Grant performs well in reserve; Robinson bummed he didn't play
DENVER -- The Green Bay Packers found their running game Monday night. They also found their new No. 1 running back. His name: Ryan Grant. All along, coach Mike McCarthy has preached two things about the Packers' struggling running game: The oppo...
DENVER -- The Green Bay Packers found their running game Monday night. They also found their new No. 1 running back.
His name: Ryan Grant.
All along, coach Mike McCarthy has preached two things about the Packers' struggling running game: The opportunity is there for any halfback who seizes it, and running the football requires a four-quarter commitment.
In the Packers' 19-13 overtime victory over the Denver Broncos Monday night, the Packers coach made the commitment, and Grant was there to make the most of the opportunity. As a result, the Packers' rushing offense, which came into the game as the NFL's worst, showed signs of life.
Grant, whom the Packers acquired from the New York Giants for a sixth-round pick at the end of training camp, took over for yet-again-injured starter DeShawn Wynn (shoulder) on the third play of the second quarter and ended up carrying 22 times for 104 yards to give the Packers their first 100-yard rusher of the season.
"Clearly, Ryan's running style is what you're looking for. ... He just really needed the opportunity," McCarthy said. "I think it's safe to say Ryan Grant will be the starter when we go to Kansas City.
Although McCarthy did call passes -- including a 79-yard touchdown to James Jones -- on the first four offensive plays of the game, it was a no-brainer that eventually, the ground game would be the priority against the league's worst rushing defense.
By halftime, the Packers' running backs had carried 17 times for 90 yards, led by Grant's 14-carry, 81-yard effort. Included in Grant's impressive first half was a 24-yard burst that helped set up the first of Mason Crosby's two first-half field goals.
Wynn said he "couldn't feel his shoulder" after the hit and took himself out of the game.
McCarthy had anointed Wynn as the No. 1 back last week after Wynn missed practice time with a neck injury suffered while lifting weights after the bye. Wynn returned to practice but then came out of the game after his second carry. It was the latest in a string of injuries for Wynn, who has also missed practice and game time with calf and quadriceps strains, a stomach virus and dehydration.
Rookie second-round pick Brandon Jackson, who was the team's starter for the first three games of the season, was inactive for the fourth straight game.
Center Scott Wells had said upon his return to practice Oct. 22 he would "definitely" play against the Broncos.
Instead, Wells was inactive with a sinus infection, forcing Jason Spitz to start at center and Tony Moll to start at right guard for the second straight game. Moll started because usual right guard Junius Coston was active but still hobbled by a sprained ankle, and Spitz is usually Coston's replacement.
Wells said last week the orbital socket fracture he suffered against Chicago Oct. 7 was near the bridge of his nose, rather than in his eyebrow area or below his eye, and it was unclear Monday whether the fracture indirectly caused the infection. Wells did sit out Friday and Saturday's practices because of the infection.
Asked how he played, Spitz replied, "I'm just excited to have a 100-yard rusher. That's as pleasing as the victory itself."
The Packers opted not to activate wide receiver Koren Robinson, who was reinstated Oct. 17 following a one-year suspension for his third violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Robinson showed rust in practice during the week, bobbling a pair of kickoffs during one practice, and struggled with soreness.
Robinson lobbied the coaches to let him play, to no avail.
"I went out and ran and felt real good, told them, but they just said, 'There's no rush.' We're trying to think about the long term, not the short term," Robinson said. "I want to play, I feel good enough to play, but we have to be smart at the same time. I wanted to be out there with my teammates, so I was definitely bummed. But I'm still elated to be back with my team."
The roster exemption the Packers received for Robinson upon his reinstatement expires today, so they'll have to make a move to make room for him on the 53-man roster.
Bigby struggles early
Packers safety Atari Bigby did not have the best of nights.
On the Broncos' second offensive series of the night, Bigby was, in order: flagged for a personal foul for a late hit out of bounds on Brandon Stokley's 22-yard catch, putting the ball at the Packers' 8-yard line; flagged for pass interference in the end zone on a third-and-goal incompletion to tight end Daniel Graham, putting the ball on the 1-yard line; and beaten by tight end Tony Scheffler for a 5-yard TD.
Later in the game, Bigby was benched after drawing a delay-of-game penalty for kicking the ball after an incompletion. It was one of 13 penalties for 103 yards against the Packers.
"Kicking the ball, there's no room for that. The competitive penalties, I don't have a problem with those," McCarthy said. "But when you've got penalties like hitting people out of bounds or there is a lack of discipline, then obviously I have a problem with that."
With No. 2 tight end Bubba Franks (knee) inactive, starter Donald Lee caught three first half passes for 34 yards, with all three resulting in first downs. Ryan Krause, promoted from the practice squad last week, saw extensive action in two-tight end sets but didn't catch a pass. ... Also inactive for the Packers were cornerback Will Blackmon (foot), cornerback Frank Walker (knee) and defensive tackle Justin Harrell (knee).
Green Bay 7 6 0 0 6 -- 19
Denver 7 0 3 3 0 -- 13
Den--Scheffler 5 pass from Cutler (Elam kick), 3:52.
GB--Jones 79 pass from Favre (Crosby kick), 3:29.
GB--FG Crosby 19, 7:15.
GB--FG Crosby 26, 1:26.
Den--FG Elam 45, 3:00.
Den--FG Elam 21, :00.
GB--Jennings 82 pass from Favre, 14:44.
First downs 20 24
Total Net Yards 430 332
Rushes-yards 27-105 24-88
Passing 325 244
Punt Returns 2-13 1-26
Kickoff Returns 3-61 2-49
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 21-27-0 21-34-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-6 3-20
Punts 4-52.2 4-45.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 13-103 9-63
Time of Possession 30:41 29:35
RUSHING--Green Bay, Grant 22-104, Morency 2-8, Wynn 1-1, Favre 2-(minus 8). Denver, Young 18-71, A.Hall 3-10, Cutler 2-7.
PASSING--Green Bay, Favre 21-27-0-331. Denver, Cutler 21-34-0-264.
RECEIVING--Green Bay, Jennings 6-141, Jones 3-107, Lee 3-34, Driver 3-28, Grant 3-7, Morency 2-12, K.Hall 1-2. Denver, Young 6-49, Stokley 5-71, Marshall 3-74, Scheffler 3-28, Graham 2-20, Martinez 1-18, Sapp 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOALS--None.