A tired Levens runs over defenses Change to I-formation, powerful line aid cause

Packers' run offense

Super Bowl Xxxii

January 21, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- It's no coincidence that the Green Bay Packers' Dorsey Levens does his best running in the second half.

By that time, the Packers usually have secured a lead, the opposing defensive line is worn down, and Levens is warmed up.

That's the formula the Packers have followed with great success in two playoff victories to reach Super Bowl XXXII against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Levens, one of the NFL's rising stars as a fourth-year running back, has produced 70 percent of his 226 rushing yards in the second half this postseason.

In victories over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers, he gained 67 rushing yards (3.4 per carry) in the first half and 159 yards (4.7 per carry) in the second. He has almost twice the carries (34 to 18) in the second half, as well.

Levens says he runs better when he is tired. But that is only half the story of the Packers' power running game. Much of his yardage comes behind fullback William Henderson in the I-formation that coach Mike Holmgren installed this season.

What's more, Green Bay's offensive line could have its way with a Denver defense that yielded nearly five yards a carry (4.7) in the regular season. The Packers' offensive line averages 303 pounds; the Broncos' defensive line 276.

Denver's line is built for speed. The Packers' line is built for power. To negate the Broncos' quickness and slow the pass rush, it's likely Green Bay will emphasize the run a little earlier in San Diego.

The Packers may find the left side of their offense most inviting, where 305-pound guard Aaron Taylor goes against 267-pound Maa Tanuvasa, and 299-pound tackle Ross Verba goes against 263-pound Alfred Williams. Even though Verba is a rookie, he adds toughness to the Packers' line.

The trouble spot for Green Bay could be right tackle, where Earl Dotson was flagged for four false starts in the NFC championship game because he had trouble hearing the cadence. He'll line up against veteran end Neil Smith. Right guard Adam Timmerman, a 295-pounder, is matched against Broncos left tackle Keith Traylor (304).

So far in the postseason, the Packers' offense has been extremely balanced. Holmgren has called 64 rushing plays to 60 passing plays. With Levens running hard in the second half, the Packers have no trouble protecting a lead.

Pub Date: 1/21/98

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