Offenses have Packers on the run

Marion Barber punished the run defense.

After Dallas rumbled for 217 yards on 6.2 yards per attempt, Green Bay is allowing a league-worst 5.7 yards per carry through three games.

The Green Bay Packers' run defense has gone from suspect to alarming.

When the Minnesota Vikings piled up 187 rushing yards in Week 1, it was brushed off for a few reasons. The Dallas Cowboys' 217 rushing yards on Monday night, however, is infinitely more troublesome.

"I'm sure everybody's going to try to run (against us)," defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. "After a game like that, you give up 200 yards rushing, that's what people are going to try to do to you. (But) we're very confident nothing like this will ever happen again. If somebody's going to run it, they can try."

If that's a challenge, expect it to be answered. The Packers can expect to see a steady diet of Tampa Bay's Earnest Graham, Atlanta's explosive Michael Turner, Seattle's Julius Jones and Indianapolis' Joseph Addai in the four games leading to the bye.

Several problems crop up when you can't stop the run, and the Packers suffered the consequences of all of them during Monday's 27-16 loss.

When you can't stop the run, your defense gets worn down.

When you can't stop the run, big plays are made in the passing game.

When you can't stop the run, your offense can't get on the field and loses its rhythm.

All of those things were swept under the rug against the Vikings. Adrian Peterson's 103 yards on 19 carries were understandable because, hey, it's Adrian Peterson. Plus, another 65 yards came on scrambles by Tarvaris Jackson, a quarterback without the accuracy to burn the defense through the air. Plus, the Packers won.

On Monday, however, the Cowboys dominated.

"The thing I'm most disappointed with is the run game," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "We gave up 200 yards. That's very uncharacteristic of us. That kind of really set them up."

Indeed. Marion Barber was too powerful, and his brute strength helped set up a 60-yard touchdown run by Felix Jones and several pivotal completions by Tony Romo.

"The most important thing was the run game," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "Those guys put up big numbers running the ball, and they hit a couple big plays downfield. The game is always about big plays. If you can hold a team from big plays, you've got a good chance. The run game, big plays, those things we've got to eliminate."

With Week 3 almost in the books, the Packers own the league's worst run defense in terms of yards allowed per attempt. The Packers are yielding 5.7 yards per carry after yielding 6.2 yards per attempt against the Cowboys.

"We had some gap control problems, and that's when the ball came out," coach Mike McCarthy said in his day-after news conference on Monday. "Anytime a team puts those kind of numbers up on you, it's definitely a red flag. They all count. I've been on both sides of the conversation. You can't sit there and say well, we did a great job except for these four runs. Well, hell, it still equals over 200 yards."

One issue is the Packers simply don't have many interior defensive linemen. Pickett, Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole are the only true tackles. Starting end Cullen Jenkins can move inside, but that only strengthens one position while diminishing another, because Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila hasn't provided a consistent pass rush.

At some point, they hope to get back defensive tackle Justin Harrell, last year's first-round pick who's out at least through Week 6 after a second round of back surgery. But he can't hardly be considered a savior.

So, the Packers can expect a steady diet of Graham next week at Tampa. And a steady diet of Turner the following week, and so on. The blueprint has been drafted. Now, it's up to defensive coordinator Bob Sanders and his players to find some answers.

"We're a resilient bunch. We'll keep swinging," Kampman said. "Obviously, when you take one on the chin, it slows you down a little bit, but the resiliency we have has been proven with this bunch. That's one of the good things being a young team, we have a short memory."

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com

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