MINNEAPOLIS -- In what looked like a lost season for Eddie Lacy, not even his trademark spin move seemed to work. And forget about breaking tackles; the Green Bay Packers running back couldn’t elude anyone.
So admit it: When you watched Lacy run off right tackle in the second quarter on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings and saw safety Anthony Sendejo charge downhill, you figured another run-of-the-mill 2-yard gain was in order.
Two weeks ago, sure.
But this is the new Lacy. Or maybe the old one.
Just like he did in 2013 and 2014, when 1,100-yard seasons were the norm, Lacy threw his spin move at Sendejo and broke free on a cutback move. Then, he sidestepped cornerback Trae Waynes, and off he went. Twenty-seven yards later, he had his longest gain in what to that point had been a forgettable season.
It was his longest run of the season on his best day of the season -- a 22-carry, 100-yard performance in Sunday’s 30-13 win at TCF Bank Stadium that not only gave the Packers hope for their running game down the stretch but created the kind of balance quarterback Aaron Rodgers needed a week after he was forced to wing it 61 times in a loss to the Detroit Lions.
“This is the way we prefer to play,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We don’t want to be 66 runs or 66 passes each game. The way our offense performed today is what we’re looking for.”
It helped that McCarthy and playcaller Tom Clements stuck with Lacy, but they stayed with him because he was productive. Both were unfathomable just a week ago, when Lacy was demoted in favor of James Starks and then sidelined with a groin injury.
A 100-yard game, his first since the NFC divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys last season, seemed more unlikely than the Lions winning in Wisconsin for the first time since 1991.
Yet Lacy could come up with no football explanation for what had changed. He credited prayer and perhaps better health for allowing the game to look different to him.
“It was honestly slower,” Lacy said. “It was slower than it has been in the past. I think it’s because I was able to refocus and get back to how it used to be.”
Whether it was the groin injury, the sprained ankle from earlier in the season or the added weight he’s carrying, Lacy’s third season barely resembled his first two. Until Sunday, that is, when he averaged a season-best 2.8 yards per rush after contact. In his previous four games, he averaged less than a yard after contact (0.9 to be exact), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“He looked like he was 100 percent, and he was running tough,” said Rodgers, who completed just 16-of-34 passes for 212 yards but had two touchdowns and no interceptions. “He was breaking a lot of tackles, felt like his cuts were on point and then James had a great catch-and-run on the screen. He’s been doing a great job for us, but Eddie, I don’t think he’s had 22 carries in quite a while. So it was good to get him going and consistently go back to him and he gave us a lot.”
With the Thanksgiving night game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field coming quickly, the Packers, tied for first place with the Vikings in the NFC North at 7-3, hope Lacy can go on another late-season run like last year, when he rushed for 711 of his 1,139 yards over the final eight games.
“He’s finally starting to get healthy,” said right guard T.J. Lang, whose stellar blocking helped clear the way for Lacy. “It’s something that we knew that we needed to get the run game going, especially when it gets cold like this the last half of the season.
“When you look back over the last couple years, it’s kind of been the same pattern. The first eight games, it’s not going great. We’re not getting the attempts that we need, then we start to take off Week 8, Week 9. It’s something that’s obviously very important for us to stay balanced as an offense.”