If the Packers this week are going to repeat Sunday's 200-yard rushing performance with multiple backs over 100 yards each, they'll have to do it with some different personnel.
Running back Vernand Morency, whose 101 rushing yards against the Cardinals complemented Ahman Green's 106, is out for a couple of weeks with a lower back injury sustained during the fourth quarter, though Head Coach Mike McCarthy didn't know exactly when it occurred.
In addition, fullback Brandon Miree will be listed as doubtful this week with an elbow injury after hyper-extending it in the second half.
That means Noah Herron will step in as the No. 2 running back behind Green and William Henderson will resume the No. 1 fullback spot in Miree's place.
McCarthy is confident the running game can continue to build on Sunday's performance with the lineup changes, but he admitted it's disappointing to see two young, improving players like Morency and Miree having to step aside just as it appeared they were hitting their stride.
"He's a tough guy, very explosive," McCarthy said of Morency. "I feel bad more for Mo because he just had his first 100-yard rushing game, and he just really looks comfortable out there. He's a real spark plug on special teams also."
As for Miree, who took over the starting fullback spot after being signed from the practice squad in Week 4, his powerful lead blocking was a big part of the ground game's success on Sunday.
"He played excellent, played very well," McCarthy said. "I thought his decisions were very good, played with good pad level, good finish. He was really rolling there."
McCarthy's confidence in the replacements is well-founded, though. Herron rushed for 106 yards against St. Louis prior to the bye week, when the zone-blocking scheme started opening holes on a consistent basis for the first time. Herron will be expected to take enough carries to prevent Green, who has had some hamstring trouble this season after coming back from a torn quad tendon in 2005, from handling too large a workload.
Meanwhile Henderson is a 12-year veteran who should be fully recovered from the minor knee surgery he had at the beginning of the season. The Packers have used their tight ends as fullbacks often this season as well, so there's no lack of depth to fill the role.
In addition, the biggest key to the running game has been the improvement and continuity of the offensive line, which played its best game of 2006 thus far. Also, the line appears not to have any injury issues to deal with for the second straight week, the first such stretch this season.
"The first thing you see, you can see it from the sideline in the game and it's even more evident in watching the film today, is the way they're coming off the ball in sync," McCarthy said. "The urgency, the speed, the continuity - there is excellent tempo.
"You're seeing them all come off the ball in rhythm and timing, seeing the cut-blocks happen on the back side. It's just a lot more decisive. That's the thing that really jumps out at you."
Key blocking statistic
Nearly every day in practice, the offensive line works on cut-blocking, a technique used to take the legs out from under a back-side defensive player and get him on the ground. That way, the running back has a cut-back lane without pursuit from back-side defenders when the front side of the play gets bottled up.
The Packers aim for at least 40 successful cut blocks per game, and on Sunday they set a season-high with 45. That the Packers had their best rushing game of the season Sunday was no mere coincidence.
"The technical part is improving," McCarthy said.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Brett Favre became the first player in the history of the Packers to have a 1-yard touchdown run and a 1-yard touchdown pass in the same game on Sunday.
Only three other active quarterbacks have done that in the same game:
Jake Plummer for Arizona (on Dec. 21, 1997, vs. Atlanta), Steve McNair for Tennessee (on Oct. 14, 2001, vs. Tampa Bay) and Donovan McNabb for Philadelphia (on Sept. 26, 2004, vs. Detroit).
McCarthy said tight end David Martin, who had his jaw x-rayed after the game, would be fine. He added that cornerback Charles Woodson (knee) and receiver Donald Driver (ankle) were among players having some bumps and bruises checked out, but none of the injuries appeared to be major.
McCarthy also said he was hopeful receiver Greg Jennings (ankle), who worked out before Sunday's game and was very close to being able to play, would be ready to go this week and perhaps return to practice as soon as Wednesday.