GREEN BAY—It’s a barrier the Packers seem inevitably on course to break through sooner rather than later, and this Sunday would be as good a time as any.
The Packers have been closing in on a 200-yard rushing game all season. Not long ago, the discussion of the Packers’ ground game focused on not having an individual 100-yard rusher in more than 40 regular-season games, but that drought is now ancient history.
Suddenly, the Packers are on the doorstep of the 200-yard milestone as a team, just missing last Monday against Chicago with a season-best 199.
Green Bay has not rushed for 200 yards in a game in more than four calendar years. Not in 2010, 2011 nor 2012 did the Packers even hit the 180-yard mark they’ve reached four times in their last six games this season.
The last 200-yard rushing game came in Week 7 of 2009, at Cleveland. That was the sixth 200-yard rushing game of the Mike McCarthy era, which was only 3½ seasons old at that point, but four years later a seventh has yet to arrive.
There’s nothing magical about the number 200 for the offense, just as there’s nothing magical about 100 for an individual running back.
But given the fact the Packers are now without quarterback Aaron Rodgers for some time, the reliance on their improved and productive ground game could be higher than ever, beginning Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Eagles. After Rodgers left the Bears game following the first series, the Packers’ net yardage totals were 170 rushing, 89 passing, and they fell short by just seven points.
Following Eddie Lacy’s powerful and impressive outing against the Bears (22 carries, 150 yards), McCarthy said he feels Lacy still has “more to give.” If that’s adding even more pressure for the rookie running back, he’s not letting on.
“I don’t ever put pressure on myself,” Lacy said. “I just go out and play, do my job, I guess you could say.
“The better you do, the more confident you get and the calmer you become.”
In the aforementioned Cleveland game from 2009, it took 41 carries to pile up 202 yards as the Packers protected a big lead they built with two long TD passes in the first half.
That likely won’t be the formula for another 200-yard day with Seneca Wallace at the helm in Rodgers’ place. As the Packers have utilized it all season, the running game will be a focal point, not an afterthought.
James Starks has a TD run in each of the last two games spelling Lacy on just a handful of carries, so he’s fresh and ready to step in when needed. McCarthy said this week he likes the “juice” Starks has brought when inserted into the game.
The running game is the starting point for the Philadelphia defense, too, of course, and the Eagles are sure to load the box with defenders to make Wallace defeat them with his arm. Rodgers’ presence often kept two safeties deep, even when the running game started clicking. Defenses were still more afraid of getting beat with the big play, and that fear is lessened, if not eliminated, until Wallace proves he can strike deep.
Lacy faced plenty of loaded boxes in his days at Alabama, but even he knows this will be different. The Packers’ commitment to the run could be tested like never before until Rodgers comes back.
“We just have to adapt,” Lacy said. “He’s going to be out for a while and we just have to pick up that slack.
“My challenge is to make sure I have no turnovers and always have positive yardage. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.”
The only thing the Packers are worried about, obviously, is a win. Given the current circumstances, if a 200-yard rushing game comes along with it, the statement this offense can make will only get stronger.
“We’re running the ball good, we just need to win,” rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “An effective run game, we need to correlate that into a win at the end of the day.”
Year by year: Packers’ 200-yard rushing games under McCarthy
2006: Oct. 29, vs. Arizona (39 carries, 203 yards)
2007: Dec. 30, vs. Detroit (38-217)
2007 playoffs: Jan. 12 ’08 vs. Seattle (35-235)
2008: Nov. 16, vs. Chicago (38-200); Dec. 28, vs. Detroit (27-211)
2009: Oct. 25, at Cleveland (41-202)
2013: None (season-high Nov. 4, vs. Chicago, 29-199)
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