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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Eddie Lacy got Green Bay's running game back on track by playing through a stomach illness.
And with the Wisconsin weather turning cold and snowy - and opposing defenses likely to follow Minnesota's blueprint in an effort to limit wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb - Lacy may be emerging at just the right time for the Packers.
Playing with what coach Mike McCarthy termed Monday as a gastrointestinal illness, Lacy carried a season-high 25 times for 125 yards in the Packers' 24-21 victory at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday. Five of those carries for 27 yards came in the final 3:23, with Lacy running out the clock in the Packers' seventh victory in their last eight games.
After the game, Lacy's teammates said they knew he was sick but he insisted on playing through it. No. 2 running back James Starks had only one carry for minus-4 yards.
"I think it's really just a credit to Eddie. He's a heck of a football player," McCarthy said Monday, adding that the medical staff is "monitoring" Lacy. "Just for him to go out and have that performance in that situation I think speaks volumes to the type of person he is."
Lacy did not speak to reporters after the game Sunday, and players were off celebrating a "Victory Monday" and not available to reporters. But his teammates knew the second-year back was ill.
"You could see it on his face a little bit that he wasn't feeling too good," guard Josh Sitton said. "He's just tough, man."
Next up for Lacy and the Packers (8-3) is a possible Super Bowl preview against the New England Patriots (9-2) on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Despite Aaron Rodgers' gaudy numbers - he has thrown for 2,957 yards with 30 touchdowns and only three interceptions for a league-high passer rating of 119.3 - most opponents this season had opted to play with one safety deep, bringing the other up into the box to help defend against Lacy.
On Sunday, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made it Minnesota's top defensive priority to take away Cobb and Nelson, and it worked.
Although Nelson had eight receptions, they went for just 68 yards - enough to put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the third time in his career but the fourth-fewest receiving yards he's had in a game this season. Cobb had a pair of important third-down catches, but finished with only four grabs for 58 yards.
"Teams are going to take away what we do best, and what we've done best is get the ball to Jordy and Randall," Rodgers said after Sunday's game. "They've had big statistical seasons so (opponents) try to take them out of the game."
That was what made Lacy's performance so vital, even though the Packers receivers were expecting that approach from the Vikings from the start.
"Like we've said for weeks, teams have been playing a lot of one-high," Nelson said. "That's why we've been throwing it and Eddie hasn't had a lot of opportunities but still has been running great. (In this game), it kind of reversed. He got opportunities and he made the most of them and had a great game and had a lot of huge plays for us."
The Patriots match up well with the Packers because of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, meaning Lacy likely will be counted on again this week.
Before his 25-carry performance against the Vikings, his season high for carries had been 17 attempts at Chicago on Sept. 28. Last season, Lacy carried at least 17 times in 11 of the 15 full games he played.
One reason for the drop in Lacy's attempts: Despite scoring 354 points this season - second only to the Patriots' 357 - Green Bay has run just 663 offensive plays. The Patriots, by comparison, have run 757 plays.
"The only thing I've ever focused on with Eddie or any of the offensive perimeter players is how many times they touch the ball," McCarthy said. "If you look at our season, it's been different. To score this many points with the total number of plays (is unusual). So I don't think statistics really reflect the whole picture of everything that we've done."
NOTES: Despite a much-hyped game against a high-profile opponent, McCarthy said he is adjusting the schedule to make sure players and staff are out of the building by 1 p.m. to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends. . McCarthy said guard T.J. Lang (ankle) and linebacker Clay Matthews (groin) are "battling through" their injuries but both are expected to play against New England.