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Eric Goska column: McCarthy's Packers churn out road wins

Oct. 23, 2011
 

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Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy congratulates quarterback Aaron Rodgers after a touchdown pass in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. / Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette

Road well traveled

Packers head coaches who earned their 25th regular-season road victory in the fewest number of road games.

No. Coach Record
36 Vince Lombardi 25-10-1
44 Mike McCarthy 25-19
51 Curly Lambeau 25-19-7
53 Mike Holmgren 25-28

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Mike McCarthy’s Packers travel well.

Green Bay improved to 4-0 on the road with a 33-27 dismissal of the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. The win was the 25th regular-season road victory of McCarthy’s career, and the Pittsburgh native reached that milestone quicker than all but one other coach in Packers history.

Trying to win in foreign lands can be daunting. An opposing quarterback — a rookie no less — might uncork a long pass, then follow up with a TD toss on his second throw as a starter. One’s own punt returner — another rookie — might fumble away a botched fair catch attempt.

Somewhere, someone might get kicked in the groin. The competition might run up more than 200 yards with its elite back pounding away for 175 yards.

That and more confronted the Packers. The stubborn Vikings didn’t go away until running back James Starks delivered his final first down with just over a minute remaining.

The road is a tough place to win and it has bedeviled many a Packers coach. In the team’s first 85 years, only two — Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi — earned more wins than losses while touring the countryside.

McCarthy has followed in their footsteps. The victory he picked up Sunday came in just his 44th regular-season outing on the road. Only Lombardi was quicker to do so, reaching the milestone in his 36th road game.

McCarthy got his first win as Packers coach at Ford Field against the Lions in 2006. His team went 5-3 in away games that year.

Winning records followed in 2007 (6-2) and 2009 (5-3). His 2011 club becomes just the seventh in team history to open 4-0 on the road.

Green Bay prevailed in this the 100th regular-season meeting between these rivals for a number of reasons. A superior quarterback, an unerring field goal kicker and a running back who earned nearly half of the Packers’ rushing yards in the closing minutes come to mind.

For as well as he has played, Aaron Rodgers flirted with perfection against the Vikings. Through three quarters his passer rating was as high as is allowed (158.3) based on 22 completions in 25 attempts for 314 yards and three touchdowns.

Though he came back to earth somewhat because of an unremarkable fourth quarter, his final rating of 146.5 was the second highest of his career. Only his franchise-best 155.4 points two years ago against the Browns was higher.

Then there’s Mason Crosby. The Packers kicker hasn’t missed a field goal during the regular-season — 21 straight — since hitting the left upright on a 29-yard attempt against the 49ers last year.

Crosby knocked through field goals of 39, 45, 24 and 58 yards. The 58-yarder, a team record, was the 12th of 50 or more yards of his career.

The strong-legged placekicker has made his last 20 in a row on the road. That ties the team record he set in 2008.

While Rodgers and Crosby were in a groove throughout, Starks saved his best work for last. He carried six straight times in the final two-and-a-half minutes picking up 55 yards and three first downs.

Starks has been the Packers’ most productive runner in the fourth quarter. A total of 141 of his team-leading 374 yards rushing have come in the closing 15 minutes.

That’s more than Ryan Grant (30 yards), Alex Green (11), John Kuhn (5), Rodgers (2) and Matt Flynn (-2) combined.

McCarthy was coach the last time the Packers opened 4-0 on the road. His 2007 squad won its first five games away from Lambeau Field before stumbling in Dallas.

Only once has Green Bay gone an entire season unbeaten and untied on the road. Lambeau’s Packers of 1941 went 5-0, but then lost to the Bears at Chicago in a divisional playoff game.

For those who like to look ahead, the Green and Gold’s final four away games are against the Chargers, Lions, Giants and Chiefs. That’s a tough road to hoe, but then McCarthy’s Packers travel well.

Extra point

Green Bay gave up 218 yards rushing to the Vikings. The Packers last road victory when surrendering 200 or more rushing yards came against the Bears on Dec. 9, 1984.

Eric Goska is a Press-Gazette correspondent, a Packers historian and the author of "Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness," a statistical history of the Packers. Email him at aegoska@sbcglobal.net.

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