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Unfamiliar faces pace game-winning drive

Dec. 10, 2012
 
Green Bay Packers running back DuJuan Harris scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions during Sunday night's game at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Packers running back DuJuan Harris scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions during Sunday night's game at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

Surely, this is just how everyone imagined a Green Bay Packers’ game-clinching touchdown drive: Four runs by Alex Green, one by Ryan Grant and two by DuJuan Harris.

That is, if anyone could have possibly imagined Grant ever playing for the Packers again and had ever heard of Harris.

Sure enough, that unlikely duo finished off the drive that finished off the Detroit Lions in Sunday night’s 27-20 victory at Lambeau Field. On a seven-play drive, 59-yard drive in the fourth quarter, the normally pass-happy Packers did it the old-fashioned way: coach Mike McCarthy kept the ball on the ground for every single play.

As unlikely as that seemed, even more unexpected was the guy who finished it with a 14-yard touchdown run. It was Harris, who was signed to the practice squad on Oct. 24 and then added to the active roster on Dec. 1. He had never carried the ball for the Packers before Sunday and had only nine career NFL rushes, all for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

Green was the only one of the halfbacks to carry the ball on that drive who was with the Packers to start the season.

“That’s the kind of team we have,” Packers tight end Tom Crabtree said. “That’s what you saw (Sunday) night. It wasn’t one guy; it was everybody contributing.”

Perhaps everyone should have seen this coming after Harris unexpectedly started things for the Packers with an 11-yard run on their first play from scrimmage. The diminutive back, all 5-foot-8 and 203-pounds of him, ran over Lions safety Ricardo Silva at the end of the play. Harris carried six more times and finished with 31 yards rushing, which nearly matched his career rushing total of 42 yards coming into the day.

Still, Green got the bulk of the work, rushing 13 times for 69 yards to post his second-best average per carry (5.3 yards) of the season. He started off that run-happy drive with gains of 6, 2, 10 and 9 yards. The 10-yarder up the middle converted a third-and-2 from the Packers’ 49-yard line.

Green gave way to Grant, the former Packers running back who was signed off the street on Wednesday after the team learned running back James Starks had a season-threatening knee injury. Grant entered the game for the first time on that drive and drew a loud ovation. He rewarded his fans with a 13-yard run off left tackle that looked like so many of his runs when he was the team’s primary back from 2007-11.

“Actually, that was my first time running that play here,” Grant said of his only carry of the game. “It looked like some other plays, but technically it’s the first time.”

Then it was back to Harris, who after a 5-yard run burst through the right side of the offensive line and had a clear path to the end zone on his 14-yard scoring run.

“That was the offensive line all the way,” Harris said. “They were blocking real well, and it opened up like the Red Sea.”

The Packers have won games myriad ways under McCarthy but rarely — if ever — have they done so with a drive like that.

“That’s a Packer drive,” Green said. “That’s what we’re trying to get going for the (next) few weeks coming up. That’s a good start for us, but hopefully we can get that going more in the future.”

In all, the Packers rushed 25 times for 140 yards, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ 27-yard touchdown scramble in the third quarter.

“You hear people talk about it, ‘They can’t run the ball; they’re a pass-first offense,’” Crabtree said. “But running the ball, that’s something we take pride in.”

rdemovsk@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.

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