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McCarren explains how Packers have grown since first 49ers game

Jay Sorgi

Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

McCarren explains how Packers have grown since first 49ers game

CREATED Jan. 7, 2013

GREEN BAY - When the Green Bay Packers hosted the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, they failed to run the ball well or stop the 49ers from running it down their throats.

Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Packers color commentator and TODAY'S TMJ4/NBC26 reporter Larry McCarren says the team that heads to San Francisco this weekend for the NFC Divisional Playoff has dramatically grown in those areas that previously were weaknesses.

"I wonder as the season has evolved, the way the Packers got controlled at the line of scrimmage and had no running game, couldn't stop the running game in game 1, if that affected Mike McCarthy, how he approached this year, if he said, 'We have to tough it up up-front, and we have to develop a running game?' " asked McCarren during 620WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News."

In that first meeting on Sept. 9, the Packers only gained 45 yards on the ground.  They allowed 186 on the ground.

McCarren believes that game taught McCarthy a lesson.

"He took that course as the season evolved.  They spent time and energy on the running game, maybe even when it wasn't effective.  Maybe the Packers getting it handed to them in week 1 helped them in the course of the 16-game schedule."

The evidence proves McCarren's point.  In the first half of the regular season, the Packers only gained 100 yards on the ground three times.

In the second half, they turned the trick six times.

One of many reasons for that success has to do with the development of newcomer DuJuan Harris.

In four regular season games, he became part of the running back rotation and gained 4.6 yards per carry.

During Saturday's wildcard win against Minnesota, Harris gained 100 combined yards and scored a touchdown.

"The interesting dimension he brings to the game, his style, his demeanor, the bright lights of the playoffs, the NFL...we're talking about a guy who was selling cars earlier in the season...all the bright lights and things don't seem to be too big for him."

In that same wildcard win, the Packers finally succeeded at stopping one of the few runners better than Gore in the NFC - Adrian Peterson.

They held the MVP candidate to under 100 yards after allowing more than 200 against him twice this year.

One of the reasons for controlling Peterson has to do with the return of future Hall of Fame safety Charles Woodson, and the difference he brings.

"I think it's a difference in a couple ways," said McCarren. 

"Leadership starts with performance, and you've got to play.  Woodson made a couple of nice tackles on Adrian Peterson.  He's a physical, violent player.  You don't find a lot of them in the secondary.  You add all the intangibles, and it makes it a much better thing for the Green Bay Packers."

Still, the 49ers will not be much a slouch in this battle to decide who will play for a slot in Super Bowl XLVII.

"They don't hang their hat on one thing," explained McCarren about the 49ers' balance.

"They're good on both sides of the ball.  They're fourth (defensively) against the run, fourth against the pass.  There's not a lot left that they're weak at.  I look at this as a challenge for the Green Bay Packers."

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