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By CHRIS HAVEL
Green Bay offense starts fast, finishes slow as run attack disappears when Lacy exits
The Packers will take the win despite its lack of aesthetic appeal.
Style points were difficult to come by for the Packers in a necessary if not spectacular 23-16 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
Jordy Nelson’s acrobatic 2-yard touchdown catch qualified as beautiful. So did several of Randall Cobb’s clever catch-and-run maneuvers. Even big ol’ Eddie Lacy looked pretty as a picture while chugging along for 81 yards on 11 carries.
Davante Adams also turned in a brilliant touchdown catch.
But beyond that and Green Bay’s terrific 16-play opening touchdown drive there wasn’t much to smile about on offense. The offense has become predictable.
Take away the opening drive and the personnel grouping was three receivers, a back and a tight end. The so-called “11” personnel just didn’t cut it.
It looked especially lame when an ankle injury sidelined Lacy and James Starks took over as the featured back. Starks fumbled and managed just 33 yards on 12 carries (a 2.8 average). It’s time the Packers get real and make the decision to part ways with Starks. Naturally, their scouts need to find an improvement, but Starks isn’t good enough to carry the load in Lacy’s absence.
Meantime, the passing game also struggled. Rodgers completed 23 of 45 passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 65 passer rating. Those are extremely pedestrian numbers for a quarterback of Rodgers’ caliber especially when he was given ample time to throw.
Most disappointing was Rodgers’ meager four completions despite 13 targets to Nelson.
“It’s all about winning,” Rodgers told reporters. “We had a lot of opportunities tonight. … We have to execute in the passing game as well as we’re doing up front in the run game.”
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was pleased with his defense’s performance and rightfully so.
“Defense, particularly our young guys in the secondary, did a heck of a job,” McCarthy told reporters. “Run defense was there, pass rush was there. We were able to play good red zone defense.”
Sam Shields (concussion) and Damarious Randall (groin) were both out for the game. Still, the Packers’ young secondary stepped up and held its ground against the Giants.
Packers’ rookie linebacker Kyler Fackrell registered a sack and forced fumble late in the first half and fellow rookie Kenny Clark recovered at the 31 with 1:15 to play in the second quarter. It set up Mason Crosby’s 44-yard field goal with three seconds to give Green Bay a 17-6 halftime lead.
Nick Perry, Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez all played well for the Packers’ defense.
Eli Manning was 18 of 35 for 199 yards and a touchdown. The Giants’ running game was invisible. Bobby Rainey rushed five times for 22 yards to lead New York against the Packers’ top-rated run defense.
The Giants (2-3) closed to within 23-16 on Odell Beckham Junior’s 8-yard touchdown catch with 2:54 to play. He finished with five catches for 56 yards and no temper tantrums.
Looking ahead to Dallas
The Packers (3-1) must prepare for the Dallas Cowboys (4-1) who are fresh off a 28-14 victory over Cincinnati in Dallas.
Cowboys’ rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and rookie quarterback Dak Prescott threw for one touchdown and ran for another.
Green Bay’s defense has been terrific against the run all season. It’ll be interesting to see if Elliott will have any success. Also, it’s possible the Packers will have Mike Pennell available after having served a four-game suspension for violating the league’s rules on PED use.
Pennell should blend nicely into the rotation with Clark, Letroy Guion, Christian Ringo and Dean Lowry.
The Packers’ victory over the Giants wasn’t exactly one for the ages but it did accomplish several objectives:
- The running game really looked strong when Lacy lined up behind fullback Aaron Ripkowski. McCarthy needs to do more of this and stick with it.
- The mix-and-match of personnel in the opening drive was a thing of beauty. After that, McCarthy relapsed into being his predictable old self. Certainly catches by Nelson, Adams and Cobb showed the Packers’ explosiveness, and Lacy ran hard and effectively before leaving with an ankle injury.
Still, the Packers’ offense remains something less-than-expected. It may have to be near the top of its game on Sunday against a Cowboys’ offense that has been a whole lot more than expected thus far.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.