For the third consecutive week, the Green Bay Packers needed to run out the clock for a victory. Only this time Eddie Lacy was nowhere to be found.
After leading successful four-minute offenses in each of the last two games, the Packers' starting running back was confined to the sideline with a hip injury on the final offensive series. So Green Bay turned to backup James Starks to close out a 43-37 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.
The Falcons had all three timeouts available to them when they gave Green Bay the ball at its 39-yard line with 2 minutes, 9 seconds remaining. The Packers struck quickly with Aaron Rodgers scrambling for 12 yards on second-and-8 to convert the initial first down.
However, it was Starks bursting through on the next play for a 41-yard gain to the Falcons' 6-yard line, which tied his career-long and shattered any hopes of an Atlanta comeback.
Powered by Lacy (13 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown) and Starks (10-75-1), the Packers finished with a season-high 179 yards and two touchdowns, their most production since putting up 196 yards against Minnesota on Nov. 24, 2013.
Starks had rushed for only 22 yards on his last 17 carries prior to Monday, but he came through when the offense needed him the most Monday night.
"Eddie has been getting the majority of the carries lately," right guard T.J. Lang said. "But to see James come in and provide a little spark there and hit some nice runs, it's good to see. It's a good change-up for our offense. It takes some pressure off of Eddie. He's the guy that when he gets the ball in his hands, he's capable of making a big play every time."
The Packers gained a majority of their yards on the ground in the first half with Lacy and Starks combining for 87 yards on 12 carries (7.3 yards per attempt) against an Atlanta defense that was playing both of its safeties back to make sure Aaron Rodgers didn't beat them deep.
With the safeties playing off, it provided the two running backs with enough cushion for underneath opportunities in the passing game. Lacy caught five passes for 33 yards and a 1-yard touchdown with Starks grabbing two others for 26.
Lacy's biggest catch came midway through the second quarter when he brought in a short checkdown from Rodgers and broke three tackles on a 13-yard gain. He even utilized his spin move on the play for the first time in a little while.
Lacy had a chance at another touchdown in the third quarter on a 15-yard lob from Rodgers on third-and-6, but couldn't bring it in with Atlanta linebacker Paul Worrilow in coverage.
"Oh, man. If I would have caught that, I would be talking so much trash right now," Lacy joked. "Maybe another time."
Lacy (106) and Starks (111) each finished with more than 100 total yards in the win, though Lacy withdrew in the final 5 minutes of Monday's game and didn't return with what was described as a hip bruise. He said he's hopeful it's not significant.
"We're definitely doing good as far as running and passing the ball, depending on how the defense plays us," Lacy said. "It's something we're going to have to continue to do and continue to get better on throughout the rest of the season."
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