Packers finally gain edge on the ground
It's been said the NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint.
If so, the Packers' running game seemingly spent September locked in qualifying mode while the rest of the league had left the starting line.
Thursday night at Lambeau Field, Green Bay sought to produce more rushing yards while allowing fewer. Standing in the way was Minnesota, a team that has often left the Packers on the short end of the measuring stick.
For the first time this season, Green Bay ran for more yards than its opponent. Eddie Lacy led all runners with 105 yards as the Green and Gold outgained the Vikings on the ground in cruising to a 42-10 win.
Much has been made about Green Bay's running woes. It has struggled to generate yards while failing to stop others from doing the same.
The Packers were the only team to fail to gain 100 or more yards rushing in at least one game in September. They were one of four teams – Bengals, Patriots and Rams – to not have a run of 20 or more yards.
On the other side of the ball, they were the only team to allow each of their first four opponents more than 100 yards on the ground. The 42 first downs they surrendered was a league high.
The team's 292 yards rushing ranked 28th. The 703 it allowed was the most of any team.
It was as if the field of play had been a seesaw: swinging up when the Packers attempted to run then back down when the competition took possession.
Green Bay's low output and high yield were cause for concern, but neither was a team record. The Packers had manufactured fewer yards five times in seasons past and permitted more on eight occasions.
The difference between the two (411 yards) was another matter. Only the 1975 Packers, Bart Starr's first team as coach, had fallen behind by a larger margin (416).
Such was the state of affairs for Green Bay heading into its encounter with the Vikings. In Minnesota, the Packers faced a team that, with or without Adrian Peterson, has almost always outrushed them during Mike McCarthy's turn at the helm.
From 2006 through 2013, Green Bay produced more rushing yards (56) than the Lions in 16 regular-season meetings between the two. The Packers also outdid the Bears (197) over the same span.
But Minnesota was different. In those eight years, the Vikings amassed 775 more rushing yards than the Packers.
Thursday night, Green Bay's running game and its run defense flashed some promise. The Packers outrushed the Vikings 156 to 111.
Lacy had a season high five runs of 10 or more yards. James Starks' 12 carries were his biggest workload since early last season.
John Kuhn even got a couple of touches. And Matt Flynn ended the game with a kneel-down, usually a promising sign.
The Vikings stuck with the run in the first half. They gained 71 yards on 17 carries to 69 yards on 10 tries for Green Bay.
Minnesota had only one run of more than 10 yards. That 11-yard jaunt by Matt Asiata in the second quarter ended badly when safety Morgan Burnett forced a fumble that cornerback Casey Hayward recovered.
Down 28-0 at halftime, quarterback Christian Ponder was forced to the air. The Vikings picked up only 40 yards rushing in the second half highlighted by Ponder's 6-yard TD run.
In winding up with 45 more yards than their opponent, the Packers chipped away at the huge deficit of the first four weeks. But the team is still 366 yards in arrears, a position only four other Packers teams have been in.
The most yards the Packers have been outrushed by their opponents in the first five games of a season