest since Green Bay ran off five in a row from 1983 to 1985. McCarthy is 5-0 against counterpart Brad Childress. ... The Packers are 49-36-3 in openers and remain one game behind Chicago's 50 for most openings wins in NFL history. ... The Vikings went more than 12 quarters between touchdowns at Lambeau.