Mounting their most potent running game since Week One of the 2002 regular season - in company with a tightfisted defense - the Packers controlled both the football and the clock en route to a comfortable 31-6 conquest of the Detroit Lions in rain-drenched Lambeau Field over the weekend.
With running back Ahman Green exploding off right tackle on a 65-yard excursion on the second play from scrimmage, the Packers continued to dominate throughout the first half, expeditiously adding another touchdown on their second possession, one which saw quarterback Brett Favre preside over a 13-play, 59-yard drive he climaxed with a shovel pass to running back Tony Fisher, who lunged into the end zone from 5 yards out.
Detroit retaliated with a pair of second quarter field goals by Jason Hanson, "interrupted" by a 46-yard Ryan Longwell bullseye, but that was the extent of the Lions' scoreboard activity for the afternoon.
The Packers were to score twice more after the intermission, the first time on a 14-yard Favre strike to wide receiver Robert Ferguson - following rookie linebacker Nick Barnet's interception and 14-yard return to the Detroit 19-yard line in the third quarter, and for the fourth and final time on a 56-yard scoring runback of a fourth-quarter interception by right cornerback Al Harris, the Packers' fourth and last takeaway of the day.
The defense meanwhile, was holding quarterback Joey Harrington and the Lions scoreless over those final 30 minutes.
In the overall process, the Packers amassed 200 yards rushing - their best such harvest since the opening game of the 2002 season when they rushed for 211 yards in a 37-34 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Lambeau Field.
And, in so doing, Green Bay controlled the football for 32 minutes and 44 seconds while the Lions had to settle for 27 minutes and 16 seconds of possession.
Said control was due in no small measure to the artistry of Green, who forged the 15th 100-yard rushing performance of his four-year Packers career, churning for 160 yards in 23 attempts, a 7.0-yard average.
It was a day better suited to running than throwing the football, with a steady rain falling throughout the game on an exceedingly wet weekend that had produced 2.54 inches of rain since the onset of persistent precipitation Friday.
Favre provided an effective aerial complement to the production ground offensive, completing 15 of 28 passes for 132 yards and the 2 touchdowns (to Fisher and Ferguson), with one interception.
On the other side of the football, the defense throttled Detroit's attack, limiting the Lions to 17 yards rushing and 84 total net yards in the first half - and to just 52 yards rushing overall.
The ringleaders in this project: linebackers Nick Barnett, Na'il Diggs and Hannibal Navies and safety Darren Sharper.
Barnett, making as substantial "statement" in only his second NFL game, supplemented his first pro interception with a wide-ranging, 14 tackle effort that included a dozen unassisted stops.
Diggs, also a man on a mission, weighed in with 7 solo tackles and 3 passes defensed, and Navies and Sharper with 5 tackles apiece, Sharper also being credited with 2 passes defensed and Navies with one.
Antonio Freeman, who rejoined the team just last Wednesday after a one-year hiatus, played a key role for the offense, making his first catch of the game for a first down on the Packers' drive to a Ryan Longwell field goal, and emerging as the team's leading receiver with 4 receptions for 32 yards.
THE FAVRE FILE: Once again invading the NFL record book, Favre moved past Fran Tarkenton (3,686) into fourth place in career pass completions with 3,692. Dan Marino is the all-time leader with 4,967, followed by John Elway (4,123) and Warren Moon (3,988).
Favre also advanced in another all-time category in making his 175th consecutive start. It is the 10th longest such streak on record, surpassing the 174 straight starts of tackle Winston Hill of the New York Jets.
Favre whose 175 starts represent the current longest such streak by any NFL player as well as an extension of his all-time record for quarterbacks, also played in his 177th consecutive game, leaving him only 10 behind team record-holder Forrest Gregg, who played in 187 straight games.
Favre's 2 TD passes swelled his career total to 317, third-most in NFL history, and to 3 for the season to date.
Running back Tony Fisher, who scored off a 5-yard shovel pass from Favre in the fourth quarter, became the 35th packer to be the recipient of a Favre TD pass.
THE GREEN FILE: With his 160-yard performance against the Lions, Ahman Green forged past Clarke Hinkle (3,860) and Dorsey Levens (3,937) into fourth place on the team's all-time rushing list with 4,015 yards, thus becoming only the fourth player in team annals to rush for 4,000 yards in a career.
Jim Taylor (1958-66) is the all-time leader with 8,207 yards, followed by John Brockington with 5,024 and Tony Canadeo with 4,197.
Green now needs 183 yards to pass Canadeo and take over third place on the Packers' career rushing list.
Green's 160-yard effort Sunday marked the seventh time he has rushed for 150 or more yards since joining the Packers in 2000. Additionally, Green's 15 100-yard rushing games rank second in Packers history only to Taylor's 26. The Packers, it should be noted, are 15-0 in those 15 contests.
It also was the fourth time he has rushed for 100 or more yards against the Lions, the most 100-yard efforts he has against any NFL opponent.
Green's 65-yard scoring run was the second-longest run from scrimmage of his NFL career. His longest, an 83-yard, all-the-way excursion, also came against the Lions in the Packers' 2001 season opener against Detroit (Sept. 9).
Sunday's sortie marked the fourth time Green has had a run of 60 or more yards, a club record. He previously had been tied at three with Andy Uram (1938-43).
GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S POST-GAME COMMENTS:
(on scoring early) "Anytime you can score early is definitely a boost, but just like I told the team last week, we did not fall off a cliff. Now this week we are not on top of the world either. We won a football game and lost a football game and we have to keep things in perspective. I am pleased with how we practiced this week and how we got through the week. It was a tough week to be a Green Bay Packer and the guys stepped up. We had a number of injuries, a lot of frustration and disappointment after losing our opening game. I give them a lot of credit. They got in that locker room and the practice field and worked and worked and were determined to give our fans a better performance, and I believe they did."
(on injuries) "William Henderson has a hip contusion, Paris Lenon a knee bruise, Robert Ferguson re-aggravation in his MCL in his knee, Na'il Diggs a knee sprain, Barnett a hip flexor, but he should be OK and William Henderson was also poked in the eye. I believe they will all be OK and the only one that I'm concerned with would be Wesley Walls and his hamstring."
(on Ahman Green) "He has looked like that in practice and in the preseason and it didn't surprise me what he was able to do. You have to credit the offensive linemen. They came off the ball and did some pretty good things. Ahman certainly made some yardage after contact and showed his explosiveness as a runner."
(on how well the linebackers played) "It was only one game so I am not going to say we're anointed ones right now. We still have a ways to go and we have a lot of work to do with that group, but they did step forward today collectively and I've said right from the beginning it is going to be a work in progress. You don't revamp a position or a defense and expect it to all be clicking. Today it clicked and hopefully we will click a little bit better next week and continue down the road. But we still have a ways to go. I did think that all three of the linebackers showed their ability to run and make physical-type tackles. There were some bone jarring hits out there. I was pleased with their performance and we still have a ways to go."
(on Robert Ferguson) "Fergy may be one of the toughest players on this team. I think Marco Rivera goes up there in that group and Fergy is in that top five group as well. He is a tough kid and when he tells you he is going to do something he is going to give you everything he has. It doesn't surprise me he was able to do what he did. Although last week he was on crutches leaving the locker room, crutches on Monday and Tuesday, walking around a little better on Wednesday, and a little better on Thursday. Friday he gets taped up and wants to practice. What he did today is a credit to him and his mental toughness."
(on being effective running the ball) "We would like to be able to run the football that effectively week in and week out, but it usually doesn't happen that way. The running game works in peaks and valleys. To give Ahman Green his carries is important and we were able to do that today. But you still have to be able to throw the ball effectively and we were able to do that on third down in the first half and move the chains but were not as good in the second half and we need to address that."
(on any changes this week compared to last week) "I thought we had better practices two weeks ago before the Minnesota game. We had pads on this week and we hit a little bit, but not to the point where we could get anyone hurt. Nothing has changed from that standpoint. There wasn't a different philosophy or demeanor. We normally do not have pads coming out of the preseason and the second game we do have pads and I did that all season last year and then this year I will take it week by week depending on the injuries you have."
(on Antonio Freeman) "I thought he did a great job. He couldn't walk on his foot yesterday due to some tendonitis in his foot. We gave him some anti-inflammatories and he really didn't practice with us a whole heck of a lot yesterday and he settled down and was fine today. He made some pretty critical catches for us and moved the chains for us. I think there is a lot of confidence between the quarterback and him."
(on the kickoff that went out of bounds) "It was a planned pooch kick. We had that end of the field and felt confident with the way they were playing. They have a very good kickoff return unit but they cheat a little bit and we were trying to put it in that hole right there. I felt like on a wet field and with the wind we would be able to do that. If we were able to keep it in bounds I felt like we would have been able to recover that. It was an aggressive call."
THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:
Quarterback Brett Favre: (on his impression of Robert Ferguson) "Even before this game - and I have said this all of training camp - I am not going to jump on the bandwagon. I said way back when that he has made dramatic improvements and has grown up a lot. He is one of the tougher guys you will ever be around. He has tremendous raw talent. Now he is starting to take it to the next level. The talent is there, but now he is starting to make plays. I can't believe he played this week first of all. I won't say that is what we expect out of guys because no one would have said anything if he wouldn't have played but it meant a lot to him to play. And not just play but to make plays. He blocks and it means something to him to spring the running back and it means something to him to catch the ball. He is a confident person and it bothers him when he doesn't play well. You can see that and guys feed off of that and today to me it was just Robert Ferguson. I don't want to talk about it too much because he has a long way to go and he would be the first person to admit that, but he definitely took a step in the right direction today."
(on addressing the team) "As I told the team I am not a very vocal person. There are different types of leadership. For example Reggie White, he called player meetings all the time - which is fine because he backed it up. I think that if you call meetings all the time and do it over and over again, then after a while guys just start saying, 'Oh God, not another one of those.' I probably should speak up a little more. I am no different today than I was 10 years ago in that area. I have always felt words were secondary and that actions, to me, were the most important things. If players saw me playing as hard as I can, then they should too. It was brewing all week and I felt like I needed to say something because I am one of the elderly statesmen on the team, whether I like it or not. And I do play every week, and play hard, but at some point you have to lead that way."
(on Antonio Freeman) "I love the guys we have: Fergy (Robert Ferguson), Donald (Driver), Javon (Walker). I wouldn't trade those guys for anyone. They give great effort and have tremendous talent. It was nice and I think our fans enjoyed it and liked having him (Freeman) back. Freeman will tell you that he can't run with those guys and that he is a body catcher - all the things that you ask in a receiver, Free doesn't have. But the bottom line is production. You can't argue with what he has done over the years. I told him the second-to-last catch he had on that drive, when everyone was cheering, I said that 'they love you and I do and this team does, too. That is what makes you great as a human' and Free has meant so much to me in my career and to the Packers over the last nine or 10 years and I enjoy having him back."
(on running the football) "Unlike the Packers of old, our offense is based on running the football. Now we have a great running back and the best offensive line since I have been here - most athletic - and we are very capable. In order for us to be successful we have to establish the run."
Running back Ahman Green: (on his 65-yard touchdown run) "It is one of our bread-and-butter plays. It is a counter misdirection, and it's a play that if it is blocked right all I have to deal with is outrunning the safety."
(on what that did for confidence) "It gets us in a groove offensively and team wise. Establishing the run early sets everything else up with the pass. And if a team wants to blitz us early, then they have to be worried about us having a big run or pass through play action."
(on Brett Favre addressing the team before the game) "I expect the unexpected. For him to get up there and say something to the team, he felt like he needed to say something to the team. And every now and then I get up and say something even though I don't say much. But if I need to say something, that is in my gut to get us going mentally or get up us riled up before or after a game."
(on almost breaking a few more long runs) "There were a couple of shoe-string tackles that they just got me."
(on this victory being sweet because of last week's result) "We had a bitter taste in our mouth, and to get a bitter taste out of your mouth you have to drink something sweet."
Linebacker Na'il Diggs: (on defense) "I think we just came out to play together. Everybody took the field as one. Last week was kind of a wake-up call for us. Last week, we really didn't start playing until the second half, when we should have played that way the whole game. We knew we had to come out and get (Detroit) right away and not let them get any momentum at all. I think we took the wind out of their sails early. When you're out there having fun, you're going to break to the ball a little more. When you're up and your offense is playing well, guys are going to play better."
(on individual/ teammates' performance) "I think I played well. I think our defensive line did an outstanding job. Nick (Barnett) played well and so did everyone else. I was just running around and I guess I was just at the right place at the right time just making plays and doing what I'm supposed to do."
Center Mike Flanagan: (on running game) "We just came out early. Obviously, when you run a long one early like Ahman's (Green) it makes it really easy to put those yards up."
(on general offense) "It was just a matter of us sticking with it. We started slow last week and had to make sure we came out quicker this week and we did that. Once you set the tempo on the first series, it's a lot easier game."
(on returning to road after four straight home games) "You're never excited to go back on the road. Something silly always seemed to happen this preseason. We hate to leave Lambeau, but we've got to do it and get ready for Arizona."
Linebacker Nick Barnett: (on first win as a professional) "The first time we played at home and didn't win, it was disappointing. This time we came out and won and now we can celebrate in the locker room and just feel good."
(on individual performance) "I'm a long way from where I want to be. I probably could have made more plays than what I made. I'm always very critical of myself, but I did OK and it's just a stepping stone to get where I want to be."
(on going on the road next week vs. Arizona) "This team is starting to come together as one. As soon as we get on the road, all we've got is us and I think we can go out there and do it."
Wide receiver Antonio Freeman: (on first game back with Packers) "It felt great. It was kind of strange at first, but it was a great feeling. I can't say enough about how the fans made my homecoming that much more pleasurable."
(on personal adjustment) "Every day is a work in progress. You've just got to be realistic. It's all going to come together and the rust will go away. For the first game with a week of practice, I think things went pretty well."
Wide receiver Robert Ferguson: (on playing injured) "I just rehabbed my butt off all week and I wasn't worried about it at all."
(on playing with Donald Driver out) "I didn't feel any added pressure. With or without Donald Driver, everybody has to play like they're the man. You just have to go and play."
Cornerback Mike McKenzie: (on defensive effort) "It was another opportunity for us to go out and gel with one another. We did a good job of covering up their guys and just playing with a lot of emotion."
(on playing against an offense with similarities to Green Bay's) "As far as their scheme, when you have a beat on what the other team is doing, it definitely helps."
Defensive Lineman Rod Walker: (on play of defensive line) "We took it upon ourselves to play better. We didn't get the job done last week, so it was on our shoulders to step up."
-With Sunday's victory, the Packers now own a 15-game advantage in their 73-year old series with the Lions. It was their 77th win over Detroit, compared to 62 losses and 7 ties.
-It was the Green and Gold's sixth consecutive victory over the Lions and their ninth straight at Detroit's expense in Lambeau Field.
-The Packers, adjusting to the injuries at wide receiver, unveiled a three-tight end alignment for the first time on their second possession and it resulted in a 7-yard completion to TE David Martin.
-Packers inactives Sunday included wide receiver Donald Driver, offensive tackles Marcus Spriggs and Brennan Curtin, running back Nick Luchey, defensive linemen Jamal Reynolds and Kenny Peterson and Designated Third Quarterback Craig Nall.
-Al Harris' 56-yard scoring runback of a fourth-quarter Joey Harrington pass - his first interception as a Packer - was the second TD return of an INT for the former Eagle, who previously had a 17-yard scoring return against St. Louis in 1999 while in Philadelphia.
-Running back Tony Fisher scored the first receiving touchdown of his two-year NFL career in the fourth quarter and proceeded to celebrate it in traditional fashion, essaying a "Lambeau Leap" into the south stands. He also has two rushing touchdowns to his credit in Green and Gold.
-The Packers amassed 151 of their 332 total yards in the first quarter, Ahman Green accounting for 95 of his 160 yards in the first quarter.
-His 160-yard total represented the third-best rushing effort of Green's NFL career. No 30's career-best to date was his 169-yard performance against Tampa Bay Nov. 4, 2001 - following a 161-yard, second-best production at Minnesota Dec. 17, 2000.
-Green, incidentally, went without a pass reception against the Lions after posting a team-leading 7 catches in the season opener against Minnesota, thus ending a streak of 47 games in which he had caught at least one pass. It was the sixth-longest such skein in team annals.
-The Packers had the football for most of the opening period, maintaining possession for 11 minutes and 6 seconds to the Lions' 3 minutes, 54 seconds.
-Joe Johnson promptly set a tone for the defense, throwing Detroit running back Olandis Gary for a 1-yard loss on the Lions' first play from scrimmage.
-It was placekicker Ryan Longwell, in a rare "coverage" role, who ran Detroit returner Eddie Drummond out of bounds following the latter's 38-yard, kickoff return in the second quarter, thus preventing possible embarrassment for the Green and Gold.
-Nose tackle Rod Walker made one of the day's key defensive plays, barging through to hurl running back Shawn Bryson for a 6-yard loss in a third-and-2 situation at the Green Bay 44-yard line in the second quarter.
-Cornerback Mike McKenzie's third-quarter "pick" of a Harrington pass was the Packers' first interception of the new season. It was the 12th "pick" of McKenzie's five-year NFL career.
-Jason Hanson's 52-yard field goal was the longest field goal by a Lion in Green Bay since Glenn Presnell kicked a 54-yarder - then an NFL record - to give Detroit a 3-0 victory at old City Stadium in 1934.