Eddie Lacy asserts himself in win over Lions

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Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Monday, October 7, 2013

GREEN BAY—No visible scars, no gasping for air. Eddie Lacy didn't look or sound like a running back who had just rammed into the teeth of the Detroit Lions defense 23 times.

Instead, the Green Bay Packers running back wore flip-flops, a bright orange shirt and one wide grin. He's been here before.

And anyway, those bruises usually don't surface until the morning.

Said Lacy, "I'll find out tomorrow when I wake up."

To this point, Lacy has been the missing piece in theory only. Hypothetically, he was the player who would diversify Green Bay's offense. Potentially, he was the no-B.S. back who would shatter the image of Green Bay as a finesse team. Maybes. What-ifs.

In Sunday's 22-9 win over the Detroit Lions, reality replaced perception as Lacy was fed a steady diet of carries.

Mashing into the line 4, 5 yards at a time—in numbing, automated succession —the rookie back finished with 99 yards on 23 attempts. For one game, anyway, he was the player the Packers expected.

"I proved to myself that I'm able to play a complete game with this offense," Lacy said. "Of course you're going to get out here and there, but first and foremost, I proved to myself that I can do it."

Sunday was the Eddie Lacy Show. Not overly entertaining, not much pizzazz. A quicker back might have broken one or two runs loose. But Lacy was punch-in, punch-out consistent. With a play-caller (mostly) committed to the run, he found a rhythm. On Green Bay's first drive, Lacy had five carries for 23 yards. From there, he fell forward and finished runs.

After a second-quarter fumble, rookie Johnathan Franklin was benched. The Packers stuck with the north-south style of Lacy.

These days, linemen are greedy. The bar is raised. When right guard T.J. Lang was informed Lacy finished with 99 yards, he ducked his head in disgust.

"Ninety-nine?! Son of a ..." said Lang, dropping a few choice words. "It was close. I didn't know."

At one point, Lang noticed on the video monitor that the Packers had 168 rushing yards as a team. They'd finish with 180. A third straight 100-yard rusher would have been satisfying. But for the first time since 2003, the Packers did have 135 rushing yards as a team in three straight games.

Sunday was Lacy's turn. He lowered his shoulder, stayed between the tackles and the Packers won the type of mildly boring, bleed-the-clock game that has eluded them in the past.

"He's a hard runner," Lang said. "He's a guy who can make you miss. He can run you over. And he gets north and south. When we protect the football like we did today, I think we're going to be tough to beat."

Added left guard Josh Sitton, "We've got three different backs who have different styles. Eddie did a hell of a job getting 3, 4 yards when maybe it was just a block for 2 or 3. He's always going to fall forward. We know we're going to get that out of him."

And as receiver Randall Cobb noted, Lacy's first-down running put the Packers in manageable down and distances all game. The playbook opened up. Eventually, the floodgates opened for a few explosive plays.

During the team's "Family Night" intrasquad scrimmage, a preseason game at St. Louis and one late drive in the regular-season opener, Lacy hinted that he was this weapon. A broken tackle here, a spin there. He has impressed in snapshots. But the Packers envisioned Lacy becoming a workhorse. This was the same guy who survived Nick Saban's hellish scout-team initiation at Alabama and then played through a litany of injuries as the starter.

Lacy was "a little shaky" to start Sunday. It took a few hits for him to gain peace of mind coming off a concussion.

Then, he continued to give the Packers balance—his way. Whereas Franklin excelled on zone runs at Cincinnati, Lacy wore down Detroit on straight power. The rookie said he wanted to "be accountable on every single play" and that now it's vital to simply "stay healthy."

"It's not a competition here," Lacy said. "We all know what we're capable of doing. The sooner we all get back and we're all healthy, we're going to be a hard team to beat."

Lang and Sitton credit time spent communicating during the week. The linemen, backs and coaches are spending more time discussing specific plays. At this point, Lang said, "We're finally starting to really gel as a unit."

Right tackle Don Barclay took it a step further, saying the Packers have reached a point where "any guy in there is having success."

Sunday was the first time Lacy carried the ball 20-plus times since the BCS national championship game in January.

He was back in his element. He'll get that chance at 100 yards another day.

"The offense, we did what we had to do," Lacy said. "I'm not disappointed with 99 at all."

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