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Game Notes: Running Game Gets Rolling

CLEVELAND - Last week, running back Ryan Grant was productive in the fourth quarter against Detroit after a slow start, but Sunday in Cleveland, the success on the ground started early in the game and continued the rest of the afternoon. - More Packers-Browns Game Center


RB Ryan Grant rushed for a season-high 148 yards on Sunday afternoon.

CLEVELAND - Last week, running back Ryan Grant was productive in the fourth quarter against Detroit after a slow start, but Sunday in Cleveland, the success on the ground started early in the game and continued the rest of the afternoon.

Grant racked up 148 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries (5.5 avg.), the second-best regular-season performance of his career behind only his 156-yard output vs. Oakland (Dec. 9, 2007). He rushed for 202 yards vs. Seattle (Jan. 12, 2008) in the Divisional playoff. As a team, the Packers gained 202 yards on 41 attempts (4.9 avg.), the first 200-yard performance since the 2008 season finale vs. Detroit.

"We wanted to start fast," Grant said. "The biggest thing for me was I wanted to start fast and maximize every opportunity, no matter what the situation is. Finishing strong, that has been our strong suit and stuff, but we wanted to start fast and finish it through the whole time. I think the line did a great job."

Last week Grant posted just 28 yards on 13 carries against Detroit in the opening three quarters, but began to find his rhythm in the fourth quarter with 62 yards on 11 attempts.

On the Packers' opening series Sunday, the offense ran the ball on nine of 10 plays for 38 yards, including a 9-yard pickup from Grant. Even though they didn't come away with any points as quarterback Aaron Rodgers was stopped on a sneak on 4th-and-1 at Cleveland's, Grant said the offense took away some confidence from the possession.

"We felt like it was on our performance to make Coach McCarthy (run the ball)," Grant said. "We want him to feel comfortable, and that's by starting fast. If we start fast, he'll feel comfortable calling the run plays.

"We took that on our shoulders as a line, as a backfield, as a running team. We wanted to run the ball today and we wanted to set the tempo."

Grant's day included six runs of 8-plus yards, and was highlighted by his season-long 37-yard run down the right sideline to the Cleveland 5 in the fourth quarter that set up a touchdown pass from Rodgers to wide receiver James Jones on the next play. It was Grant's longest run since a 57-yarder in the 2008 season opener vs. Minnesota.

"It was an inside zone play that I bounced (outside)," Grant said. "We ran a lot of inside zones. I got my shoulders square. That's what we preach out of the backfield, and I kind of saw that they were kind of sitting waiting for me to cut back, so I didn't cut back. I just kind of waited and waited and saw something."

The offense will look to carry over Sunday's performance to next week when they face a Minnesota defense that has been the best in the league at stopping the run since 2006.

"You want to stack success," Grant said. "That's one thing we talk about. Stacking success in this league is big. You want to stack wins, so get two in a row is big.

"We want to get that next one. Now it's on to Minnesota. We know what is at stake and we've just got to come out and perform."

First start

T.J. Lang got the first start of his career, opening up at left tackle in place of veteran Chad Clifton, who re-injured his ankle last week against Detroit.

"I think it went pretty well," Lang said. "There were a few plays that I can think of where I wish I could have done my job a little better, but for the most part I think I played all right.

"Offensively we were rolling today. We started fast and we were able to keep that tempo for the rest of the game. We established the run and got a few big pass plays, and we improved as an offense."

Lang was part of a group that protected Rodgers as he was not sacked all afternoon, a first for the offensive line this season. Grant also eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time in 2009.

It wasn't Lang's first time at left tackle this season, as he played much of the fourth quarter at Minnesota in Week 4 when Daryn Colledge, filling in for Clifton, went down with a knee injury. Lang played the entire fourth quarter last week against the Lions as well.

"There were a few plays that I need to work on, technique-wise, pad level, things like that, but it felt good playing the whole game out there," Lang said. "I was really able to see the speed of the game for the first time throughout the whole game, so it was nice being able to do that. I'm going to be ready to go if they call upon me again and I'm just going to keep preparing myself."

In check

Browns wide receiver Joshua Cribbs has been one of the top return men in the league over the past five seasons, but the Packers were able to limit his impact on Sunday.

Cribbs entered Sunday's contest leading the NFL with 16.8-yard punt return average, and ranked seventh in the league with a 28.4-yard average on kickoff returns.

The Packers only punted once all afternoon, and Cribbs picked up 9 yards on his lone return midway through the fourth quarter. He returned two kickoffs for 69 yards (34.5 avg.). His biggest play of the afternoon came on a 41-yard kickoff return at the end of the first half out to the Cleveland 43, but Green Bay's defense prevented the Browns from doing anything with the field position.

{sportsad300}Kicker Mason Crosby helped contain Cribbs in the kick-return game by posting a season-best two touchbacks, but was penalized twice for kicking two kickoffs out of bounds that gave Cleveland good field position at the 40.

"We felt coming into Cleveland that the special teams had the biggest challenge, and I was pleased with the outcome of holding Cribbs to his return yardage because he is a dynamic football player, especially every time he touches the ball both in the 'Wildcat' and in the return game," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.

Cribbs had just one carry in the Wildcat, picking up one yard on a first-quarter run.

Getting in the end zone

With tight end Jermichael Finley going out with a knee injury on the first series of the game, Spencer Havner was the recipient of some increased reps on Sunday afternoon, and made the most of them.

With the Packers trailing 3-0 early in the second quarter and facing a 3rd-and-1 at Cleveland's 45, Rodgers rolled out to his right and found Havner on a short pass to the 40. Havner took it down the right sideline, broke a tackle by safety Abram Elam at the 20, before diving to the pylon for the first touchdown of his career.

"Aaron got me the ball quick," Havner said. "I think they were in some type of blitz so there weren't a lot of guys in coverage. I beat the one guy down the sideline and then it was a race to the pylon and I had to dive for it.

"(My teammates) were so pumped. I think every single guy hit me on the head, so I think they were pretty happy for me."

Havner, who started cross-training at both linebacker and tight end this offseason, said he would have to go back to high school for the last time he scored an offensive touchdown. He played linebacker at UCLA.

Injury/participation update

Finley sustained a sprained knee on his 16-yard reception on the Packers' opening drive of the game and did not return. Wide receiver Brett Swain also sprained a knee covering a second-quarter kickoff and did not return.

McCarthy said both players would be evaluated further on Monday and that the team would have more information then.

Center/guard Jason Spitz, who was sidelined last Sunday with a back injury, was active on Sunday but did not play. Scott Wells started at center for the fourth straight game.

Green Bay's inactives on Sunday were running back Ahman Green, fullback Korey Hall, safety Matt Giordano, guard/center Evan Dietrich-Smith, tackle Mark Tauscher, Clifton, wide receiver Jordy Nelson and defensive end Jarius Wynn.

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