Notebook: Grant Looks To Follow Up Big Game

Considering the opponent and what’s at stake this week, there would be no better time than now for Ryan Grant to chalk up his first back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 29

Considering the opponent and what's at stake this week, there would be no better time than now for Ryan Grant to chalk up his first back-to-back 100-yard rushing games.

Oddly enough, for all the success Grant has enjoyed in his young career - nearly 1,000 yards rushing in the final nine regular-season games of 2007, then 1,200 yards rushing last season, and almost 500 so far in 2009 - he has never posted consecutive 100-yard efforts.

Coming off a season-best 148 rushing yards last week in Cleveland, the second-highest regular-season total of his career (156 vs. Oakland, 2007) and his 10th 100-yard game, Grant hopes he's hitting a higher gear now through the middle portion of the regular season.

His offensive mates certainly feel they were able to establish some momentum with the ground game last week in Cleveland, when Grant ripped off six runs of eight yards or longer, including a season-best 37-yarder in the fourth quarter.

"Definitely," rookie tackle T.J. Lang said. "We were covering up guys last week, we were getting some movement, we were giving Ryan some holes to run through. He was getting to the second level a lot, and when he gets to the second level he has the ability to make guys miss, and that's what we're going to continue to try to build on this week."

It won't be easy against the Vikings, whose run defense thus far hasn't been as formidable as the past three years when it has ranked No. 1 in the league. But, featuring stalwart defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams in the middle, the Vikings are still 10th against the run this season, best in the NFC North, and they haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in the last 30 games, the longest current streak in the league.

"They're good at what they do, and they do it consistently," Grant said. "Guys have been in that scheme for a while, the same defensive guys for the last couple of years. They play well together, they play fast, and they execute well."

Grant has been consistently productive against the Vikings, though, despite their lofty rush-defense rankings. In four career games as a feature back against Minnesota, he's averaging 5.3 yards per carry (64-337), and he has one of just two 100-yard performances against the Vikings in their last 55 games (St. Louis' Steven Jackson has the other).

The problem has been that in the last three games, the Packers have been very pass-heavy on offense and he's averaged only 13 carries per game against the Vikings since a 25-carry, 119-yard effort in Green Bay's 34-0 blanking of Minnesota in 2007 at Lambeau Field.

"You have to be as balanced as possible," Grant said. "The teams that are balanced are most successful, especially against a good defense like that."

Grant has come very close to consecutive 100-yard games a few times. In 2007, beginning with the 119-yard game against the Vikings, Grant went over 100 in three of five contests while reaching 88 and 94 yards in the other two games in that stretch.

Then last year, he had 90- and 86-yard efforts sandwiched around a 105-yard day against Indianapolis.

Getting to 100 in back-to-back games isn't a specific goal of the offense or Grant, by any means. But it would certainly help put the Packers in position to beat the Vikings, as well as establish that the dominant ground game against the Browns (202 total rushing yards) wasn't a flash in the pan.

"From a unit standpoint, I think everyone is getting into more of a rhythm and moving in the right direction," running backs coach Edgar Bennett said. "We've got our offensive line winning at the point of attack, and he's making the most when he gets to the second level as far as breaking tackles or making safeties miss, and gaining those extra yards."

Third-down improvement

When the Packers and Vikings first met back on Oct. 5, the Minnesota offense was absolutely deadly on third downs. The Vikings converted 8-of-14 (57 percent) in the game, but more critically, seven in a row from the beginning of the second quarter through early in the fourth quarter. Minnesota scored touchdowns on three of those drives to take a 28-14 lead.

But over the past two games, Green Bay has dramatically improved its third-down defense, allowing the Lions and Browns to convert just 2-of-22 (9 percent) collectively. The offenses in Detroit and Cleveland are nothing like the one in Minnesota, of course, but preventing the Vikings from putting together another streak of third-down conversions would go a long way toward getting the Packers a victory in the rematch.

The most frustrating thing about the third-down defense at the Metrodome was the Packers were putting the Vikings in down-and-distance situations that favored the defense. During the run of seven straight conversions, five of those times the Vikings needed 11, 11, 7, 8 and 7 yards for the first down, and got it every time.

The long yardage needed was a reflection of the job the defense did against running back Adrian Peterson (25 carries, 55 yards). Can the Packers combine that with the type of third-down defense they've played the last two weeks? That is a crucial question.

Injury/participation update

For the Packers, linebacker Clay Matthews (jaw), center Scott Wells (personal) and tackle Mark Tauscher (knee) were upgraded to full participants in practice on Thursday. Guard Josh Sitton also was added to the report with a bruised hand, but practiced fully.

It was Tauscher's first full practice since signing with the team over the bye week, and Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Tauscher is very close to being ready to play. He has been sharing snaps at right tackle this week with starter Allen Barbre.

At the other tackle spot, Chad Clifton remained limited, participating only in individual drills and not during team (11-on-11) periods. Lang, who made his first NFL start last week, has been taking all the reps at left tackle this week so far.

The rest of Green Bay's injury report remained the same. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (foot), cornerback Charles Woodson (hip) and defensive end Jarius Wynn (hamstring) were limited, while tight end Jermichael Finley (knee), safety Derrick Martin (hamstring) and center/guard Jason Spitz (back) did not participate for the second straight day.

McCarthy had indicated that Spitz might return to practice on Thursday, but the fourth-year pro isn't as close to coming back as previously thought.

In other injury news, cornerback/returner Will Blackmon had knee surgery on Thursday at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay. Blackmon suffered a torn ACL at Minnesota in Week 4 and is on injured reserve.

{sportsad300}For the Vikings, receiver Percy Harvin (illness) was added to the injury report on Thursday and did not participate, while linebacker E.J. Henderson (knee) and receiver Bernard Berrian (hamstring) were upgraded to limited participants. Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (not injury related) was removed from the report.

The rest of Minnesota's injury report remained unchanged from Wednesday.

Spotlight on recent Packers-Vikings history

On both Thursday and Friday nights, some recent Packers-Vikings history will be highlighted on NFL Network.

The Greatest 4th Quarters show, airing at 8 p.m. CT Thursday, will feature the 2005 Monday night Packers-Vikings matchup at Lambeau Field (Nov. 21). In that game (spoiler alert!), the Vikings broke a 14-all tie with a field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Packers re-tied the game with a field goal with just over three minutes remaining, but then the Vikings drove 58 yards to kick a game-winner as time expired.

Then at 8 p.m. CT Friday (replay at 1 p.m. CT Saturday), NFL Classic Games will feature the complete network broadcast of the Monday Night Miracle at Lambeau Field from Nov. 6, 2000, when Packers receiver Antonio Freeman caught a deflected pass flat on his back, got up, and raced into the end zone for the game-winning score in overtime.

Hot ticket

To no one's surprise, this Sunday's Packers-Vikings matchup is the most popular football ticket this weekend according to the "Buzz Indez" of the NFL Ticket Exchange by Ticketmaster.

Fans can access the NFL Ticket Exchange at NFL.com/ticket exchange or through direct links from NFL.com or Ticketmaster.com. The NFL Ticket Exchange is the only resale marketplace endorsed by the NFL.

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