Backup RB James Starks shines in spotlight

Robert Zizzo
View Comments
Green Bay Packers running back James Starks (44) runs the ball in the first quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Lambeau Field.

Everyone says Eddie Lacy’s ankle is fine, but the timing of James Starks’ career-best game couldn’t have been better for the Green Bay Packers.

Maybe it was in the game plan. After all, Starks was on the field instead of Lacy on the Packers’ opening series of their 27-20 victory Sunday over the San Diego Chargers.

And all Starks did on that first play was go off tackle to the right for 25 yards.

Seven plays later, Starks was diving into the end zone with a 5-yard shovel pass and another fast Green Bay start.

On the next series, Starks took a second-and-10 handoff and ran straight into the pile but somehow escaped and galloped a career-best 65 yards to the end zone.

The sixth-year running back finished with 112 yards on 10 rushing attempts, the 5-yard reception and a career-high two touchdowns.

Asked if he had a hunch to play Starks so much, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, “No, it was really, we’re a 1-2 punch team. It’s really no different than the way we operate. We went with James first just because he’s been playing extremely well and Eddie has been a little banged up.”

Nevertheless, Starks earned more future carries. He showed tremendous instincts on the 65-yard TD run.

“Pressing the hole, the offensive line did a great job getting on their guys,” Starks said, describing the play. “I tried to hit the little apex and I seen the pile wasn’t moving and I felt like love was over to the right so I spun.

“I seen there was just a free lane and I just took off and it was wide open. Receivers came down doing extra blocking to spring me and next thing you know it’s a 65-yard touchdown.”

Starks showed surprising speed before getting a key block from receiver Jeff Janis around the 12-yard line.

“I show a little here and there,” Starks said of his speed, “but I don’t really get like a free run and the angles like that. So it felt good.”

Lacy was coming off a disappointing game last week against St. Louis when he rushed for 27 yards on 13 carries. It’s been four weeks since Lacy sustained an ankle injury that knocked him out of the Week 2 game vs. Seattle.

But Lacy practiced all week and wasn’t listed on the injury report this week. In the locker room after the game, Lacy said his ankle was “all right.”

He chalked up his lack of playing time — four rushing attempts, two pass targets — to a fast-starting Starks.

“You know, he came out of the gate strong and once a player gets hot like that,” Lacy said. “You break a big run like that first carry, you get another one after that, you want to keep him rolling. So that’s how that was today.”

It’s a benefit for Packers to have a one-two punch at running back, especially during the middle of the season when the pounding of the NFL season starts to have an impact.

“I like it honestly,” Lacy said. “It shows what we can look like in the future. We have a week to rest up, reset, get our minds back right, come back in and pick up where we left off tonight.”

WRs keep getting hurt

Rookie wide receiver Ty Montgomery was the only Packers player to get knocked out of the game, sustaining an injury to his left ankle in the second quarter.

The NFL Network, quoting a source, reported after the game that Montgomery’s X-rays were negative.

Montgomery was injured when he took a shovel pass out of the backfield and ran 6 yards for a first down.

His departure meant the first significant playing time for second-year receiver Jeff Janis, who caught two passes for a team-high 79 yards.

The Packers, who lost All-Pro Jordy Nelson during the preseason, have been without starter Davante Adams for the past three games with an ankle injury.

Throwback jerseys

The Packers debuted a new historic third jersey against the Chargers. The jersey, a re-creation of the team's uniform from 1927-‘48, was a navy blue shirt with a yellow-gold yoke across the shoulders, gold pants and navy blue socks. The yellow-gold helmet, which matched the yoke and numbers, was without the “G” decal.

Green Bay is 8-3 when wearing a third jersey, including winning each of the past five games and seven of the past eight. In the five wins in the third jersey since 2010, the Packers have outscored their opponents, 169-72.


Adams and safety Morgan Burnett (calf), defensive tackle B.J. Raji (groin) and linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder) were injured inactive Sunday, giving them another week to rest with this week’s bye.

Also inactive Sunday were quarterback Brett Hundley, running back Alonzo Harris and guard Lane Taylor.

Extra points

» Quarterback Aaron Rodgers went over the 30,000-yard passing mark for his career, reaching the mark in the fewest attempts (3,652) in NFL history. He topped the previous record held by Johnny Unitas (3,695).

» Mason Crosby’s 23-yard field goal in the second quarter was the 278th attempt of his career, the most in franchise history (Ryan Longwell, 277).

» Green Bay has a sack in 41 consecutive regular-season games, a franchise record and the longest current streak in the league.

» The Packers have not allowed a touchdown on an opponents’ opening drive this season.

» The Chargers are now 14-2 in the Mike McCoy era when they’re time of possession is 34 minutes or longer. They’re time of possession Sunday was 38 minutes.

» The Packers set a regular-season attendance record with 78,434. or follow him on Twitter @RobertZizzo.

View Comments