First, Eddie Lacy’s problem was injuries. Then, he was too overweight. Too out of shape. Too apathetic.
Too … something.
The Green Bay Packers running back has been hammered by doubts, criticism and speculation this season. Turned out, there was nothing wrong with Lacy. Except for fumbling, the biggest problem a running back can have.
Lacy has fumbled in four of his past five games, losing two. His latest, coming in the second quarter last week, set up the Chicago Bears’ first touchdown. It was an early turning point in what became a Packers’ upset loss at home against a bitter division rival.
There also was Lacy’s 25-yard touchdown catch and run, which may have been worse. At the goal line, Lacy inexplicably let go of the football. He had no idea how close he was to wiping out his own score, until he got to the sideline and looked up at the video board.
Yes, the replay review was scary.
“I was like, ‘Damn. That was too close,’” Lacy said. “When I saw the replay, I was like, ‘I might not have a touchdown.’”
There’s always something wrong, especially this fall. It has been a “roller-coaster” season, he said. Three weeks ago, he was counted out. Demoted on the depth chart. No longer a starter.
Now, he’s riding the momentum of two straight 100-yard games.
Lacy hit the 100-yard mark for the first time last week at Minnesota , and followed it four days later with 105 yards against the Bears. It’s the first time in Lacy’s three-year career he has had consecutive 100-yard games in the regular season.
His recent production ended inquiries about why Lacy was struggling on the field. Apparently, it took the most obvious of remedies to bust out of his slump. Give the running back carries, and he’ll get yards. It’s that simple.
Lacy has carried the football 15 times in four of his 10 games this season. In those games, he’s averaging 95 yards and five yards per carry. In his other six games, Lacy has averaged 22 yards and 2.8 yards per carry.
That’s a stark contrast, and it suggests the Packers should give Lacy even more touches. So long as he can hold onto the football, of course.
He’ll be the last to ask for them. Lacy never has lobbied for more carries through the media, and he’s not about to start. He understands his role in the Packers’ offense.
“Any back in this league,” Lacy said, “I think stats or yards do better the more you get the ball. But we have one of the best quarterbacks, and I’m pretty much his sidekick. Whenever I’m needed, I go out and do exactly what I have to do, and I try to make the most of those opportunities. I’m not a guy that’s going to be like, ‘We should do this,’ or, ‘I should do that.’ That’s not my role. That’s not the type of person I am, and I’ll never do or request such a thing.
“I just make the most of every opportunity I get and let the chips fall where they may fall.”
Lacy’s recent swell of production mirrors his first two seasons. He never has had a 100-yard game in September, and has only two 100-yard games in October. His monthly splits indicate a runner who’s better late in the year.
He has averaged 39 yards per game in September, 71 in October, 74 in November, and 90 in December. Eight of the 20 rushing touchdowns (40 percent) in his first two seasons came in December.
Lacy had an especially slow start last season, but he was one of the most productive tailbacks in the league down the stretch. In his final six games, starting with a season-high 125 yards in a November win at the Vikings, Lacy had 592 yards.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence the game that got Lacy on track this season was a November win in Minnesota.
“I think it’s better to be in the back half of the season,” Lacy said. “It’s not like I came into the season thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to start off slow, and in November just kick it into second gear.’ If it was up to me, I would play the first half like I play the second half. Unfortunately, somehow, it hasn’t been working like that.”
Lacy’s early struggles this season could have derailed him. He was demoted earlier this month, dropped behind backup James Starks on the depth chart. He missed the Packers’ home game against the Lions with a groin injury.
There were no signs Lacy would turn his season around.
But he has. Except for the fumbles — and there’s no excusing those — Lacy is starting to run like the tailback everyone expected entering the season. There’s no guarantee it will last, but Lacy said the past two games have been a big boost for his confidence.
Lacy credited his demeanor — yes, his apparent apathy — for helping him stay “even-keeled” through the ups and downs of this roller-coaster season.
“It allows me to be a lot more patient and endure a lot more,” Lacy said, “because I’m so laid back. A lot of people do mistake it. They think maybe I just don’t care, or something like that. Which is not the case, but I think the way I am definitely helped me throughout this roller-coaster of a season so far.
“I think it’s all about how you respond to adversity. Like, when I went to second-string, I could have easily gotten mad or rebelled against their decision. Who knows how that would have affected me and the team? But I just think it’s how you respond to adversity. I took it. Whenever I got a chance to go out and play, I went out and played.”