The Green Bay Packers began their annual quest to bring the Lombardi Trophy home on Sunday, facing a very pesky Jacksonville Jaguars team that many people are predicting to at least sniff the playoffs. After this game, however, the Jaguars are only left smelling the effluence left behind by 53 large sweaty men after a hard fought game in weather conditions usually reserved for people on Naked and Afraid.
If you’re new to the column this season, welcome! I will take you through the players that made the game, one position group at a time. Let’s get started, shall we?
Much like Amish Friendship Bread, it takes time for the Packers offense to become a cohesive, delicious, starchy treat. This is predictable. It’s something that happens year after year. Why it still surprises people is beyond me. This season is no exception, especially since Rodgers and his primary target, Jordy Nelson, haven’t played a meaningful snap together since January 2015. Uptown Funk was still relevant the last time Rodgers and Nelson completed a pass before this game.
It took a while to shake the cobwebs off, but once he did, Rodgers looked great. He completed 20 of 34 passes for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns, with a QBR of 95.1. He even broke out the belt after marching the Packers down the field with efficiency and precision, culminating in a 6 yard touchdown scramble. It was like old times again! I half expected James Jones to use his Jazzy to motor on out for a high five.
The Packers 2nd touchdown went to Nelson on a broken play. Rodgers had a few guys open, but Nelson was sitting in the back of the end zone working on a crossword puzzle, so the ball went to him.
The third touchdown was a reminder that Aaron Rodgers is the best passing quarterback in the league. With a defender draped on his back, Rodgers heaved a 29 yard pass to Davante Adams that defies all logical explanation. A mortal human should not be able to throw a ball that hard, with that much precision. Adams had a cornerback in his girdle, but the ball was delivered in a perfect spot and he caught it on a dive, resulting in the Packers 3rd and final touchdown.
Not everything was gumdrops and tickle fights, however. There were some ugly moments, too. With an opportunity in the 4th quarter to all but ice the game, the Packers had 1st and goal at the Jacksonville 3 yard line. 2 consecutive rushes by Lacy resulted in no gain. Rodgers came to the line, and looking about as confident as a cheeseburger at a Lacy family barbecue, he handed the ball off again, this time to James Starks. Starks quickly ran into his own offensive line, fell down, and Mason Crosby kicked a field goal. After the game, Rodgers admitted that the line thought it was a pass play, and blocked accordingly. He took responsibility for the mistake, and blamed it on miscommunication on his part. Mistakes like these are silly, and the Packers are lucky that they did not lose because of them. But show me that smile again. Don’t waste another minute on your cryin, they are just growing pains. They will improve.
Lacy carried the ball 14 times for 61 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. With the temperature being just a tick under magma with a humidity level of used gym sock, nobody could expect more from the newly almost svelte running back.
Unfortunately, Mike McCarthy seems to be in love with the worst play in the book now that John Kuhn and his 1.5 yard dive are gone. The next time a toss play to Lacy gains anything beyond the line of scrimmage will be the first. It’s the uvula of Packers plays. Nobody knows what it does or why it exists. There are theories, but nobody can prove anything.
I am quick to forgive the toss play after this game, because Lacy provided the catalyst for the Packers second touchdown. After the Jaguars scored a touchdown to put them ahead 10-7 in the second quarter, the Packers took over at their own 25 yard line. The first play was a screen pass to Lacy. Initially it looked like it was going to be blown up, as Lacy was met behind the line of scrimmage by Jaguars safety Jonathan Cyprien. Inertia had different plans, however, and Cyprien bounced off of Lacy like a buttery piece of popcorn. Lacy then rumbled/scampered (scumpered?) for 17 yards. This play provided an emotional boost, and the drive resulted in a touchdown pass to Nelson. The speed and determination Lacy showed was a throwback to his rookie season, and it was fun to watch.
Guess who’s back? Back again? Jordy’s back! Tell some people you care about!
His stats weren’t spectacular, but Nelson did make a nice touchdown catch. Perhaps more importantly, Nelson seemed to not have any ill effects lingering from his ACL injury. He was running routes, improvising when needed, and didn’t seem to have lost any speed. They say that 90% of successfully returning from a torn ACL is 60% psychological, so it was good to see Nelson playing like he never left. Welcome back, Jordy. Eat more gelatin.
Cobb led the team in receiving with 6 receptions totalling 57 yards. He didn’t find the end zone, but his presence in the slot and coming out of the backfield enabled other receivers to make plays. Last year took it’s toll on the entire receiving corps, but perhaps none moreso than Cobb. He had to play outside, which is not a natural position for him, and now it’s back to the way things used to be. It’s going to take some time to get back into a natural rhythm with Rodgers and the rest of the receivers, but this game was a nice baby step in the right direction.
Talk about a tumultuous afternoon. There were a few times Rodgers went his direction, but it looked like Adams saw the last butterfly he needed for his Cub Scout badge. (Is that a thing? I should research these analogies.) After running the opposite direction of a few passes, Adams decided to return to his tried and true method of sending Packers fans to the Flaming Torch and Pitchfork Emporium: he dropped a perfectly placed bomb for a touchdown. It was contested, but the pass was right in his hands before it bounced 10 yards away somehow.
The next drive, Adams maintained his consistency of inconsistency by making one of the nicest touchdown grabs you’ll see this season. Rodgers had Jalen “Mouth of the South” Ramsey riding him like Secretariat, yet managed to fire a bullet directly to Adams’ outstretched hands as he dove into the end zone. It was beautiful, and I can’t wait to slog through 19 more dropped passes to get to the next one.
He played too, I think. Honestly, I’m not sure. I blinked a bunch.
Cook tried. He really did. However, other than drawing a pass interference call, he didn’t do a lot. But it’s clear that Rodgers is drawn to him. Hopefully they develop a gameplan with him for the future.
The defense held the Jaguars to 48 yards rushing on 26 carries. That is 1.8 yards per carry. The defensive line was all over the place making plays. Mike Daniels is a human bulldozer. Add in the solid ILB play of Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan, and Joe Thomas, and the Packers locked TJ Yeldon and Denard Robinson down.
Clay Matthews and Nick Perry both had a sack and 2 tackles for loss. They were both in the pocket all day, and even when they didn’t get to Bortles they disrupted him enough to make him rush throws. Matthews still has beautiful hair.
Rollins will probably want to forget about this game as soon as possible. He was dragged up and down the field like a cardboard cutout until Ladarius Gunter was sent in to replace him. Rollins is a good young player, and there is no reason to believe he won’t get better.
If I had a game ball to give away, it would go to Randall. The kid wins ballgames. He knows how to play the ball, and is not afraid of one on one coverage. Randall not only saved the game by tackling Allen Hurns on 4th and 1 with 30 seconds left, he had 6 tackles and 2 passes defensed. Randall and Ha Ha Clinton Dix are surefire perennial Pro Bowlers.
Even though the Packers defense gave up 300 yards passing and a touchdown through the air, they also took the ball away. More importantly, they did not give up when their backs were up against the wall. Honestly, how many people thought the game was all but over when Jacksonville had the ball deep in Packers territory with less than a minute left?
The Packers defense showed resolve and determination throughout the game. Jacksonville is a good team, and it would not be a surprise to see them knocking on the door of the playoffs. The Packers overcame adversity, mostly of their own making, to win a tough game against an uncommon opponent on the road. The horizon is bright.
The Minnesota Vikings open up their new Swingline Stadium with a prime time showdown on Sunday Night Football. The Packers will be looking to push the envelope and collate a win. Their stadium looks like a stapler, that’s what I’m getting at.
Have a great week, and GO PACK GO!