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Running Game Looks To Regain Rhythm


Prior to the last two weeks, the Packers' running attack put together an impressive four-game stretch in which it compiled five 100-yard rushing performances, with two backs topping 100 yards on Oct. 29.

But in the last two games against Minnesota and New England, the rushing numbers haven't measured up, and getting the ground game back to its previous level of success is a priority heading into Monday night's game at Seattle.

"I think you need to run the football consistently every week, and the last two weeks we haven't done a very good job of that," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said. "But that's something we have to keep doing and keep practicing, and it will turn around."

During that productive four-game stretch, Ahman Green topped 100 yards in three straight games against Miami, Arizona and Buffalo, while Noah Herron (vs. St. Louis) and Vernand Morency (vs. Arizona) also did so once each.

But since then, Green has had just 83 yards on 35 carries, an average of only 2.4 yards per attempt. Head Coach Mike McCarthy said he needs to get Green more carries than he has the last two games, but the offensive linemen also know they have to do their part to encourage the persistence with the rushing attack.

"It's going to take execution and fundamentals," center Scott Wells said. "We haven't been really fundamentally sound, especially last week in running the ball."

Each of the last two games were played against the two best run defenses Green Bay has faced this season. But Wells noted the Minnesota game, when Green had 22 carries for 55 yards but the offense still scored 23 points, wasn't really the same situation as the New England game, when Green ran 13 times for 28 yards and the Packers were shut out.

Against the Patriots, virtually nothing was working on offense, so they couldn't use the run to set up the pass, or vice versa, and the game got out of hand.

Against the Vikings, the struggles on the ground were anticipated somewhat, but the passing game was sharp, and with the score always close the 2-yard runs served their purpose.

"We stuck with it, and even though we didn't get a lot of yards statistically, it opened up some big plays in the passing game," Wells said of the big victory at the Metrodome on Nov. 12.

"As long as we stick with the run, even if we're not able to accumulate a huge number of yards with it, it keeps the defense honest. It keeps us a two-dimensional offense, and it opens up plays in the passing game, and when they back up to play the pass, that's when you get the big gains in the run."

There's reason to believe that approach can work against the Seahawks as well.

{sportsad300}Seattle's run defense has had its difficulties recently after a strong start. In the season's first five games, the Seahawks faced feature backs the likes of Arizona's Edgerrin James, the New York Giants' Tiki Barber and the Bears' Thomas Jones. In getting out to a 4-1 start, Seattle held the opponents' feature backs to just 3.5 yards per carry (90 rushes, 317 yards).

But in the last five games, in which Seattle has gone 2-3 and faced Minnesota's Chester Taylor, Kansas City's Larry Johnson and San Francisco's Frank Gore among others, the opposing feature back has averaged 6.0 yards per carry (116 rushes, 692 yards).

The most notable efforts came from Taylor and Gore. Back on Oct. 22, Taylor broke off a 95-yard touchdown run on his way to a 169-yard day in Minnesota's 31-13 win.

Then just last week, Gore set a 49ers team record with 212 yards on 24 carries, including runs of 50 and 51 yards as San Francisco pulled a 20-14 upset.

That's encouraging for the Packers, but they aren't going to assume that just because Gore gashed Seattle a week ago that they can simply show up and do the same.

"It wouldn't matter if he rushed for 200 yards or 2 yards, it's still an opportunity," Wells said. "He had a great day, take nothing away from him, but at the same time Seattle may have had a bad day. That's not necessarily the same defense we're going to run into when we get up there. I know they're hungry, and we're hungry."

That's the way Green sees it, too.

"I can't say I'm going to do the same thing against them," he said. "We just have to be ready for whatever they're going to give us out there and be ready for a tough game out there. We're picking ourselves up as well."

Getting the ground game back on track might be the best place to start.

"It's going to be big," guard Daryn Colledge said. "It's been unsuccessful the last two weeks and we kind of hang our hat on the ability to run the ball, so we're going to try to establish that and do well."

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