Dallas Cowboys

Packers’ Eddie Lacy returns from demotion, runs over Cowboys

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy gained 124 yards against Dallas on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy gained 124 yards against Dallas on Sunday at Lambeau Field. Star-Telegram

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.”

The rematch

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.