SI Vault
 
The Packers' Ground Game
Michael Silver
December 29, 1997
Philosophy: Rushing takes a backseat to passing—unless it's just too easy for Green Bay to dominate on the ground. Coach Mike Holmgren loves to bring his brainy schemes to life through the rocket arm of Brett Favre. But when the Packers faced the undersized Cowboys on Nov. 23, Holmgren swallowed hard and ran halfback Dorsey Levens 33 times. The result: Levens picked up a team-record 190 yards, and Green Bay rolled to a 45-17 victory. The next week Levens carried 31 times for 108 yards in a 27-11 win over the Vikings.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 29, 1997

The Packers' Ground Game

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

Philosophy: Rushing takes a backseat to passing—unless it's just too easy for Green Bay to dominate on the ground. Coach Mike Holmgren loves to bring his brainy schemes to life through the rocket arm of Brett Favre. But when the Packers faced the undersized Cowboys on Nov. 23, Holmgren swallowed hard and ran halfback Dorsey Levens 33 times. The result: Levens picked up a team-record 190 yards, and Green Bay rolled to a 45-17 victory. The next week Levens carried 31 times for 108 yards in a 27-11 win over the Vikings.

Leading the Way: Green Bay killed the Cowboys by running to the weak side, and a key component to the Packers' toughness is left tackle Ross Verba, a rookie first-round draft pick out of Iowa. Since the sixth game, when he replaced John Michels, the team's No. 1 pick in '96, Verba has proved to be a surprisingly fluid blocker. Also, his unrelenting style has energized the rushing attack. Pro Bowl tight end Mark Chmura and fullback William Henderson are also strong run blockers.

X Factor: In last season's playoffs Holmgren had great success using Levens, a power back, as a change of pace from smaller starter Edgar Bennett. If Levens wears down in January, will Holmgren turn to little-used backup Aaron Hayden or lightning-fast reserve fullback Travis Jervey?

Prime Numbers: Here's something for Green Bay's playoff opponents to think about: During the '96 regular season the Packers had a 54% to 46% pass-to-run ratio. Yet during their three-game postseason Super Bowl title drive, they ran 63% of the time.

1