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James Jones, James Starks emerge as stars

Posted Sep 15, 2013

Packers offense explodes in 38-20 win over Redskins

GREEN BAY—They never know.

Running back James Starks never knows for sure when he’s going into the game, while receiver James Jones never knows for sure when the ball is coming his way.

All they can do is respond, and in doing so on Sunday they joined several offensive teammates with career-best performances in the Packers’ 38-20 victory over the Redskins at Lambeau Field.

Starks, forced into the game when Eddie Lacy left after one carry with a concussion, rambled 20 times for 132 yards and a touchdown, becoming the Packers’ first 100-yard rusher in a regular-season game since Week 5 of 2010 (Brandon Jackson against, coincidentally, Washington).

Counting the playoffs, which are kept separate statistically, Starks actually had the Packers’ last 100-yard rushing game, in the 2010 NFC Wild Card contest at Philadelphia. But the offense had still gone two full seasons without a runner hitting the century mark on the ground.

A 32-yard TD run by Starks late in the third quarter ended that particular drought, by a guy who two weeks ago was considered on the roster bubble at cutdown time.

“I guess he burst that bubble,” tight end Jermichael Finley said.

Ironically, Starks also took out of the game the same player who took out Lacy. Washington safety Brandon Meriweather’s helmet hit concussed Lacy after a 10-yard run on his first carry, but early in the second quarter, Starks lowered his shoulder heading down the sideline as Meriweather tried to deliver another big blow. Meriweather got the worst of the collision this time, lying on the field a few minutes with a concussion of his own.

“At first, I was kind of amped up, but after I saw he was down, you don’t wish that on anybody,” Starks said. “I bowed my head and prayed. Good thing he got up.”

The power and determination Starks showed on that 20-yard run carried through the rest of the day, during which he topped the Philly playoff outing from three seasons ago by nine yards. Coupled with Aaron Rodgers’ franchise record-tying 480 passing yards, Starks also helped give the Packers a 100-yard rusher and a 400-yard passer in the same game for the first time in team history.

“All training camp he’s had a chip on his shoulder, and he came in there and ran like that today – tried to punish people, tried to finish runs,” Jones said. “If we can get that out of him every game, he adds another dimension.”

The Packers have several dimensions to their passing game, of course, which is why Jones didn’t fret or pout after not catching a pass in Week 1 at San Francisco.

On Sunday, he caught three passes on Green Bay’s opening drive for a field goal and never slowed down, recording career highs in receptions (11) and yards (178), failing to snag only one of 12 passes thrown his way.

“One game, zero catches means nothing,” Jones said. “It’s a long season. Our quarterback is trying to get everybody the ball. He’s trying to win, we’re trying to win. You’re going to have days like this, you’re going to have days like that.”

Jones actually had beaten his previous career bests by halftime, with nine grabs for 152 yards, thanks in part to a 57-yard catch-and-run that set up the Packers’ third TD for a 24-0 halftime lead.

The only black mark on Jones’ day was a fumble late in the second quarter, which he lost while trying to reach for the front pylon of the end zone. The ball slipped from his outstretched hand and hit the pylon for a touchback.

In the end, the miscue meant nothing, other than taking away a possible fifth TD pass for Rodgers, who was over 400 yards by the end of the third quarter.

Receiver Randall Cobb also turned in a career high with 128 yards and matched his career best with nine catches. Nelson had just three catches but two of them went for touchdowns, his first multi-TD game since Week 6 last season at Houston.

Add it all up and it’s the second most productive offensive day in the history of the franchise, with 580 total yards (441 net yards passing, including 39 lost yards in sacks, plus 139 yards rushing).

“I think that was the tip of the iceberg today,” Finley said. “It was awesome to see it. We have to keep it going now. We can’t make it a one-hit wonder.”

For the record, the franchise single-game mark is 628 total yards, set at Philadelphia on Nov. 11, 1962, in a 49-0 win. After Sunday, no one in the Packers’ locker room would consider that out of reach.

“We did have a good game, but we can be better,” Cobb said. “We can do better, we can give more, we can do more. We made plays, but we can make bigger plays. We’re going to continue to push for that.”

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