Four-Quarter Commitment To Run Makes Difference

Head Coach Mike McCarthy has spoken often this season about making a four-quarter commitment to the running game. Judging by Ahman Green’s rushing statistics during his current streak of three straight 100-yard efforts, that game-long commitment is paying off. - More Notebook: Kicker Could Decide Game With Vikes

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Head Coach Mike McCarthy has spoken often this season about making a four-quarter commitment to the running game.

Judging by Ahman Green's rushing statistics during his current streak of three straight 100-yard efforts, that game-long commitment is paying off.

The past three weeks against Miami, Arizona and Buffalo, Green's carries have been split nearly equally between the two halves of each game, with 33 carries in the first half and 29 in the second half.

But the production early in the game compared to later is quite different. In these last three games, Green has 115 yards in the first half, a modest average of 3.5 yards per carry. In the second half, the production jumps to 231 yards and 8.0 yards per rush.

Those second-half numbers are somewhat inflated by the season's biggest play, Green's 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter at Miami. But even if you take that play out, Green's 161 second-half yards is still 5.8 yards per carry, or more than 2 yards better than in the first half.

"Anytime you're starting, everything is not going to work out perfect," offensive guard Jason Spitz said. "If you keep at it, you're going to start to get bigger runs.

"You know when you're moving the ball or you're not, but you can tell when we're starting to run it in the second half a little better. It's something we're expecting."

There are several factors at work, including blocking adjustments as the game goes on, and the ability to wear down defensive linemen with the zone scheme and its trademark cut blocks.

But those factors don't come into play if patience and persistence with running the ball aren't part of the offensive philosophy, which McCarthy and offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski share.

"You have to stay with it," Jagodzinski said. "We've always talked about it's 3 (yards), 3 and 4, and then Ahman starts hitting some big creases.

"That's what good backs do. They continue to get better the more carries they get."

This past week at Buffalo, any halftime adjustments made were evident right away, after Green had 11 carries for 44 yards in the first half. On the first play of the third quarter, he ripped off a 20-yard run. He added runs of 11, 9 and 16 yards in the fourth quarter, with backup Noah Herron chipping in a 10-yard run in the fourth.

One week earlier against Arizona there were similar results. After 10 rushes for 41 yards in the first half, Green nearly matched that total with gains of 9, 14 and 10 yards on three of his first four carries of the second half. Backup Vernand Morency had runs of 11 and 7 yards on that same third-quarter drive.

"That kind of shows you how our run game works," Herron said. "They might sputter us a little bit in the first half, but come second half we're really starting to mash them."

The commitment to the run will be put to the test this week at Minnesota, where the Vikings defense allows just 3.1 yards per carry, the best mark in the NFC and second in the NFL.

{sportsad300}A big part of that success is defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams, who both clog and disrupt things in the middle. Figuring out how to handle them with a third-year center in Scott Wells and two rookie guards in Daryn Colledge and Spitz will be a focus of the game plan.

"It really starts with those two guys, and you can see the way they structure their defense," McCarthy said. "It's how they fit their linebackers and what they try to do with some of their linebacker pressure schemes to try to get you to single-block those guys.

"As you watch them on film, you can't single-block them. They do a great job of anchoring, splitting double teams. They're clearly the best tandem of defensive tackles that we've played to this point."

The Williamses' size (they average 6-foot-4, 314 pounds) and explosiveness also will put cut-blocking at a premium this week, because that's the only way to truly take them out of a play.

"The caliber of players they are, you have to be able to get them on the ground, because if you don't, they're very good at shedding blocks," center Scott Wells said.

"It's going to be a big challenge. We have to communicate well with the crowd noise and be fundamentally sound."

And perhaps as insistent on running the ball as the Packers have been all season.

"You'd like to come out and start ripping 10, 11 and 12-yard runs, but it usually doesn't work that way," McCarthy said. "That's why I think it's important to commit to the run."

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