EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The bulk of the questions posed to Green Bay Packers interim head coach Joe Philbin all week were about what he expected from his team against the New York Jets. Mainly, would a locker room with nothing to play for play for something? Philbin said he expected a professional effort and felt the locker room had the leadership to make sure the work week went well. Aaron Rodgers was going to play, as would anyone who was healthy enough to. By Friday, Philbin said the energy in practices was good.
And the Packers proved Philbin correct with their effort and willingness to fight in a 44-38 overtime victory Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The Packers came back from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit and took a 38-35 lead before the Jets used a 51-yard kick return to set up the game-tying field goal in the final seconds of regulation. The Packers then took the ball first in overtime and, with the help of a 33-yard pass interference penalty by the Jets, went 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
The Jets had leads of 14-0, 21-7 and 35-20 before Rodgers directed three, fourth-quarter scoring drives to take a 38-35 lead with 72 seconds left. They capped it with the 75-yard scoring drive to win the game on a 16-yard pass from Rodgers to Davante Adams.
Here are five takeaways:
Special teams breakdown
When a team has a losing record it usually means the same issues never get corrected and that has been the case for the Packers’ special teams unit. Tony Brown lined up offside on a point after attempt, Jake Kumerow held to negate a strong return by J’Mon Moore and then Andre Roberts had an unobstructed 99-yard kick return for a touchdown – all in the first half. The Packers’ third phase has been inconsistent at best this year, poor at worst. It continued Sunday. Moore then fumbled early in the second half by carrying the ball too loosely in his left arm, giving the ball up at his own 18. Two plays later, the Jets scored to go up 35-20.
Then, with about four minutes left and the Packers needing a stop to get Rodgers the ball back with a chance to win the game, the Jets converted on a fake punt with a direct snap for four yards. Then with a minute left and after taking a 38-35 lead, the Packers allowed a 51-yard kick return to Roberts to set up the Jets’ final scoring drive that sent the game to overtime.
Offense puts it together
Nothing like saving the best for (nearly) the last. The Packers put together their best offensive effort of the season in scoring a season-high 44 points. Running back Jamaal Williams averaged 6.3 yards per rush in regulation. Rodgers was nimble and scrambled for key first downs and threw for over 400 yards. Davante Adams caught double-digit passes. Nine different Packers caught a ball. They were effective on third down. They scored 30 points for just the fourth time all season and their 38 points in regulation were a season high. Mason Crosby was perfect on his kicks.
Jamaal Williams gets his chance
Considered the “other” second-year running back this year after Aaron Jones established himself as one of the more dynamic playmakers in the league, Jamaal Williams was more than ready to prove he’s got some explosion as well. He showed a snippet of it on a 20-yard touchdown run against Chicago and then on Sunday in New Jersey he flashed speed-to-power with strong runs of 19, 13 and 15 yards and a 7-yard touchdown run. He once again showed soft hands and strong pass blocking skills. Drafted a round ahead of Jones in 2017, Williams touched the ball 21 times for 156 yards (7.4 yards per touch) and put together a second straight productive week as the Packers’ lead back.
Kumerow’s feel-good moment
The 26-year-old University of Wisconsin-Whitewater alumnus was a training camp sensation who spent the first half of the season on injured reserve, and he’s been worked into the Packers' offense the last three weeks. He earned the start Sunday and with 5:14 to go in the first half, he ran a clean route and took advantage of a busted Jets coverage for his first career touchdown, a 49-yard pass from Rodgers. Kumerow entered the NFL in 2015 and had bounced around the Cincinnati, New England and Green Bay practice squads before making the 53-man roster this season.
Packers starters sidelined
The talk all week was about whether to play Rodgers on Sunday out of fear of injury, but two other starters were knocked from the game with injuries. Left guard Lane Taylor injured a knee early in the game and did not return. Then, corner Jaire Alexander was tasked with trailing the Jets’ No. 1 wide receiver Robby Anderson to start the game and something didn’t look quite right, as Anderson got the best of the Packers’ rookie corner early. And then two plays into the second quarter – after Anderson caught another pass on him – Alexander took himself out of the game. It was revealed he suffered a groin injury and was out for the game. Alexander missed two games earlier in the year with a groin injury. Late in the game, receiver Equanimeous St. Brown was hit in the head by Jets safety Darryl Roberts, sending him to the locker room. Reserve defensive lineman Fadol Brown (toe) was also lost for the game.