Game Notes: Grant Starts Fast, Stays Productive

CHICAGO - Ryan Grant knew before the game started that he was getting the ball on the offense’s first play. If he keeps doing what he did Sunday, he can count on getting the call right away every week. - More Packers-Bears Game Center

CHICAGO - Ryan Grant knew before the game started that he was getting the ball on the offense's first play.

If he keeps doing what he did Sunday, he can count on getting the call right away every week.

On the Packers' first offensive snap, Grant busted through a hole on the left side and went 62 yards for an early touchdown that helped propel the Packers to a 21-14 victory over the Bears in Chicago.

The run was Grant's longest since a 66-yarder back in December of 2007, also here at Soldier Field on a nearly identical first-quarter play. It also marked the first time, according to Elias Sports Bureau, that the Packers scored a touchdown on their first offensive play from scrimmage since Nov. 1, 1998, on an 80-yard pass to Antonio Freeman at Lambeau Field.

"It's always good to start like that, start fast," said Grant, who went on to rush for 137 yards on 20 carries, with two touchdowns. "It revs up the sideline, revs up the defense. I'll take that every time to start the game."

The play looked simple enough, an inside run off the left side. Fullback John Kuhn laid a key block on linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer in the hole, and Grant said he saw linebacker Lance Briggs caught up in some traffic inside.

"I figured I'd have to run through an arm tackle, and then with where the safety was lined up, I said I just have to beat him," Grant said. "It opened up and I said, 'Let's see if my wheels can do it.'"

They could, and Grant was on his way to a terrific day. He added the game-winning 1-yard TD run in the fourth quarter, giving him two scores for just the second time in a regular-season game (also at Dallas, 2007). He's had a multiple-TD game three times overall, including his three-score outing in the 2007 playoffs against Seattle.

Grant went over 1,000 yards for the season on just his second carry of the game, a 7-yard run, and he now has 1,068 yards on the year, just 135 shy of last year's total of 1,203.

The effort was Grant's third of 100-plus this season, and he remained productive even after the big run to start things. After that first carry, Grant gained 75 more yards on 19 rushes, just shy of four per tote.

"He ran like a madman," receiver Greg Jennings said. "He ran hard from the first snap. Anytime Ryan is running like that, we're like, 'Keep giving him the ball.'

"He got off to a fast start and he continued on throughout the rest of the game. Kudos to the offensive line. We always talk about them when things weren't going right, but they did an outstanding job today."

Eight is ... not enough

Rookie linebacker Clay Matthews' sack of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler late in the second quarter was Matthews' eighth sack of the season, tying the Packers' rookie record, also held by Vonnie Holliday (1998) and Tim Harris (1986).

"It means a great deal," Matthews said of the franchise mark. "Anytime you can stamp yourself in the history books as far as making an impact within a defense, it feels great. At the same time, I don't want to be tied, I want to be the leader. That's just my mentality. I hipe to get after it next week and create a few more plays.

"Ultimately it's an overall team effort. I wouldn't be able to get there without the guys inside, the DBs covering, and what not. But it does feel good."

Matthews has impressed with each passing week, and the defense has needed his contributions at outside linebacker even more since Aaron Kampman was lost to a season-ending knee injury in Week 11. But the young kid has come through, not that anyone is overly surprised considering the footsteps he's following - that of a grandfather and father who both turned in productive NFL careers.

"He's special," veteran cornerback Charles Woodson said. "He works. He came in working hard. He was injured a little bit early on, but as soon as they put him into the fire, he never stopped working. This is a guy who's a special player, and I think he gets a lot of that from the pedigree."

Matthews leads the Packers in sacks, and if he keeps that title the rest of the way he'll become the first Green Bay rookie to lead the team in that category since Harris got his eight sacks in 1986.

Sticking with the number 8, Woodson snagged his eighth interception of the season in the first quarter, tying his career high set in 2006, his first season with the Packers. The pick set up a field goal for the offense early on.

Still struggling

For the third straight game, kicker Mason Crosby missed a field goal under 45 yards when his try from 42 with 6:05 left on Sunday from the right hash stayed wide right.

{sportsad300}The miss on Sunday could have proven very costly, as the Packers led by seven points and could have taken a two-score lead late. Instead, the Bears got two more possessions in the game, still only down by seven.

"It's disappointing I'm not hitting those to get us up by 10, but the defense is playing great so we're finding ways to win these games," Crosby said.

Crosby also missed from 43 yards in Detroit on Thanksgiving and from 38 yards last week against Baltimore. All three of the misses have been wide right. Through the season's first 10 games, Crosby was 16-of-17 on field goals under 50 yards, but he's just 6-of-9 since.

"It is disappointing missing those kicks," he said. "We need to make those. I need to do better on those. But we got the win, and we're 9-4 so we're rolling right now."

Injury update

The Packers played without nose tackle Ryan Pickett, who was inactive due to a hamstring injury. Rookie B.J. Raji replaced Pickett in the starting lineup and was credited with two tackles. Raji came out of the game briefly with a shoulder injury but returned.

Green Bay came out of the game relatively healthy, as only three other injuries were reported during the contest, and all three players returned to action. They were cornerback Brandon Underwood (hip strain), receiver Greg Jennings (banged knee), and defensive end Johnny Jolly (back bruise).

The Bears played without wide receiver Devin Hester (calf), and his replacement, Devin Aromashodu, led all players with eight receptions. He totaled 76 yards, second on his team behind Johnny Knox's 83.

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