It was far from pretty–but the end result is all that mattered yesterday afternoon at Lambeau Field–as the Green Bay Packers came back to defeat the New York Jets 31-24. The Packers came back from a 21-3 deficit in the first quarter, which is the fourth largest comeback in Green Bay’s history and Aaron Rodgers’ largest of his career.
It took some luck and stupidity from the Jets with Muhammad Wilkerson getting throwing out of the game for punching and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg calling timeout to negate what would have been a 37-yard game tying touchdown catch by Jeremy Kerley. However, the Packers will take whatever had to happen for them to avoid going 0-2.
Rodgers recovered from a shaky first quarter to lead the comeback. He completed 25 of his 42 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns, including an 80-yard touchdown on play action to Jordy Nelson that turned out to be the game winning score. He was not his normal accurate self but took more chances down the field with a solid 8.2 YPA. Nelson was the real star of the show, as he caught nine balls for 209 yards and a touchdown.
“Well, pretty impressive. Take it for granted sometimes. He’s not a big ‘me’ guy … so he kind of gets overlooked sometimes,” Rodgers said about Nelson. “We know the kind of player he is.”
The game started as inauspiciously as possible for the Packers with Rodgers fumbling the opening snap from Corey Linsley and the Jets recovering. The Packers were looking to get off the field on third-and-11, but Geno Smith found a wide open Kerley for 13 yards. Smith eventually scored on a one yard rush to put the Jets ahead 7-0 very early.
The next drive did not go any better for the Packers with Rodgers getting sacked by Quinton Coples and Demario Davis. Derrick Sherrod failed to wall off Coples when Rodgers tried to escape the pocket, but that was the only sack he allowed the whole game.
Green Bay’s defense allowed the Jets to go right down the field ending with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Eric Decker to Sam Shields on a double move–which has been Shields’ nemesis for awhile.
Rodgers continued to look off when on the ensuing drive he missed Nelson on a slant route that would have resulted in a touchdown and instead forced a Mason Crosby field goal. The Jets responded with a 17-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended in a Chris Ivory 4-yard rushing touchdown and took over eight minutes off the clock.
The Packers’ season was hanging in the balance at this point. Yes, they would have been only a game behind in the division at 0-2, but getting blown out by a mediocre team in your home opener would suggest major problems on the horizon. However, the tide started to turn slowly but surely.
Mike McCarthy did not have his best day as Packers coach at all, but credit him for his patience in the first half. Most fans on Twitter were screaming for him to go for it multiple times when he trotted Mason Crosby out for field goals. It was too early for desperate measures, and if the defense wasn’t going to get stops they were not going to come back either way.
After a 55-yard field goal by Crosby made the score 21-9 McCarthy went for an ill advised onsides kick and the Jets recovered at their own 48-yard line. It was wrong not because it didn’t work, but because the defense was finally starting to get its act together, and with 3:12 remaining there was enough time to get the ball back to score again before the half.
Mike Daniels made sure that it did not come back to haunt McCarthy. Daniels–who was coming off a poor performance in Seattle–hit Smith as he attempted a pass down the right sideline and the fluttering ball was intercepted by Tramon Williams. Daniels was the best player on the Green Bay defense all afternoon.
Rodgers really got in rhythm after that with an amazing 97-yard touchdown drive drive in only 1:44 that gave Green Bay huge momentum going into halftime. The drive ended with a 6-yard Randall Cobb touchdown catch, but Davante Adams came up huge with two catches for 32 yards. Adams took over for the benched Jarrett Boykin and played so well that he seems unlikely to give the third wide receiver spot back to him.
Rex Ryan got too greedy with his blitzes on the drive. He got impatient and could not help himself, as he was sending pressure from every which way. Rodgers was able to read them, get the ball out quickly and find the open receivers. Blitzing him is just not the way to go because Rodgers is too smart, and blitzing and not getting there allows him to take his shots down field.
The second half was all Packers, as they outscored the Jets 15-3. They failed to put the Jets away like you would want, but performed well nonetheless. The defense got two consecutive stops before the Packers went on an eight play, 67-yard touchdown drive that ended in a Cobb 1-yard touchdown catch.
After Nick Folk tied the game at 24 with a 52-yard field goal it only took Rodgers and Nelson one play to get the lead back. It was the patented Nelson post off a Rodgers play action that we have seen so many times. Nelson burned Jets cornerback Dee Milliner and Rodgers hit him right in stride for the 80-yard touchdown.
The offense stalled out afterwards with Rodgers holding the ball too long on a few occasions, but the defense stepped up–albeit with help. Who knows if some Packers really heard the whistle and stopped playing on the would have been 37-yard touchdown to Kerley, but it was not a good look either way. On fourth-and-eight the next play they forced Smith to throw into double coverage in the end zone and Shields broke it up. That essentially ended the game with the Jets out of timeouts.
After people had defensive coordinator Dom Capers fired at the end of the first quarter his defense responded like it should against a mediocre offense. The Jets tailed 21 points and 180 yards on their first three drives and only three points and 132 yards on their next nine drives. If the defense wants to show that it was not a fluke then they will have to go to Detroit next week where they got embarrassed last year and contain a high powered offense on their turf.
A win like this can propel the Packers forward as they go to Detroit. Will the Packers of the first quarter show up or the Packers of the last three quarters? We will find out a lot about this team next week.