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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Green Bay Packers needed 2 yards for one more first down, the one that would clinch Sunday's 24-21 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
With 2:31 remaining and a timeout to talk it over, Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy huddled in front of the Packers' sideline and talked about two plays: One was a run and the other was a pass.
With the hottest quarterback in the game, it would not have been a surprise to any of the 52,386 in attendance at TCF Stadium if McCarthy left it up to the right arm of Rodgers.
Eddie Lacy had the type of performance Sunday that gives the Packers confidence down the stretch.
Except that Rodgers wanted to go with the hotter hand. On Sunday, that was running back Eddie Lacy, who out of a shotgun formation on third-and-2 at the Packers' 28-yard line powered over left guard for 4 game-clinching yards.
"That was a play that he preferred," McCarthy said of his quarterback. "I just kind of chuckled because it's usually the other way around. It was the right call in that situation."
On a day when the Vikings tried -- with some measure of success -- to slow down Rodgers and his top two receivers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Lacy delivered both on the Packers' final touchdown drive, the game's defining drive that put them ahead 24-13 with 8:34 to play, and again on their last possession, which chewed up the final 3:23.
Battling an illness, which prevented him from talking to reporters afterward, Lacy set a season high with 125 yards rushing on 25 carries. It was just his second 100-yard game of the season (both have come against the Vikings) and before Sunday, he had not carried more than 17 times in a game this year.
"That's what we get paid for, man," Packers right guard T.J. Lang said. "That's what we take a lot of pride in, is being able to run the ball when everybody in the damned stadium knows you're going to run it."
The Packers' intent to run the ball was clear from the start, when they opened in a two-back look with fullback John Kuhn in front of Lacy. It was Kuhn's first start of the season, and Rodgers was happy to feed "the beast," as right tackle Bryan Bulaga called Lacy afterward.
Lacy gained 70 of his 125 yards after first contact Sunday, according to ESPN Stats & Information, his second-most rushing yards after contact in a game in his career. He started the Packers' scoring with a 1-yard dive over the top for a touchdown in the first quarter and finished it off with a 10-yard score on a shovel pass in the fourth quarter.
"I think it shows that we are able to pass the ball when needed and run the ball when needed," Bulaga said.
That could bode well for the Packers (8-3) in cold-weather games down the stretch. Or if teams do what Vikings coach Mike Zimmer tried, which was to play a heavy dose of two-deep safety coverage to try to limit Rodgers' chances down the field.
Although Rodgers threw two touchdown passes without an interception, he passed for only 209 yards on 19-of-29 passing. Nelson went over 1,000 yards for the season, but only 68 of them came Sunday despite his eight receptions. His long gain was merely 14 yards. Cobb, who had topped the 100-yard mark in three of the past four games, caught just four passes for 58 yards.
"It gives us another option as opposed to years prior where it's just airing it out," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. "We've got the ability to run the ball."
And the next time the Packers need one more third-down conversion, whether it's to wrap up a victory in next Sunday's showdown with the New England Patriots (9-2) or later in the season to clinch a division title or a playoff berth, there's no telling whether the Packers will rely on Rodgers' arm or Lacy's legs to get it.
"The way that Eddie was running the football, and the line, you have to give the line a voice," Rodgers said. "Those guys know the pulse of the game there, especially late in the game there. They felt like a run was something we could get. Came to the sidelines and kind of had the choice there, but I liked the play to Eddie, the inside handoff, and he did a good job of getting the necessary yards."
By Rob Demovsky | espn.com | November 23, 2014