LANDOVER, Md. – When the Packers’ offense came to life in the second quarter on Sunday, the running game still hadn’t found its groove.
When the ground game did so midway through the third quarter, there was no stopping the Packers in a 35-18 NFC wild-card playoff victory over the Redskins at FedEx Field.
Through Green Bay’s first running play of the second half, the Packers had gained a measly 19 yards on 10 rushing attempts.
But as soon as Eddie Lacy blasted through for 11 yards to convert a key fourth-and-1, suddenly the floodgates opened.
Lacy rumbled for 30 yards on the very next play to set up a touchdown, and James Starks had runs of 11, seven and 22 yards on the Packers’ next drive, which also finished in the end zone as Green Bay opened up a multi-score lead.
At last, both phases of Green Bay’s offense were in gear, and the rest was academic.
“The line started pushing guys, doing a great job of just getting body on body and giving us the holes to run through,” Starks said.
Lacy, Starks and Randall Cobb combined for 123 yards on 20 rushes in the second half as the Packers completed a stretch of scoring six times in seven possessions, going back to the start of the second quarter.
Once the Redskins, already struggling to slow down a hot-throwing Aaron Rodgers, couldn’t stop the run, they had no chance.
“They were starting to get a little tired, and that’s when the big runs started to come,” said Lacy, who finished with 63 yards to Starks’ 53, with each scoring a TD, while Cobb added 24 yards on the ground.
“In the first half, it didn’t look the way we wanted it to, but we kind of expected that, and we stuck with it. We didn’t go away from it in the second half, and we were able to get those big runs.”
Lacy’s crucial run on fourth-and-1 went off left tackle, where third-year pro JC Tretter started for the first time. Filling in for the injured David Bakhtiari (ankle), Tretter was called for a false start and gave up a sack to Preston Smith for a safety on back-to-back plays in the first quarter.
The Ivy League product admirably settled down, though, and Smith wasn’t really heard from the rest of the game. Tretter said he changed his pass protection footwork after the sack, which had him better prepared for Smith’s bull-rush and “long-arm” moves, and the versatile lineman’s recovery was valuable in the offensive turnaround.
“I thought he did a great job,” neighbor and left guard Josh Sitton said. “Had the early sack there and he rebounded and played awesome. A lot of guys would let that get in their head the rest of the game. He responded and played his (tail) off.”
Lacy said the entire offense came into the game with a bit of a chip on its shoulder. It hadn’t performed with any consistency for several weeks, leading the pundits to declare Washington’s Kirk Cousins as the hot QB coming in, not Rodgers.
The assessment was fair, given the statistics, but that doesn’t mean the Packers liked hearing it.
“We saw it. We see everything. That’s part of it,” Cobb said.
“We know who Aaron is. We know how good he is. Us as a team, we stick together. We don’t care about what’s written, we don’t care about what’s said. We know what we want to do and how we’re going to get it done, and we were able to get a win tonight.”
With a running game every team strives to find in the playoffs. Lacy and Starks finished with 12 carries apiece and a combined 4.8-yard average.
“When we’ve got those two guys running that hard, it really boosts everybody up,” Sitton said. “We love it as an offensive line. When you see Eddie getting fired up and James as well, they’re a great 1-2 punch. When that is on, I think the offense is really clicking.”
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