GREEN BAY—The Packers’ backfield had been mostly the Eddie Lacy show lately.
Not Monday night, however. Lacy and James Starks shared duties and their combined 207 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns provided a huge chunk of Green Bay’s offense in a 43-37 victory over the Falcons at Lambeau Field.
Lacy began the game with runs of 22 and 12 yards on his first two carries, on his way to 13 attempts for 73 yards and a TD on the ground. He added five receptions for 33 more yards and another TD.
Starks saved his best for last, ripping off a game-clinching 41-yard run just after the two-minute warning to finish off a 10-carry, 75-yard, one-TD effort to go along with two receptions for 26 yards.
The only regret was Lacy failing to haul in a potential TD pass that was well-defended by Falcons LB Paul Worrilow in the end zone.
“Oh, man, if I would have caught that, I’d be talking so much trash right now,” Lacy said.
The final tally was Lacy 106 total yards, Starks 101, as they touched the ball on 30 of the Packers’ 67 offensive plays.
“They’re two great weapons,” veteran guard Josh Sitton said. “We don’t always have to use them, but when it comes down to (crunch) time, they’re two great backs to have.”
Bothered by a shot he took to his hip, Lacy gave way to Starks to close out the game when the Packers needed to kill the final 2:09 on the clock.
After QB Aaron Rodgers ran for one first down to cross midfield, Starks then powered through a big hole on the left side and took it 41 yards, all the way to the Atlanta 6-yard line.
That allowed the offense to seal a win for the third straight week, moving the chains to preserve a one-score lead.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, to close out a game running the ball when everybody knows what you’re doing,” Sitton said. “It’s definitely satisfying.”
Added fellow guard T.J. Lang: “We take a lot of pride in that. It’s a good way to finish a game.”
Going deep again: Early in the fourth quarter, Rodgers and Jordy Nelson connected on yet another long TD pass. Off the usual play-action, deep drop, this one came from 60 yards out to give the Packers a 40-24 lead.
“Aaron put a great ball on it,” Nelson said. “We got the perfect coverage that we wanted. It’s fun to make those. It’s something we’ve connected on quite a bit, and it’s always good to get them.”
In catching eight passes for 146 yards and two TDs, Nelson now has 12 TD receptions on the season. Seven of them are 40 yards or longer, tying Billy Howton’s single-season franchise record, set in 1952.
Long time coming: Safety Morgan Burnett had gone two years and six days without an interception, but he finally got another one, picking off Matt Ryan in the second quarter on a sideline pass intended for Devin Hester.
Burnett weaved his way across the field and returned the interception 32 yards in all, down to the Atlanta 15-yard line, Four plays later, the offense found the end zone and the Packers had a 24-7 lead.
“It feels great. It’s a long time coming,” Burnett said. “Cutting back, that was a lot of running. I kind of ran out of gas at the end. My feet felt like bricks. I tried to pick them up. Guys on my team did a great job blocking, and I tried to do the best I could with it.”
Burnett's last interception came on Dec. 2, 2012, when he had two in a game at Lambeau Field against Minnesota.
Family affair: Linebacker Clay Matthews posted Green Bay’s only sack in the game, and he got it rushing against his cousin, Atlanta left tackle Jake Matthews.
“I didn’t treat him like anything else or another tackle I was playing against,” Matthews said. “Obviously I recognized the name on the back of the jersey and understood who he is as far as being a cousin, but at the same time, it was business as usual while I was out there.
“We had a little fun, pushing each other back and forth. I don’t take these moments for granted, provided some good photo-ops as well as some good sound bites.”
Eventful night: It was an interesting night on special teams, as the Packers blocked a field goal on the final play of the first half but then had an extra point blocked in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Brad Jones got Green Bay’s block on Matt Bryant’s 53-yard field goal attempt.
In the return game, the Packers kicked away from Hester a couple of times but when they didn’t, they pretty much held him in check. He averaged a modest 26.3 yards on six kickoff returns and didn’t have a notable return until his last one, a 38-yarder that allowed the Falcons to start a drive on their own 34.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby went 3-for-3 on field goals, including a clutch 53-yarder with 4:33 left that put the Packers ahead 43-30. Atlanta had tried an onside kick after pulling within 40-30 and the Packers recovered, but the offense went nowhere, leaving Mike McCarthy with a tricky decision on fourth-and-4 from the Atlanta 35.
“He was thinking about going for it. That’s a tough call. If it doesn’t go through there, they get the ball at the 43-yard line,” Crosby said. “He showed a lot of confidence in me, putting me out there, and I was happy to capitalize. That was big. Our protection did a great job after that blocked extra point.”
COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE