Green and Alexander


Nov 23, 2005
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Fontana, CA
Seattle - Since the day Ahman Green departed the Pacific Northwest and Shaun Alexander arrived, the two running backs have run a parallel course separated only by the 1,700 miles between them and the style with which they run.

When the Green Bay Packers visit the Seattle Seahawks tonight at noisy Qwest Field, their paths will meet with the weight of their teams' offenses squarely on their shoulders, the way both running backs like it. Their careers closely linked, Green and Alexander will enter the game with uncannily similar career numbers and a desire to regain the form that has made them among the most productive runners this century.

Green, returning from a torn thigh tendon that limited him to five games last season, is coming off two subpar performances in which he was held to 28 rushing yards against New England and 55 against Minnesota. Alexander, coming off a 37-yard performance against San Francisco, missed seven weeks with a broken foot before his return last week.

One of them could be due to break out, but who will it be?


"I expect a big jump now this week," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "I think he's excited about it, he feels confident now, and he went through kind of a test on his foot and he came out OK. I am hopeful now we can get back in gear there."

Or Green?

"It's going to be a tough game out there, a good game, too," Green said. "I feel real good and I can't wait till Monday."

Few could have predicted that Green and Alexander would reach such a similar place in their careers six years after they passed each other in the Seattle night. Alexander has an MVP honor under his belt, has scored more touchdowns and has been to a Super Bowl, but as far as career rushing yards, rushing average, 100-yard games and Pro Bowls, the two 29-year-old backs are almost identical in production.

They have been just what the offense ordered for their respective teams.
Steal of a deal

If ever there was a case of sharing the wealth, it came soon after the Seahawks, with their eye on Alexander in the upcoming 2000 draft, traded Green to Green Bay for backup cornerback Fred Vinson. It was Holmgren's first trade with his former team and it became one of the biggest swindles general manager Ron Wolf ever pulled off for the Packers.

Vinson was a bust and never played a regular-season game for the Seahawks. Green, a brutish runner with breakaway speed, rushed for 1,000 yards in his first season and the next four after that, including a franchise high 1,883 in 2003. Were it not for the fact that the Seahawks drafted Alexander out of Alabama with the 19th pick in the first round a week after trading Green, the trade might have cost Holmgren his job.

Unhappy with Green's fumbles, concerned about his asthma and committed to veteran Ricky Watters for another season, Holmgren basically gave Green away.

"Ahman has gone on to have a tremendous career, is a tremendous back, but we needed a back, we were going to draft a back, and that's why we went ahead and did that," Holmgren said last week. "And, of course, Shaun didn't play at all his first year because Ricky Watters was here.

"Then after that Shaun stepped in. Now it certainly worked out for Green Bay."

And quite conveniently for the Seahawks as well.
Alexander steps in

It wasn't until his second season that Alexander, a slasher with a nose for the goal line, rushed for 1,000 yards, but like Green he got progressively better until rushing for 1,880 yards and scoring an NFL-record 28 touchdowns last season. He was at the top of his game, just as Green was in 2003, and seemed almost invincible.

But like Green, an injury sidelined him for an extended period and he faces the task of trying to inject life into a season that has been alarmingly difficult for the defending NFC champs. Without Alexander, and then quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the Seahawks have limped to a 6-4 record, and last week were beaten badly by division rival San Francisco, which ripped off 262 yards rushing against them.

Before he got hurt, Alexander failed to gain more than 89 yards in a single game and averaged just 3.4 yards per carry, in part because of changes on the Seahawks' offensive line. As they enter the game tonight, they not only won't have free-agent guard Steve Hutchinson, now starting for the Vikings, but center Robbie Tobeck (hip) and right tackle Sean Locklear (ankle) are out.

A week ago, Alexander clearly wasn't himself in carrying 17 times for 37 yards with a foot that is still partially broken, but Holmgren expects a significant turnaround tonight..

"I've felt good for about a month now and I felt a little rusty in the game, but I guess taking two months off will do that," Alexander said last week. "Overall, I think it was really positive. I think that our offense is going to really hit its stride right now and it is a good thing because we have six weeks to become excellent and that is what I am going to shoot for."

After ranking No. 3 in the league in rushing last year, the Seahawks have fallen to 16th and have had five games in which they failed to rush for 100 yards. The instability in the offensive line has contributed to the problem and Alexander's absence has compounded it.
Healing process

The return of Alexander to form would provide a major boost to the offense, especially with Hasselbeck making his debut after a four-week layoff because of a knee injury. In games in which he has rushed for 100 or more yards, the Seahawks are 28-5, and in games in which he has scored at least two rushing touchdowns they are 23-1.

The Packers come in ranked 11th in the NFL in rush defense and despite having held Alexander to 175 yards in two previous meetings, know they have their hands full.

"He's a tough back," said defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who faced Alexander twice a year while with the St. Louis Rams. "He doesn't look like he's moving real fast on tape, but then you get on the field and he's moving. He's a quality back."

Green, meanwhile, is looking to pick up where he left off against Buffalo when he completed a three-game stretch of 100-yard rushing performances. In those contests, he rushed for a total of 346 yards in 62 carries, good for a 5.6-yard average. The Packers won two of those three before running up against two outstanding run defenses in Minnesota and New England.

Up until recently, the Seahawks had an outstanding run defense, too, ranking in the top 10 through Week 7.

Then over the next five games they gave up 175 yards to Minnesota, 191 to Kansas City, 108 to St. Louis and 262 to San Francisco and their ranking fell to 17th. Chester Taylor rushed for 169 and a touchdown, Larry Johnson 155 and three touchdowns, Stephen Jackson 93 and a touchdown and Frank Gore 212.

Holmgren lashed into his team so harshly after the loss Sunday that he had to apologize Monday, but that didn't lessen his frustration with the lack of discipline the Seahawks are showing on defense. The front seven has been mostly intact all season, the only loss being backup defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs, but the play has been uneven.

"Essentially, this is the same defense as last year," middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. "Last year, we let one back (Tiki Barber) gain 100 yards, and that took five quarters.

"Things have that snowball effect."
Packers look to run

When Green busted out with his three straight 100s it looked as if the Packers had finally unlocked the secret to their new zone-blocking system. But with three rookies on the line now that right tackle Mark Tauscher is out with a groin pull and a recent emphasis on passing the ball, the running game is back in neutral.

Coach Mike McCarthy made it a point to say he will make sure Green isn't neglected tonight. The possible return of fullback Brandon Miree would be a lift.

"I'd say the last two games I don't think I've gotten the opportunities to him that he needs," McCarthy said of the 34 carries Green has received. "His productivity, I'm very pleased with Ahman Green. He's an exciting running back. His ability to score from long distances, he proved that in Miami."

"He just needs more opportunities."

That should come tonight with a boisterous crowd needed to be silenced in order for the Packers to have some success. This will be Green's first game in Seattle since the trade and it's a return he has looked forward to for a long time, not just because he wants to show the Seahawks what they've missed.

The fact is they've moved on nicely without him. It will just be a chance to reflect on the place where it all began.

"It was a good experience. I had fun," Green said. "That's where my career started. If I wasn't there, I wouldn't be here right now, so I'll always look back and remember where I started at."

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