Packers encouraged by improving ground game
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Eddie Lacy is finally getting the football. Now he just has do a better job of holding onto it.
After being demoted to the Packers’ No. 2 running back spot behind veteran James Starks, Lacy has put together the first back-to-back 100-yard rushing games of his career, gaining 100 yards on 22 carries at Minnesota and 105 yards on 17 carries during the Packers’ Thanksgiving night loss to Chicago.
For the struggling offense, he’s been the bright spot with one troubling exception: He’s fumbled four times in the past five games, including losing one against the Bears that landed him back on the bench for the remainder of the first half.
"As a ball carrier, that’s what you don’t want, especially when it turns into points for the other team," Lacy said Monday as the Packers prepared for Thursday night’s game at Detroit. "It’s something that you have to put in the back of your mind because you don’t want that to slow you down for the rest of the season, but it’s something that you don’t want to happen as a ball carrier."
While putting together back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons in 2013 and 2014, Lacy fumbled just four times. He went 325 carries between the first fumble of his career, in the 2013 regular-season opener at San Francisco, and his next fumble, in Week 3 last season at Detroit. He then fumbled two more times last season.
Lacy’s fumble against the Bears came at the end of an impressive 15-yard run during the second quarter, giving him 72 yards on 10 carries. He didn’t see the field again for the rest of the half and ended up getting only seven more carries (for 33 yards). He also had four receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown during the first half, meaning 14 of his 21 touches and 106 of his 139 total yards came before his miscue.
"That’s not the way you carry the ball," coach Mike McCarthy said immediately after the game, and he promised there would be a greater focus on ball security this week. Lacy was carrying the ball away from his body on the play, which allowed Bears safety Chris Prosinski to poke it out from behind.
"Anytime there’s a fundamental that is not performed, at practice you obviously heighten the emphasis for it," McCarthy said. "Anytime it comes to taking care of the football or taking the football away, the opportunities involving the football, we need to be at the top of our game."
Lacy fumbled against San Diego on Oct. 18, at Denver on Nov. 1 and at Carolina on Nov. 8. He missed the first Packers-Lions game on Nov. 15 with a groin injury before returning to action at Minnesota, where he did not fumble.
As a team, the Packers have fumbled 13 times this season, losing four. During the McCarthy era, the Packers rank No. 2 in the NFL in turnover margin at plus-93.
"There’s only so many things you can emphasize (in practice) that you want your team to reflect each and every time you line up," McCarthy said. "(At) practice each and every day, we spend a lot of time on taking the ball away, takeaway drills, catching the football, handling the football, how we carry the football, ball-security drills – so I think it definitely reflects in our turnover ratio in my time here. … So we need to do a better job taking care of the football."
And that starts with Lacy.
"Ball security, it’s always a premium," Lacy said. "Whenever you’re going to make a play or you try to make a move, you try to put two hands on it. It’s something that you have be conscious and aware of."