The James Starks everyone expected to see in 2012 finally arrived on Sunday and his time couldn’t have been better.
After years of the 27-year-old running back giving way to other backs whether it be injury or misfortune, Starks entered the Green Bay Packers’ eventual 38-20 win over Washington on the heels of starting running back Eddie Lacy exiting with a concussion.
The pent up frustrations and uncertainty following a lost 2012 season were nowhere to be seen against the Redskins, rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries to become the first individual to rush for 100 yards in a regular-season game in nearly three years.
The 44-game drought dates back to an Oct. 10, 2010, game against Washington when a Brandon Jackson 71-yard rushing touchdown preceded his big day.
For Starks, it was the first time he eclipsed the century mark since the Packers’ 21-16 win over Philadelphia in the wild-card round of the playoffs on Jan. 9, 2011, when he rushed for 123 yards on 23 carries.
Starks came into the 2012 season as the front-runner to start in the Packers’ backfield, but a turf toe injury suffered in the team’s preseason opener and a knee bruise later in the season limited him to only six games with 71 carries for 255 yards and a touchdown.
Without Lacy, the offense turned to Starks, who looked as fresh as he has in three injury-riddled seasons in Green Bay. When his number was called, Starks thought of only one thing.
“Time to go to work. That’s all I could do,” Starks said. “One person goes down, you have to be ready to go in there, step up and do what you know you’re capable of.”
Unlike Jackson’s 110-yard performance against Washington in 2010, Starks bulldozed through the Redskins’ defensive line consistently with 55 of his 132 yards coming on eight first-half carries.
He actually broke the 100-yard barrier with less than 3 minutes left in the third quarter when he shattered through a sizeable hole in the offensive line for a 32-yard touchdown for his longest rush since a 40-yard carry against Carolina on Sept. 18, 2011.
The Packers didn’t know the full extent of Lacy’s concussion, which came on the end of a 10-yard carry throughout a good seal from David Bakhtiari and Josh Sitton before colliding with Washington safety Brandon Meriweather.
Meriweather appeared to lead with his helmet on the tackle, but no flags were thrown. He went for a similar tackle on Starks later in the half, forcing him to leave the game with a concussion of his own.
Starks came into the season playing in only 22 of a possible 48 regular-season games during his three-year career. He fell near the bottom of the depth chart in training camp and sweated through cutdown day two weeks ago.
That doesn’t matter now, but he’s quick to point out the 132-yard performance doesn’t mean much either if he doesn’t carry that performance through going forward.
“It do kind of. At the same time, I know this is what I’m capable of doing,” Starks said. “I just have to keep it rolling. This is just one game. I have to continue to get better and do things right each and every player. Try to be a better player.”
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