Lackluster effort produces 'a real nasty win'

Oct. 28, 2012

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers slides after making a run in the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette


It’s true there are no style points in the NFL.

But quality of play matters, too, especially for a Green Bay Packers offense that thought it was finding its identity after a so-so start this season.

So yes, the Packers accomplished their most important task by defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-15 on Sunday at Lambeau Field. But getting outgained 341 yards to 238 yards by the NFL’s lowest-ranked offense in scoring and yards, and by a team the Packers were 14½-point favorites to defeat, isn’t going to impress anyone inside or outside the locker room.

“The way we played on offense, especially the last couple weeks, the expectations were we were going to come out and maybe blow them out,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “But we didn’t start fast, we didn’t have enough juice early on and didn’t play well enough on offense to get that done. Defense and special teams did their part. Offensively, we’re going to be very critical as we watch the film (Monday) and move forward.

“However, that being said, we’re 5-3. As much as the adversity that we dealt with early in the season has affected us, I think we’ve come out, won three in a row, and we’re moving in the right direction.”

The Packers’ third straight win keeps them apace with the 6-1 Chicago Bears, who maintained their 1½-game lead for first place in the NFC North Division by defeating Carolina 23-22 on Sunday. The Packers’ season is halfway over, and they have their bye after hosting 4-3 Arizona next Sunday. The Cardinals will be coming off a short week because they play Monday night against a physical San Francisco team.

“A real nasty win,” tight end Jermichael Finley said. “But we came out 5-3, so go into that bye week 6-3. Next week we have the Cardinals, we can’t stoop down to their level. Teams like that we’re supposed to bash from the beginning.”

The Packers played Sunday without two of their best players on offense, injured receivers Greg Jennings (torn abdominal muscle) and Jordy Nelson (hamstring), and also without third-down back John Kuhn (hamstring). But that didn’t seem like a big issue because of receiver Randall Cobb’s breakout play the last two weeks, and the presence of Finley and productive receiver James Jones.

But the Packers did next to nothing on the playmaking front against a Jaguars defense that came into Sunday ranked No. 28 in yards allowed and No. 26 in points allowed, and was missing three starters in the secondary: cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox, and safety Dwight Lowery.

Rodgers didn’t throw an interception and had a solid 95.7 passer rating, but he was under regular pressure and had only an OK day (a season-low 186 yards passing, two sacks and a crucial lost fumble).

The Packers’ longest play from scrimmage was a 31-yard pass to Jones, and that was one of only two plays of 20 yards or more. Jones had seven receptions but only an 11.1-yard average, and Cobb had five catches for a 5.6-yard average.

Coach Mike McCarthy prefers a fast tempo, playing primarily a no-huddle offense, but he went back to mostly huddling after Rodgers took several hard shots in the first half.

“We have to keep our quarterback upright and let him play to the level he can play,” Finley said. “If we do that, this (Jaguars) team would have been put away a long time ago. Not blaming it on the line, it’s all 11 guys on the field.”

For the third straight game, McCarthy stuck with the run to balance his offense even though halfback Alex Green wasn’t producing much. Green had 22 carries, giving him three straight games with at least 20 rushes. But the Jaguars held him to an average of only 2.5 yards, and the Packers never made them pay for keeping both safeties back most of the game.

“First impression right now, we tried to run the ball a lot today and weren’t getting very much production,” guard T.J. Lang said in assessing the offense’s play. “It’s tough to sit back there and make plays through the air when they’re dropping seven guys. That’s when you have to be able to run the ball.”

The lack of playmaking on offense kept the Packers from opening a lead and made for a blah atmosphere with the Lambeau crowd out of the game. But coordinator Dom Capers’ defense kept the Jaguars at bay by not allowing a first down in the third quarter (three three-and-outs) and allowing only a field goal on the Jaguars’ lone push into the red zone in the fourth quarter.

“It was quiet out there,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “I don’t know if you guys were out there and heard the same thing, but it was quiet. We just wanted to get the energy pumping in the stadium.”

The difference in the game was Davon House’s blocked punt that Dezman Moses recovered for a touchdown in the second quarter that gave the Packers a 14-3 lead. Before the snap, House moved from a jammer position to left end and was unblocked on his way to punter Bryan Anger. Most incredibly, the Packers had only 10 players on the field on that play.

“Special teams has been the most consistent part of our team so far,” Williams said. “Guys have bought into the system and come in week in and week out. If you see the film, they’re demolishing other teams. You have to give (special teams coach Shawn Slocum) credit, you have to give the guys who are playing all these special teams a lot of credit. Any time you get a score on special teams, it’s big. The chances of winning go up a lot.”

Though the Jaguars put up 341 yards, they lacked a dynamic element to their offense and couldn’t grind the Packers without their best player, injured halfback Maurice Jones-Drew. Second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert, playing with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, passed for 303 yards but seemed to miss as many throws as he made (55.1 completion percentage). His blasé 80.6 rating reflected the Jaguars’ limitations across the board.

“I feel we’ve taken a step as a defense,” Williams said, “but offensively, it’s going to come. The main thing is, if we’re playing like we’re supposed to be at the end of the year, that’s all that matters. I’m glad we’re going through some growing pains like that. Eventually it’s all going to come together, and when it comes together, it’s going to be a good ride.”

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