GREEN BAY – Eddie Lacy fielded question after question with a smile at his locker after the Green Bay Packers’ 22-9 victory over the Detroit Lions Sunday, including four in fewer than 7 minutes that asked a variation of the same thing:
How did it feel to only run for 99 yards?
Lacy’s answers didn’t change, and neither did his amused demeanor.
“Of course you want to get 100 yards, you want to hit the century mark, but 99 is just as good, and as long as I did my part in moving the offense forward, I feel as though I did a good job," Lacy said. “That would have been cool, especially to have three (100-yard games) in a row, with three different backs, but 99 is just as good. We did what we had to do and I'm not disappointed in 99 at all.”
All the question about Lacy coming up a yard short were because of the Packers’ recent history at running back – history Lacy heard all about when he was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft: Entering the season, the Packers hadn’t had an individual 100-yard rusher in their previous 43 regular-season games, which was more than twice as long as any other active streak in the NFL at the time.
The streak reached 44 games after the team’s season-opening loss at San Francisco, but James Starks ran for 132 yards after Lacy left the Packers’ Sept. 15 victory over Washington with a concussion, and rookie fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries against Cincinnati the following week after Starks suffered a knee injury.
Lacy has been aware of the streak since at least the night he was drafted, because he was asked on a conference call with Wisconsin reporters about how he might be able to help the offense snap that streak. That night he said he “brings balance” to the team.
“I will allow the defense to not just be able to focus on the passes because there’s a back in the backfield who’s going to have to make them think about the run,” he said then.
Lacy would have gotten his 100 yards with room to spare when he took off on a 26-yard run to start the Packers’ final possession of the game. But a holding penalty on wide receiver Jarrett Boykin wiped out half the gain, leaving him with a 13-yard pickup and 99 total yards. On the next play, Lacy was stuffed for a 3-yard loss, then he got it back with a 3-yard gain on the play after that.
Thinking the clock would run out with one more snap, Packers coach Mike McCarthy called for quarterback Aaron Rodgers to kneel on third-and-7. After he did, the Lions called timeout, forcing a punt and leaving Lacy at 99 yards.
“I would have loved to have seen Eddie seen Eddie Lacy get over 100,” McCarthy said. “I understand he was pretty close there at the end.”
Perhaps Lacy was able to look at the big picture because he was just happy to be playing in the game. After suffering the concussion on his first carry against Washington and sitting out the following week’s loss at Cincinnati, Lacy said he was just happy to be back. The running back said he felt “a little shaky at first,” but he was able to put that behind him.
While some of his teammates – including guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang – acknowledged after the game that they wished he could have run for one more yard, Lacy said he was more concerned with about being able to play a “complete” game.
“I proved to myself that I'm able to play a complete game with this offense,” Lacy said. “Of course you're going to get out here and there, but first and foremost, I proved to myself that I can do it.
“I can go in and be accountable on every single play. Of course you're going to mess up here and there, but it's how you respond to messing up, whether it's a big mistake or a little mistake.”
Lacy, and the Packers’ running game, have brought balance to the Packers’ offense. Still, despite the recent success that they have had, Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he didn’t think that teams were playing the Packers’ offense differently because of their new and improved running game.
“I would say not entirely yet, no,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to continue to let the run game set up the pass and be patient with the passing game. There’s going to be big play opportunities, but we have multiple runners that can go over 100 yards for us. We almost had our third different 100-yard rusher today. Missed it by just a couple, I think. But that balance is going to help us out come November, December.”
While it is unlikely that the Packers’ offensive game plan will shift from predominately passing to rushing while Rodgers is at quarterback, the improved running game has helped the Packers’ offense through the air as well.
“It just shows that we can go out and run the ball,” Lacy said. “We have a great passing attack here. We always have and we always will but when you're able to add that extra dimension it just makes us that much harder to defend."
Sarah Barshop covers the Packers for ESPNWisconsin.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/sarahbarshop.