Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy missed curfew the night before his team’s game at Detroit on Dec. 3, and as a result, coach Mike McCarthy played him only 19 snaps, including none in the second half.
Lacy gained 1 yard on five carries and one reception in Green Bay’s 27-23 Hail Mary victory.
But after clearing the air with McCarthy and last week calling the demotion a “lesson learned,” Lacy returned to the starting lineup with a vengeance Sunday in the Packers’ 28-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
With the Lambeau Field crowd of 78,369 loudly chanting his first name on multiple occasions, Lacy ran 24 times for 124 yards — both season-highs. He capped his big day with a 1-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, one play after ripping off a 24-yarder in which he carried a pack of Dallas defenders just short of the goal line.
“I’ve always believed in Eddie,” McCarthy said. “We all make a couple bad decisions along the way, and that doesn’t change my opinion of Eddie. He needed to refocus, and he did that. Eddie was Eddie, and James [Starks] was James. I thought they both were exactly what we want to be. We want to be a 1-2 punch.”
Starks carried 11 times for 71 yards, including a 30-yard burst untouched up the middle that gave NFC North-leading Green Bay (9-4) a 21-7 lead with 4:44 remaining. He also caught four passes for 32 yards, highlighted by a 13-yard touchdown on a perfectly executed screen pass from Aaron Rodgers that put the Packers up 7-0 in the second quarter.
Green Bay finished with 230 rushing yards on 44 attempts, its highest regular-season output since Nov. 29, 2004, against St. Louis (231 on 28 carries).
“We don’t like to pass block 60, 70 times a game. We’d rather be as balanced as we can,” right guard T.J. Lang said. “It’s something that we take a lot of pride in, and Eddie and James are just guys that really feed off each other when you give them each 10, 25 plays — whatever it is. They’re going to have a big day.”
Calling the plays
McCarthy called the Packers’ plays his first nine seasons, but relinquished those duties to associate head coach/offense Tom Clements during the off-season, in an effort to better oversee the defense and special teams.
After watching Green Bay’s offense play inconsistently through 12 games, though, McCarthy took back the play-calling reins Sunday.
“The decision was made because I felt as the leader of this football team I had to make sure that I maximized all the opportunities and resources and give our team a chance to win,” McCarthy said. “Personally, it didn’t feel very good … but professionally it was something I felt I needed to do.”
Packers cornerback Sam Shields was the primary beneficiary of Dez Bryant’s controversial replay-overturned catch in January’s NFC divisional playoff game that Green Bay won 26-21.
Shields again covered Bryant several times Sunday, and got the best of him when Matt Cassel’s first-quarter pass glanced off Bryant’s hands and Shields intercepted it in the end zone to prevent Dallas from taking an early lead.
Shields left the game with a concussion midway through the second quarter, one play before Bryant had another catch overturned by a Packers’ replay challenge.