The Green Bay Packers were without Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings, and it showed. A punchless offense did just enough and the defense held firm in a 24-15 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
The Packers were 15.5-point favorites but were spinning their wheels with a 14-12 lead when they took possession at their 48-yard line with 18 seconds left in the third quarter. After a third-and-1 conversion by Alex Green, Aaron Rodgers went play-action and hit James Jones on a deep crossing route, with a 31-yard catch-and-run to the 11. On second-and-goal, Rodgers hit Donald Driver for a big 4-yard touchdown and a nine-point lead.
The Jaguars answered with a 32-yard field goal by Josh Scobee, cutting the margin to 21-15 with 6:50 remaining, and forced a three-and-out. Jacksonville got to midfield with two big catch-and-runs by Rashad Jennings, but on fourth-and-4, a crossing route to Justin Blackmon failed when Blackmon collided with safety Morgan Burnett.
Trying to run out the clock, Rodgers went deep to Jones on third-and-7, with William Blackmon flagged for pass interference, giving the Packers 38 yards and a first down. The Packers ran the clock down to 28 seconds, when Mason Crosby hit a 25-yard field goal to put the game away.
Green Bay won despite being outgained 341-238.
Green Bay led 14-12 at halftime despite a mostly inept performance. The Packers were outgained 233-91 in the first half, with 69 of those yards coming on their lone touchdown drive. Rodgers’ 20-yard pass to Jermichael Finley set up a 5-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb. On the play, Rodgers patiently moved to his left while being chased by Austen Lane, and Cobb made a nice fingertip catch in the back of the end zone.
The Packers extended it to 14-3 midway through the second quarter when Davon House blocked Bryan Anger’s punt, with the loose ball bouncing and dribbling into the end zone, where it was recovered by Dezman Moses. House, a jammer on the defense’s left side, moved inside well before the snap but wasn’t picked up by the Jaguars’ blockers. It was Green Bay’s first blocked punt since Marcus Wilkins’ against Chicago in 2003 and its first touchdown off a block since Tiger Greene at Minnesota in 1990.
The Jaguars, however, wouldn’t wilt. After settling for a field goal after first-and-goal at the 10, rookie Andre Branch’s sack/strip set up the Jaguars at the 13. On third-and-goal and inches from the end zone, Gabbert went play-action and dumped a pass to backup lineman Guy Whimper, who made a nice grab on a low pass for the touchdown. The Jaguars went for two but failed when first-round pick Justin Blackmon dropped Gabbert’s pass.
The offense’s struggles were so dramatic that coach Mike McCarthy dialed up another special-teams trick play. Midway through the third quarter, McCarthy eschewed a 55-yard field goal attempt by struggling kicker Mason Crosby and motioned into a shotgun formation with punter/field-goal holder Tim Masthay as the quarterback. His long pass to D.J. Williams fluttered incomplete.
No harm was done, and the Packers finally mounted a respectable drive, fueled by 26 yards on a catch by James Jones and a late hit, a 6-yard run by Alex Green with Evan Dietrich-Smith at tight end and an 8-yard by James Starks with Dietrich-Smith at tight end. A 9-yard pass to Jones made it second-and-1 at the 14 but a completion to Randall Cobb went nowhere, Green tripped over Bryan Bulaga on third down and Crosby plunked the right upright from 32 yards.
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