“When I was younger – which I’m pretty sure a lot of people did this around the world – you know, Randy Moss is obviously one of the greatest receivers to ever play the game. Whenever anybody would catch a pass, they’d say, ‘Moss!’ To us, that meant that somebody just caught a pass over another person. So, every time I catch a pass, just joking around last year, I’d say it. It’s just jokes.”
Lacy’s production in the passing game during Sunday night’s loss at New Orleans was no joke. He caught eight passes for 123 yards with a long play of 67 yards. Almost needless to say, it was a career day as a receiver for the bruising, happy-to-lucky, second-year running back.
His previous career high for receptions was six, set in the overtime tie against Minnesota last season. His yardage total was more than his previous three biggest games combined. Not only was his 67-yard gain almost twice as long as his previous career-high catch (34 yards at Dallas last season) but it was more receiving yards than he produced in any game (48 yards, also in the Minnesota game).
By night's end, Lacy recorded the second-most receiving yards by a Packers back since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger (Eddie Lee Ivery, 128, vs. Tampa Bay in 1980) and the first 100-yard receiving game by a Packers back since current receivers coach Edgar Bennett had 101 yards vs. Chicago in 1994.
It took a while, but all of this was foreshadowed during training camp, when Lacy caught numerous passes from Aaron Rodgers during 11-on-11 drills.
“Us releasing out of the backfield, whether it’s (James) Starks or myself, it gives the quarterback another option so he doesn’t have to run or scramble or take unnecessary hits,” Lacy said back in August. “When we catch those passes, we don’t have to worry about a defensive line. It’s mostly one linebacker or a DB. It’s tough on those guys because they have to come up and hit Starks or myself, and we’re big guys and they don’t want to do that for four quarters, so it definitely helps out.”
The Saints’ defensive game plan helped turn Eddie “Moss” Lacy loose in the passing game. Breaking from his own history, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan barely blitzed Rodgers. New Orleans’ front four attacked aggressively, the linebackers dropped into coverage and the secondary tilted toward Jordy Nelson. The Packers’ counterpunch was to invite the rush, throw it over the defensive line’s heads and let Lacy build up a head of steam to attack the Saints’ linebackers and secondary.
“Going into the game, we were trying to anticipate what type of defensive game plan they might have,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. “I said last week they played different teams different ways. Sometimes they blitz a lot, sometimes they don’t. They didn’t blitz us much. They played a lot of two-high safeties and tried to get the rush with their guys up front, which made the screens a good option.”
The first screen resulted in Lacy’s 67-yard gain. It was a brilliant play. Lacy had to turn to catch the ball and stumbled backward for a moment. With guards Josh Sitton and Lane Taylor out front, Lacy broke into the clear. Linebacker Curtis Lofton (241 pounds) missed Lacy at the Saints’ 45-yard line, and Lacy accelerated into the clear. At about the 20, he delivered a devastating series of stiff-arms to safety Rafael Bush to bully his way all the way to the 3. Lacy piled up 69 yards after the catch.
Late in the first half, Rodgers looked right and threw a screen back to the left, with Lacy gaining 13 (including 15 yards after the catch). Later on the drive, Lacy powered through a couple of defenders for a 5-yard gain (10 YAC).
Late in the third quarter, Lacy gained 12 (13 YAC) on another screen. On Green Bay’s final scoring drive, Rodgers wound up throwing passes to Lacy on five consecutive plays. Four of them were completions, including a 10-yard gain on fourth-and-6. Moss probably would have approved of that toe-tapping catch on the sideline.
All told, by Packer Report’s count, 119 of Lacy’s 123 receiving yards came after the catch. He only broke one tackle on those passes but routinely used his power and balance to turn something into something more.
“That’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the complete player that he is,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. “The opportunities came last night. Eddie’s ability to run the football, he’s a lot more than a big, 230-pound back. He can run it, he’s excellent in past protection — his chips, as seen on the first third down, the big play to Randall, the 70-yard touchdown play — and then also the checkdowns underneath. It was great to get him involved in the screen game. We really haven’t had a lot of opportunities there in game. Eddie probably had his best game as a Packer. I was very pleased with how he played.”email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.