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Packers' Running Game Comes Through

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James Starks gave the Green Bay Packers a powerful element Sunday against the Redskins. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images.
James Starks gave the Green Bay Packers a powerful element Sunday against the Redskins. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images.

There is plenty for Packers fans to be excited about following Green Bay’s 38-20 demolition of the Washington Redskins. Aaron Rodgers setting a career high and tying the franchise record in passing yards (480) and the defense completely shutting down the Redskins offense before giving up a bunch of garbage time points and yards were two highlights that certainly caught our attention.

But above all else, the Packers have to feel best about the dominant running performance put on by James Starks and his offensive line.

The running game appeared all but doomed just five plays in after Eddie Lacy left the game with a concussion. Starks made everyone stop worrying fast. He made it look it was 2010 again, when his rushing abilities were a key factor in the Packers’ Super Bowl run. Starks’ burst and great vision Sunday led him to 132 yards for a 6.6 rushing average and a touchdown. His performance ended Green Bay’s 44-game streak of not having a 100-yard rusher. If you include Lacy’s lone run, Packers running backs ran for 142 yards and 6.8 yards per carry.

It wasn’t just Starks doing all the work. The offensive line has to be given proper credit. After a weak performance in Week 1, the Green Bay line rebounded with authority Sunday. They consistently opened up holes for Starks that Lacy never saw last week. The holes weren’t always there, but Starks’ vision helped picked up some tough yards that didn’t appear available.

During the preseason, the Packers thought they would have a formidable one-two punch in the backfield between Lacy and DuJuan Harris. They lost hope for that combination when Harris was put on injured reserve, but now the duo of Starks and Lacy looks promising. They don’t complement each other the way Lacy and Harris would have, but as long as both can run well, who cares?

This is exactly what the Packers knew they needed after the 2012 season. Defensive coordinators figured out they didn’t need to worry about defending the running game at all. Dropping two safeties back deep and flooding the rest of the secondary with corners and linebackers slowed the passing game just enough to make the Packers beatable.

With the Packers running the ball like they did Sunday, this team just may be unbeatable. They kept the Redskins guessing all day, not sure whether to load up the box to slow Starks or stay back in pass coverage to limit Rodgers’ production. With the defense being so unbalanced, the Packers could do whatever they wanted. This marked the first game in Packers history with a 400-yard passer and 100-yard rusher. Running the ball a lot can reduce a passer’s numbers, but running the ball effectively as Starks did lets a passer of Rodgers’ caliber do whatever he wants.

Granted, this performance did come against the poor defense of Washington. But it also happened with Green Bay’s second-best rusher. The offensive line won’t block that way every game, but the upgrade from Starks to Lacy should help offset that some.

The running game finally answered the call. We now know what it’s capable of.

The next step? Consistency.