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Offense comes through despite missing weapons

WRs Jones, Cobb are sidelined by injuries in first half

Jan. 6, 2014
 

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Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson celebrates with teammate Johnny Jolly after his 64-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

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BALTIMORE Five minutes into Sunday's game against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers lost one of their Big Three receivers to a leg injury. It wasn't even halftime before another one was knocked out of the game with a knee injury.

Things looked bleak for an offense that sputtered in the first half: 1-for-9 on third downs, 10-of-21 passing and a paltry 6 points.

James Jones entered the game with a team-high 17.8-yard average per reception but exited on the Packers' eighth play from scrimmage, the victim of a knee injury while blocking on a running play. Randall Cobb, whose 403 total yards from scrimmage led the Packers through their first four games, went to the sideline for good after catching a 15-yard pass and sustaining an injury when rookie safety Matt Elam hit him low on the right knee.

Jarrett Boykin, the next man up in the receiving corps, appeared to have trouble running his routes and had three straight misfires with quarterback Aaron Rodgers after replacing Jones. And with only four receivers on the roster, gone was the ability to run their standard three-receiver offense when Cobb went down.

But after Rodgers threw a rare interception to start the second half, the Packers awoke from their offensive slumber, scoring on their next three possessions to hold off a furious Ravens comeback attempt and get their first road victory of the season, 19-17.

They did it with one big passing play on each of their final four possessions, complemented by a pounding running game from rookie Eddie Lacy.

"You've got to give a lot of credit to Aaron Rodgers once again," coach Mike McCarthy said. "There were a number of things that were just totally out of our preparation for this week that he managed seamlessly at the line of scrimmage. We were able to stay in pretty good plays and try to get after an outstanding defense."

Following his second-half interception, Rodgers rallied to complete six of his final nine passes. The first of those was a quick screen to Boykin, who found some redemption by racing 43 yards to help set up a 50-yard Mason Crosby field goal.

"Boyk made a huge play for us," Jordy Nelson said. "I know he was upset about the one early, but he can't forget about the one he made. That was so huge for us, and he pretty much did it all by himself for us, quick throw and he made a bunch of guys miss."

On the Packers' next drive, Rodgers hit a wide-open Nelson for a 64-yard touchdown pass and a 16-3 lead.

"It was the perfect call and as usual Aaron made a great ball fake and sold it," Nelson said. "My guy was playing me on the outside. I saw him hesitate and just blew by him to the post. Great call, great throw, great play."

Big play No. 3 of the second half came on the next possession, when Rodgers hit Jermichael Finley with a short pass that the tight end turned into a 19-yard gain and set up Crosby's 31-yard field goal for a 19-10 lead.

And the biggest play of the final drive came when Rodgers connected with Finley on a 52-yard pass play to the Baltimore 21. The Ravens had the momentum after cutting the lead to 19-17. But Finley's catch-and-run over the middle and Lacy's run for 4yards three plays later on third-and-2 put the game on ice.

"I'm very proud of the football team. I'm very proud of Eddie," McCarthy said. "I thought Eddie did an excellent job of staying patient, really driving his back foot and falling forward just to ice the game. Our offensive line wanted the ball at the end of the game, and we gave it to 'em and Eddie Lacy finished it."

Lacy had a big impact on Green Bay's final two drives: a 12-play, 72-yarder with Lacy rushing six times for 31 yards, and the game-clinching possession with Lacy carrying four times for 13 yards.

He finished with the first 100-yard game of his career, gaining 120 on 23 carries.

"He's a hard runner, he's tough," Ravens safety James Ihedigbo said. "I hit him a couple of times and he barely moved. He's definitely a physical player."

Now the Packers will wait to see how severe the injuries are to Jones and Cobb. But on Sunday, Rodgers sounded like a man who was happy to live in the moment.

"If you ever question how much you love this game, that feeling we had in the locker room, those are the moments 20 years you can look back and remember," he said, "probably not the score or the stats or the final drive, but those times with your teammates.

"When you contrast that with the difficulty of losing a guy like James Jones and Randall Cobb on what was a questionable play on the hit on Randall those are frustrating things for us. But guys have stepped up in a leadership role and I'm proud of them."

rzizzo@pressgazettemedia.com or follow him on Twitter @robertzizzo.

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