‘Grave-digger's' return can only help run defense

Gilbert Brown's absence from the lineup isn't the only reason why the Green Bay Packers' run defense has been defense-less in recent games, but it certainly is a big one.<p>

The Green Bay Packers enter their game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday ranked 29th out of 32 teams in defending the run. The Packers are giving up 132.2 yards per game. Last Sunday night, the Vikings rambled for 191 yards. The Packers have surrendered 100 or more yards in seven of their 13 games. The Vikings also burned the Packers on the carpet of the Metrodome for 218 yards rushing on Nov. 17.

It won't get any easier for the Packers. The 49ers, behind Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow, feature the sixth best rushing offense in the league. San Francisco averages 141.4 yards per game, or an average of 4.6 yards per carry.

Packers coach/GM Mike Sherman says the porous defense is more than just Brown missing the last two games because of an ankle/Achilles' tendon injury. He has missed a total of three games this season but also has played in a number of games in which the Packers have given up a lot of yards on the ground.

"It really comes down to us watching the game - strike, shed and tackle," Sherman said. "We've got to take on the blockers with our hands, get off the blocks. Secure our gaps, obviously, but make a play. We didn't do a good job of that the other day, for whatever reason.

"I thought our technique (against Minnesota) was poor. That has to improve. Our players are well aware of that after our meeting (Wednesday morning)."

Brown did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. He might practice today. He is listed as probable on the team's injury report, meaning there is a 75 percent chance that he will play against the 49ers.

The Packers have allowed eight runs of 20 yards or more this season, including four that have gone for 40 or more yards.

"It's really a lot of everything," said linebacker Na'il Diggs. "There is no one thing that contributes to a lot of yards gained on the ground. Different instances could be a man taking a wrong step, getting caught looking inside. It's all different. Every play is different."

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