by Troy Sparks
Green Bay – Back at Lambeau Field for some home cooking after being away for three weeks, Green Bay felt comfortable in familiar surroundings. They faced a hungry Jacksonville team that really had nothing to lose and waiting for them in the first of two straight home contests.
The Packers had to be careful not to take the Jaguars for granted. They were favored to win the Oct. 28 game by double digits. A 4-3 Green Bay squad could’ve looked at a 1-5 Jacksonville team and thought it was a trap game on the schedule. Those are the type of games that a losing team might win over a winning team. Green Bay already lost a trap game this year. Just ask them what happened in Indianapolis when they were supposed to roll over the Colts only to lose 30-27 after leading 21-3 at halftime.
The Jaguars didn’t do much damage in the first quarter with a field goal by Josh Scobee because the Packers came back with a touchdown on a pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to receiver Randall Cobb. Their special teams put another TD on the board with a block punt of Bryan Anger of Jacksonville to give Green Bay a 14-3 lead in the first half.
Anger should’ve been angry that his punt team let cornerback Davon House block the kick. The ball rolled into the end zone and linebacker Dezman Moses fell on it for a Green Bay score. Marcus Wilkins was the last Green Bay player to block a punt in 2003 at Chicago. Tiger Greene was the last Packer to score from a block punt in 1990 at Minnesota.
And just when the Packers thought they had a comfortable halftime margin in the bag, the Jaguars came roaring back with a field goal from Scobee and then a forced fumble by defensive end Andre Branch of Rodgers at the Green Bay 13-yard line late in the half. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s pass to offensive tackle Guy Whimper minus the failed two-point conversion pulled the Jaguars within 2 points at 14-12.
You knew what Packer Nation was thinking. You wondered how the Pack defeated the best team in the AFC in the Houston Texans at their place and fell flat to the worst team in the AFC in Jacksonville at home in the first half. There was another half to go before anybody knew if the green and gold would prevail or fail. Green Bay’s 91 first half yards on 26 plays was nothing to write home about.
The third quarter was no better for the Packers. Rodgers lost the ball when he scrambled and carried the ball like a loaf of bread. His receivers couldn’t catch the ball half the time. An opportunity to put three points on the board was missed when Mason Crosby’s 32-yard field goal kick hit the right crossbar with 1 minute 25 seconds left in the quarter. It was time for the Packers to sink or swim.
“When I hit the ball, it felt good coming off my foot,” Crosby said. “It looked like it was going to go straight, but it just jumped to the right. It’s weird. I evaluated it and obviously we moved on. I knew that I was going to have another opportunity to hit the ball, regardless of the situation. I just knew that I had to stay ready for that next opportunity.”
Said head coach Mike McCarthy, “A miss is a miss; you make it, you make it. That’s the game of football, and it goes that way sometimes. There was a change in the wind. In the stadium, I think (special teams coach) Shawn (Slocum), Mason and (punter) Tim (Mastay) have done a very good job coming up (to Lambeau Field) throughout the week and looking at the different weather patterns in the south end zone and things like that. That’s part of it. I couldn’t tell you (what happened). I didn’t talk to Shawn or Mason after the (missed) kick, whether it was hit or so forth. I know that Mason expects to make that kick.”
Donald Driver saved the day. He’s not in the team’s game plan, but the veteran receiver came through in the clutch. Rodgers found him for a 4-yard TD early in the fourth quarter. It was Rodgers’ 153rd career scoring pass, moving him past Bart Starr (152) for second place in franchise history and 289 behind you-know-who. At that point, it was 21-12, Green Bay.
“He’s going to make the most of his opportunities,” Rodgers said of Driver. “Donald’s been around for a while, knows how to run his routes, knows how to get open. We know what we get out of Donald. We know what kind of player he is, what kind of professional he is. And when he gets opportunities, he will make the most of them.”
After Jacksonville got a 32-yarder from Scobee, Crosby completed the scoring with a 25-yard chip shot as the Pack survived with a 24-15 win. It wasn’t pretty, but in the NFL, a win is a win. That spoke volumes, despite being without key starters on offense and defense. McCarthy commented on the effectiveness of the game without Charles Woodson, John Kuhn, Sam Shields, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, who were injured and inactive for the game.
“Our inactive list is something that we can’t control,” he said. “Every one of those guys on the inactive list are not only good players but they’re very experienced. That’s what good teams do. You win games and you pick up for one another when the efficiency isn’t quite where you want it to be.”
Like McCarthy said, a win is a win. The Packers are 5-3, but they are still behind the Chicago Bears in the NFC North. The Arizona Cardinals won’t be a cakewalk for Green Bay, but it’s important for the team to get their sixth win of the season when the two teams battle on Nov. 4 at Lambeau. It will be a good feeling for the Packers entering their bye the week of Nov. 11.