Back on June 13, 2013, head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters that the Green Bay Packers running game would be better – and he told everyone to write that in “Big Letters.”
The media did just that and the Packers came through the test with flying colors as Eddie Lacy and James Starks carried the team for nearly half the season when Aaron Rodgers went down with a fractured collarbone.
Fast forward to Sept. 21, 2014.
For the third week in a row to start the season, Eddie Lacy and the Packers running game was nothing short of wimpy and downright gimpy.
Eddie Lacy and the Packers running game was nothing short of wimpy and downright gimpy.
Yes, the Packers have started the season against the three top defenses in all of the league, with Seattle, the New York Jets and Detroit Lions all being top 10 defenses, maybe top 5.
But that’s no excuse for this offensive unit that has gotten it done against good defenses in the past.
And, according to reports from last night’s locker room reactions, the answer isn’t as clear-cut as you might expect.
Here’s what Eddie Lacy had to say:
"“We have to change our mind-set. We had a few opportunities as backs that we didn’t take advantage of, whether we made the wrong read or tried to press too much. It’s a long season and we’re going to get it to where we need it to be.”"
James Starks runs the ball during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Over the course of the first three games, Lacy has run for a 3.1-yard average per carry – certainly not the numbers that will help the Packers put fear into opponents. The Lions played their safeties back for most of the game, too, meaning the damage to the Packers’ run game was being accomplished by the Lions’ front seven.
And what happened to that three-headed monster that everyone has been talking about? With Lacy being the pounder, James Starks the slashing and dashing alternative and DuJuan Harris being the change of pace back whose 5-foot, 7-inch frame gets lost behind the mountain of offensive linemen?
It seems that Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s play-calling is as lost as his running game. He can’t seem to figure out yet how to utilize his personnel.
And in the understatement category, Packers right guard T.J. Lang had this to say:
"“I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s something every week we try to get going. We’re always confident in the game plan that we have. I’m not sure what the film’s going to look like tomorrow. It felt like we had some opportunities to hit some big plays. We just couldn’t hit the hole or finish a block, whatever it was to give the runner a clear lane into the secondary.“We’ve been disappointed in that category through the first three games.”"
Not only was Lacy a step slow in hitting holes Sunday afternoon, but he fumbled for the first time in 325 carries on his second carry on Sunday. That fumbled was picked up and taken 40 yards for a touchdown by the Lions – a play that made a huge difference in the final outcome.
Lacy was also stuffed on a running play out of the end zone that turned into a safety, but that wasn’t his fault. Rookie tight end Richard Rodgers was stoned on his block and Lacy had nowhere to run.
So, once again it’s back to the film room, according to the Packers players. But with a 1-2 record and an offense that was supposed to be a juggernaut looking wimpier each week, there isn’t much time for the Packers to right this ship.
With the Bears next Sunday and the Minnesota Vikings on the following Thursday, the Packers will complete a three-game stretch of NFC North Division games that could determine the team’s future. Should they finish the stretch at 2-1, they will be OK. If not, their work in achieving a fourth straight division title may be problematic at best.