Grant Coming On Strong Once Again

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There hasn't been a more productive running back in the league the last three years in the latter portion of seasons than the Packers' Ryan Grant, and he looks to continue that trend as Green Bay makes its push for a spot in the playoffs.

Grant is coming off one of his finest games of the season, rushing for 137 yards on 20 carries (6.9 avg.) in the Packers' 21-14 win over the Bears last Sunday at Soldier Field. He posted just the second two-touchdown game of his career in the regular season, including a 62-yard scamper off left tackle on Green Bay's first offensive play, his longest run in almost two years. The 6.9-yard average was a career high for a game with at least 20 attempts.

Those kinds of performances later in the season have not been uncommon since 2007, Grant's first year with the Packers. Since '07, Grant is No. 1 in the league with 2,137 rushing yards on 464 carries (4.6 avg.), including nine 100-yard games, in the months of November and December, a time when the weather starts to get unpredictable in Green Bay.

"This is the coldest weather I have played in, so it's not to say that I am used to this cold weather like that," Grant said. "This is my job. You learn how to adjust to it and you've got to perform in it regardless. I don't feel like the weather conditions should be a reason for you not doing your job.

"The conditions are what make football what it is, being able to do it in different types of weather. It's a tribute to the guys working hard up front, but I do take pride in being able to run no matter what the weather is."

After battling a hamstring injury in 2008 that had him playing at less than 100 percent early in the season, Grant got off to another slow start this season, posting just 257 yards and two touchdowns on 67 carries (3.8 avg.) through four games, an average of 64.3 yards per game on just under 17 attempts a game. He carried the ball 20 times just once in the opening four games, a 26-attempt, 99-yard performance at St. Louis in Week 3.

But starting with his 90-yard performance against Detroit in Week 6, Grant's numbers have spiked across the board. He ranks fifth in the league over that span with 811 yards and five touchdowns on 180 carries (4.5 avg.), an increase of nearly 26 yards a game compared to his opening four contests.

"I'm pleased with Ryan Grant's production," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think he has been very steady. We had some growing pains really as an offense. We were not in sync earlier in the year, and really I felt the No. 1 issue was we didn't really give the run game enough attempts. If you look at the times where his carries were 18, 19, 20-plus carries, he has been very productive.

"To me, I say it all the time, the most important statistic for running the football is the attempts, and I think when Ryan has been given those opportunities, he has gotten into a groove and has been very productive. I think he is a very steady, solid player."

The 6-foot-1, 222-pound Grant has carried the ball 20 or more times in a game seven times this season, and the Packers have a 6-1 record in those contests compared to a 3-3 mark when he is under the 20-attempt mark. It goes without saying that his yardage numbers should rise with more carries, but his yards per carry have also seen a 1.3-yard increase in those games with 20-plus carries.

"He is a big back and he can wear a defense down, but like Coach has mentioned with the attempts, you get to get into a rhythm, a flow as far as how the defense is playing you and how they are reacting to your course, outside zone or inside zone," running backs coach Edgar Bennett said. "In saying that, regardless of the number of attempts, he has to make the most of his opportunities. I think that is something he is doing more and more each day."

One factor that has likely contributed to Grant's improved production of late is the stability on the offensive line. After using six different starting combinations in the first nine games primarily due to injuries, the Packers have opened with the same five linemen in four straight games.

"It definitely helps because again, you get into a rhythm when you are playing with the same guys as far as their reactions and our reactions," Bennett said. "It just helps as far as being consistent and on the same page. When you talk about preparation, from the classroom to the practice field, it all goes into being productive on Sunday when everybody is on the same page. Being able to practice together, it certainly helps, and the unit is getting stronger as the season progresses."

{sportsad300}Grant's 137-yard performance in Chicago put him over 1,000 yards for the second straight season, and he stands just 132 yards away from the 1,200-yard mark as well. If he is able to accomplish that in the final three games, Grant will become just the third back in team history to record back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons, joining teammate and franchise all-time leading rusher Ahman Green (2001-03) and Jim Taylor (1961-62).

"I didn't know that, but that means a lot," said Grant, who will face the No. 1 rushing defense in the league in Pittsburgh this Sunday. "It means a lot to the team, the offense, and to me because it shows a lot of the hard work, the progression of what we are doing and consistency.

"But No. 1, I think it all helps with winning the games, because that's the goal. We want to win and put our team in the best position for this stretch of what we are trying to do as a team."

If Grant can hit the 1,200-yard mark, he'll also pass a certain former Packers running back for No. 9 on the team's all-time rushing list. He stands just 127 yards away from surpassing the yardage total of his position coach, Bennett, who rushed for 3,353 yards in his five seasons (1992-96) playing for Green Bay.

"You know what, someone was telling me about that the other day," Bennett said. "We laughed and talked about that a little bit. The bottom line is I have a tremendous relationship with him. Ryan is the type of guy that is extremely humble, has a tremendous work ethic, tremendous character, and has a passion for the game.

"The truth of the matter is he really doesn't focus on things like that. It's more about the winning, the memories, playing the game the way it is supposed to be played. We have a good time and we joke and laugh about passing me in the record books, but it's kind of going back to why we do it, and that's not the main focus of why we play the game. Our team goals come before any personal accolades, and that's how he goes about doing his business."

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