What a difference ten days makes. Ten days ago, Eddie Lacy barely saw the field and Tom Clements was calling plays. Fast-forward to Sunday afternoon, Lacy carries the ball 24 times for 124 yards and a score as Mike McCarthy resumes play-calling duties, kicking the offense into gear for their best game in recent weeks. Ball control, sturdy defense, and a strong close boosts Green Bay to sole possession of first place in the NFC North, defeating the Dallas Cowboys on a rainy afternoon, 28-7.

For most animals, this is the time of the year to go into hibernation, pack it up for the winter and survive to see warmer weather. For Eddie Lacy, this is the time of the year to emerge from his slumber and become the beast his team and fans have been waiting for. Mike McCarthy said Lacy would take over the starting role Sunday following an exceptional week of practice and the back did not disappoint his head coach.

The offensive line allowed for Starks and Lacy to have huge days (Jim Biever, packers.com)
The offensive line allowed for Starks and Lacy to have huge days (Jim Biever, packers.com).

The combination of Lacy and James Starks rushed for 195 yards on 35 carries as the offense pounded out long, balanced drives that made Aaron Rodgers look as comfortable he has all year. Green Bay stayed committed to the run and they were rewarded with opportunities in the pass game. Credit to the offensive line, who played their best game of the year by dominating the line of scrimmage and making key blocks downfield on several screens.

An all-around methodical game on offense allowed the defense to stay fresh and aggressive against the backup Matt Cassell, but struggled filling gaps against the run. Dallas boasts one of the best offensive lines in the game and that was on display Sunday afternoon, particularly rookie left guard La’el Collins who continues to play at an All-Pro level week after week. The line opened up numerous big holes that produced 171 yards on the ground while averaging 8.6 yards/carry.

The defense overcame the struggle against the run by getting Matt Cassel uncomfortable with their blitz packages and forcing a crucial goal line turnover when Sam Shields snagged a Dez Bryant dropped pass in the first quarter. Rookie Damarious Randall stepped up in a big way after Shields went out for the game with a concussion by holding Dez Bryant to zero catches in the final three quarters of the game (Side note: a much less controversial review on a Dez Bryant catch took place as it did in the playoff game last year, but at the time it felt like ‘here we go again’).

Green Bay came into this matchup having lost their last two home games with the added pressure of needing a win to jump Minnesota in the divisional rankings. Of course, there’s no way they could lose three games in a row at home…right? Not when the Packers play like that. The uneasiness of the last two losses at home were relieved by the fluidity and rhythm of Aaron Rodgers and his offensive comrades.

Improvements in the play-calling and rushing attack were extremely prevalent. The biggest improvement, however, may have been the involvement of Randall Cobb in the offense. He didn’t have the a statistically dominant game, but the ball was in his hands enough to make plays in space and just missed a breakaway touchdown as he tiptoed down the sideline in the first half. Cobb’s 12 targets in the game were the most since week 9 against Carolina and he will need to continue being a focal point in the offense going forward.

In seven home game this year, the Green Bay defense has given up more than 20 points just once (28 to Kansas City). The defense has been impactful in wins and kept the team afloat in losses. This game was no different. Dallas was held to 1-11 on third downs and Green Bay’s defense turned punter Chris Jones into Dallas’ most important player of the game.

Jeff Janis, though quiet on offense, made an impact on special teams (Jim Biever, packers.com)
Jeff Janis, though quiet on offense, made an impact on special teams (Jim Biever, packers.com).

This game defined who the Green Bay Packers are in 2015. They are not the high-volume scoring offense of years past. Their success is now predicated on the run game and consistent defensive play rather than Aaron Rodgers’ arm (don’t worry, it’s still there). Green Bay is 4-1 when Lacy runs for more than 85 yards this season. Green Bay is 6th in scoring defense at 18.8 points/game.

Today’s game marks the fourth straight game without throwing for more than 300 yards in a game. That is the second time this year Rodgers has had a four-game stretch like this. Last time that happened prior to this season? 2012. The Packers must continue to embrace their gritty identity and ride the confidence built over the last two games before heading west for a tricky game at Oakland.

Game Balls

Eddie Lacy & James Starks – Goes without saying, the Packers running backs were the most important players on the field. The duo combined for three touchdowns and 250 total yards.

Damarious Randall – The rookie has been nothing but impressive all year. Randall did a great job filling in for the wounded Shields against an All-Pro wide receiver.

Jeff Janis – Not in the box score, but Janis is a special teams beast. He was in the face of Lucky Whitehead on every punt return.

Final Stats

Time of Possession – GB 37:48 / DAL 22:12

Total Plays  – GB 81 / DAL 51

1st Downs – GB 29 / DAL 11

3rd Down Conversions – GB 7-14 / DAL 1-11

Rushing Yards – GB 230 / DAL 171