NEW ORLEANS -- He caught screen passes, received dump offs, even tapped his toes on the sideline. Through seven games, Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy had reached 100 yards rushing just once.
So he went to the air.
Lacy, a New Orleans native playing the Saints for the first time, admitted during the week he wanted to have "one of the biggest games of my life" against his hometown team. He came close. Lacy went over 100 yards receiving for the first time in his career – the second-year tailback had never reached 50 receiving yards in a game – on Sunday night.
His eight catches for 123 yards weren't enough to lead Green Bay to a win. The Packers lost 44-23 to the Saints, a disheartening loss going into the bye week.
Lacy said his receiving skills weren't a big part of the Packers game plan entering Sunday. As the game unfolded, that changed.
"That was their defense dictating a lot of that," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "They played a lot of match coverage, rushing four. Their four-man rush was really getting up the field, so we had opportunities to run some screens. Mike dialed them up good and the line got out in front and Eddie had a big catch-and-run.
"He had a big day for us. We've been working on that since training camp, getting him more involved in the passing game, and not a ton of rushes tonight for him but I know he made a big impact in the passing game."
His night felt empty. No loss ever feels good, no matter the numbers. Still, Lacy's production through the air could add another dimension to the Packers offense going forward.
There was plenty of preseason talk about Lacy becoming a bigger threat in the Packers passing game. He focused his offseason attention on his hands, improving as a receiver. Then the season began, and Lacy was relegated to being one-dimensional.
In his first seven games, Lacy had 13 catches for 86 yards.
His role in Green Bay's offense was to run the football, often for few yards. Lacy only had more than 100 yards from scrimmage once before Sunday night. That changed in the first half, when Lacy had 104 yards of offense on nine touches.
"Every play, you're going to have to break a tackle or two," Lacy said. "Every play, you're not going to get the ball, and it's going to be a wide-open hole every single time. I mean, as a running back or at any position, your job is to make the most out of every single time you get the ball."
Lacy said his extra presence in the passing game didn't mean the running game was suffering. He finished with 59 yards on 13 carries, all coming in the first three quarters. No, the Saints defense didn't exactly bottle him up.
After the game, Lacy was asked if he'd like more carries. More opportunities to be a weapon in Green Bay's offense. He deferred to Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
"It's not my call," he said. "It's something to ask coach. All I've got to do is get the plan and execute it."
Lacy had extra motivation to shine Sunday night. Saints running back Mark Ingram was Lacy's college teammate at Alabama. Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in 2009, becoming the only Crimson Tide player to ever win the award.
Between Lacy and Ingram, the two tailbacks had an impressive duel. Unlike Lacy, Ingram did his damage on the ground. He had a career-high 172 yards on 24 carries, including a 21-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter that left the Packers defense in tatters. It was the most yards from scrimmage a Saints running has had in a game since Deuce McAllister in 2003.
Lacy didn't get to see Ingram until after the game.
"He just said, 'Continue to go hard. Don't let this loss dictate the rest of the season. It's a long season, and just continue to play,'" Lacy said.