Lacy, Starks lead Packers past Cowboys 28-7
GREEN BAY, WIS. — With his offense mired by inconsistency this season, Packers coach Mike McCarthy decided to make a change this week.
He's calling the plays again in Green Bay.
Eddie Lacy ran for 124 yards and a touchdown and fellow running back James Starks added two scores in the Packers' 28-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Green Bay (9-4) has a one-game lead in the NFC North over Minnesota after its second straight victory following a 1-4 slide.
"It's definitely a springboard for us," Lacy said. "We have three games left, we've got to finish these games out."
With 435 yards and 29 first downs, the Packers got better balance and production out of an offense that still struggled at times with penalties and short-yardage situations. The defense and running game came up with big plays in the fourth quarter.
The biggest change for the Packers this week was McCarthy taking back play-calling responsibility from associate head coach Tom Clements. He called it a tough personal decision to make with a long-time assistant.
"But professionally it was what I felt I needed to do," McCarthy said.
Instead of suggesting plays to Clements, as he had the past four weeks, it was now Clements suggesting plays to McCarthy.
So there was McCarthy again, communicating the final calls to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a combination that had worked so well for so many years.
"But I don't think it's been about the play-calling," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "It's been about the execution. We haven't executed really well. Today was a little better."
Whatever the reason, the Packers pulled away in the end.
Dallas' touchdown came on Robert Turbin's 7-yard run midway through the third quarter to make it 14-7.
The Cowboys (4-9) suffered a setback to their chances of winning the mediocre NFC East.
"These teams, teams like Green Bay, they're going to go to another level here as they get on near the playoffs," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "That's the way you do it in the NFL, and we weren't up to it tonight."
Rodgers threw for 218 yards and two scores. But all the Packers really needed from their star quarterback late in the game was to hand off the ball.
Lacy and Starks each had touchdown runs in the fourth quarter during the rainy evening.
Dallas also had success on the ground, with Darren McFadden running for 111 yards on nine carries. Dallas rushed for 171 yards, and 80 came on four plays that led to Turbin's score.
But the Cowboys' passing game struggled.
Matt Cassel, starting his sixth game for the injured Tony Romo, was 13 of 29 for 114 yards. A pass that deflected off star receiver Dez Bryant's hands was intercepted in the end zone by Sam Shields in the first quarter.
Bryant was held to one catch for 9 yards. He had a long reception in the second quarter overturned on replay — the same thing happened to him last season during the Cowboys' loss to the Packers in an NFC divisional round playoff game.
The latest reversal wasn't as big a deal to Bryant.
"It is what it is, man. When they called it incomplete, it was incomplete," Bryant said.
Dallas was forced to punt. Green Bay scored on its next possession on Rodgers' 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Richard Rodgers to make it 14-0 with 2:40 left in the second quarter.
That was it for Green Bay's offense until a 12-play, 84-yard drive in the fourth that ended with a 30-yard touchdown run from Starks on second-and-25. The Packers gained 78 yards on nine carries on the series.
The Packers ran out the clock from there. The Packers finished with 230 rushing yards on 44 carries, led by Lacy's 24 attempts.
A week after getting disciplined for missing curfew before the win over Detroit, Lacy was serenaded to chants of "Eddie! Eddie" by rain-soaked Packers fans.
"I was just making sure everything that I was doing was the right thing to do," Lacy said.
NOTES: Cowboys TE Jason Witten finished with five catches for 40 yards. ... The Cowboys managed just 11 first downs. ... Starks, the second part of Green Bay's one-two backfield punch, had 71 yards rushing on 11 carries, and 32 yards receiving on four catches. ... Shields left the game with a concussion in the second quarter after making a sliding tackle on the Dallas sideline. ... The Packers rushed for more than 200 yards for the first time since gaining 202 on Oct. 25, 2009, against Cleveland.