MINNEAPOLIS – Eddie Lacy turned to “the man upstairs.” James Jones put on a hoodie.
Whatever works, because two players whose impact on the Packers offense had been declining of late exploded in Green Bay’s 30-13 triumph over Minnesota on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Lacy, replaced in the starting lineup by James Starks and then out of the lineup entirely with a groin injury last week, said he “prayed a lot” this past week as he worked to get out of his slump. He also credited his teammates for sticking with him and believing in him, and he rewarded all the faith with 22 carries for 100 yards, his first 100-yard performance of the year.
His game seemed different right away, when he broke off a 27-yard run in the second quarter to help set up a field goal. From there, he was the guy the Packers fed the ball like most of his first two seasons in the league, and he powered, spun and dodged his way back to feature back status.
“As a competitor whenever you’re not doing too good you tend to get down on yourself a little bit, but that’s where fate comes in and teammates rally behind you,” Lacy said.
“It was honestly slower,” he said of how the game looked. “It was slower than it has been in the past, and I think that’s because I was able to re-focus and get back to the way I used to be.”
Jones did likewise, coming off a game in which he was targeted just twice in QB Aaron Rodgers’ 61 passes vs. Detroit. Jones didn’t have a catch and wasn’t looking anything like the touchdown machine he was upon signing with the Packers at the end of training camp.
That all changed with a six-catch, 109-yard day, his second 100-yard output of the season that included his team-best seventh TD.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder every game,” Jones said. “I’ve been cut from two teams.”
He was taking a lot of flak from teammates for the hoodie he was wearing underneath his helmet to combat the chill in the air, and he was the Packers’ hottest receiver on Sunday.
Jones was especially impressive on a TD drive in the second half, juggling and hauling in a 37-yard pass down the sideline to convert a third down. Then, on the first snap of the fourth quarter, he snagged a bullet from Rodgers for a 27-yard TD, keeping his toes in bounds. He added the two-point conversion on an improvised shovel pass, putting the Packers ahead 27-13.
“James is a guy who takes a lot of pride in what he does, and he made the plays that were there,” guard T.J. Lang said. “He was very vocal this week. He’s a guy who really wanted the ball today and he took advantage of the touches he got.
“Same with Eddie. Here’s a guy who’s been battling some injuries. He’s starting to get healthy and he’s going to be a big part of what we do down the stretch.”
Lacy felt as though the Packers proved once again they can run the football. Jones said they proved something else.
“Just that we’re a good football team, like we all knew,” he said.
Tretter steps in: The Packers lost center Corey Linsley to an ankle injury in the first half on Sunday, and third-year pro JC Tretter replaced him.
A versatile backup lineman, Tretter said he’s most comfortable at center, the position he was expecting to lock down in training camp last year before an injury opened the door for Linsley. Since then, coaches have only raved about how hard Tretter has worked for whenever a chance might come along.
“It’s just something you have to be ready for,” he said. “You have to prepare like a starter, know your assignments, know what the game plan is. You have to play up to the standard.”
His teammates felt he did just that.
“He did awesome,” said Lang, who lined up to his immediate right all game. “He’s one of the smartest guys on the team. Really didn’t even skip a beat when he was out there. He knew what he was doing.
“Physically, he doesn’t get overmatched. He’s a guy who did a phenomenal job. I told him after the game he did a great job stepping up, a great job communicating the calls.”
Janis makes things happen: With defensive back Micah Hyde leaving the game with a hip injury, second-year receiver Jeff Janis took over on kickoff returns and made his presence felt right away.
The first time Janis touched the ball, he scooted through a seam and was off to the races, 70 yards in all to the Minnesota 34-yard line, setting up a field goal late in the first quarter that tied the score at 6.
“Before the ball is even kicked, you just have to think to yourself I’m going to hit it as fast as I can and hope something good will happen,” Janis said. “The guys made great blocks, and that’s what happened.”
Janis wasn’t done, though. Late in the second quarter on offense, he went deep down the sideline, got behind Vikings CB Terence Newman, and Rodgers tried to heave it to him on the run. The ball was slightly underthrown, but Janis drew a pass interference call on Newman, good for 50 yards.
A few snaps later, the Packers were in the end zone just before halftime for a 16-6 lead.
“First I was thinking I was going to beat him deep,” Janis said of the big play. “I saw him settling his feet, so I knew I’d be able to run by him. Then Aaron had some pressure, so he had to throw it up, and in order to get the ‘PI’ I was going to have to come back to the ball and try and attack it.”
Janis had another deep opportunity in the second half, when Rodgers ran a play-action fake and set up deep in the pocket. Janis had a step on multiple defenders chasing him across the field, but the pass was a tad too far out of his reach.
“It’s just going to take time, timing with Aaron and things like that,” he said. “We’ll be able to work on that in practice a little bit more.”
Straight and true: Kicker Mason Crosby put the last-second miss against Detroit last week behind him in a big way, going 5-for-5 on field goals, all of them 40 yards or longer.
Crosby was true from 42, 47, 40, 42 and 52 yards, the final and longest kick coming with just over four minutes left and giving the Packers a three-score lead.
“Obviously it was a long week. I was ready to get to this game,” said Crosby, who is now 17-of-19 on field goals for the season.
“The kick against Detroit was something that’s just not me. I just went back, watched the film, cleared my mind and worked really hard this week to make sure I could help us win. This was a big one, a good one. Offense, defense, special teams, we fought hard to get this win. We needed to rebound.”
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