Tackling the challenge

Clifton and Tauscher took care of business against the Colts' dangerous duo of Freeney and Mathis on Sunday

Chad Clifton, who barely practices because of knee and hamstring injuries, against speed-rusher extraordinaire Dwight Freeney?

Mark Tauscher against Freeney's fleet-footed sidekick, Robert Mathis?

Both of those matchups appeared to lean heavily in the Colts' favor entering Sunday's game at Lambeau Field. Instead, left tackle Clifton held Freeney to two solo tackles and right tackle Tauscher limited Mathis to one solo tackle and one assisted tackle. More importantly, they didn't allow a sack in the Packers' surprisingly lopsided 34-14 victory.

"It wasn't perfect always," Clifton said. "It was a lot of scenarios. (Rodgers) did a great job finding open receivers and getting rid of the ball and we were able to run with the ball with some effectiveness, especially in the first half."

Just how was Clifton, who generally participates in the jog-through session at the start of practice before departing for rehab, able to stop the feared Freeney?

"I've played the game long enough that I kind of have my technique down," said Clifton, who was named to his first Pro Bowl after last season. "There's definitely things I need to work on, but you get your mental reps, you watch the film and you watch the tape."

Offensive line coach James Campen cited Clifton's superior technique, honed during nine NFL seasons.

"He's very explosive out of his stance, he has excellent footwork, and in pass protection, if you're fundamentally sound with your footwork, it makes your day a lot easier," Campen said. "He relies on his quickness, and for a big man at 320 pounds to get out of his stance, he does a very nice job."

Tauscher's obstacle was more mental than physical. A close family friend died on Friday. But, in typical Tauscher fashion, he played superbly under trying circumstances.

"He's a true professional," Campen said. "He probably put that aside for three-and-a-half hours and went out there and played a good football game, and that is a difficult thing to do. It's hard to do when you close someone who's close to you."

The interior of the Packers' offensive line also had a strong performance against the Colts' small but athletic front seven. Aaron Rodgers wasn't sacked and typically had time to pass and Ryan Grant had his first 100-yard game of the season.

Guard Jason Spitz had one of his best games of the year, starting with Grant's 14-yard run to open the game.

"He did a really nice job in the run game of keeping guys covered up," Campen said. "Jason's done a real good job of accelerating his feet on contact. He's getting better every week. He absolutely had a good game."

Grant's 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was especially sweet. Not only was it a rare running play that picked up more than 3 or 4 yards, but it was Grant's first rushing touchdown of the season and the Packers' first rushing touchdown since Week 2.

"They brought the safety down into the box and they knew we were in a run formation, so to be able to pick it up and execute it, and have it be that wide open, it was huge," center Scott Wells said.

"Yeah, those are pretty nice," Campen said. "There's a lot of components to that. Ryan reading it and accelerating the way he does through holes. That's one component of it. The line stretching the front side and getting good movement on the call side, and the back side work of Scott, Jason and Mark did on the second level, those kind of plays are a tribute to everyone who's on the field, those 11 players, because they all had such a huge part in that of type run being able to break out."

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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