Lacy has not been cleared to return to practice from his concussion and has more tests to take, but even if he does return, Starks will be the bell cow. McCarthy also spoke of getting rookie
While Starks said the newfound status won’t change his approach to practice or preparation, quarterback
“As a quarterback I feel that, when I know it’s my show, I’m obviously going to play a lot more confident,” Rodgers said. “When he knew he was going to get the bulk of the carries after Eddie went down, he knew he just had to relax and play, because it wasn’t going to be his last carry early in the game.
“Whereas a guy splitting time or a backup, he might be worried about, ‘This carry has to be my best carry or I’m not going to get another chance.’ He had his chances, and he made the most of them.”
His teammates were duly impressed. Center
“When he can find and hit the hole hard, he’s running hard as hell,” guard
Last week’s performance will admittedly be tough to repeat against the Bengals, however. A top-10 run defense in recent years, Cincinnati possesses a deep and talented defensive line, led by the starting front four of tackles Geno Atkins and Domata Peko, plus ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap.
Tough against the run and as pass rushers, all four were drafted by the Bengals between 2006 and 2010 and have grown up in Cincinnati’s 4-3 system. Sitton said that makes their defensive line comparable to San Francisco’s in terms of experience and chemistry, while Rodgers and Dietrich-Smith both acknowledged the unit’s eight-deep rotation with the ideal pass-rush combination – athleticism coming off the edge with power pushing up the middle.
“When you put together a D-line, that’s what you want,” Dietrich-Smith said. “If you get the quarterback condensed in the pocket, you’re going to get sacks. They definitely present issues out there.”
Atkins, Johnson, Dunlap and top reserve Wallace Gilberry combined for 36 ½ of the Bengals’ 51 sacks a season ago, which is why it becomes almost imperative for the Packers and Starks to be able to run the ball effectively.
“You look at the league every week, not every guy is getting 100 yards. I think Adrian Peterson only had it 10 times. It’s not something you scoff at, it’s definitely a difficult thing to do, but as long as it’s something that’s working and keeping us balanced and we keep plugging away at it, I think it’s going to be a good thing.”
Five hundred eighty yards of offense last week was evidence enough of a good thing, as close to unstoppable as an offense can look. While the Packers will always center their efforts on Rodgers and his arm, earning respect for their run game will undoubtedly pay dividends, too.
“The guys up front can’t just rush the passer, and the guys in the back can’t just play the pass,” Nelson said. “You can see them focused on the back end of our formations, the safeties are creeping down a little more, and that’s only going to help us out with our play-action game.
“Anytime we can get them distracted and go play-action, it’ll help.”Additional coverage - Sept. 18