The Green Bay Packers maintained their one game lead in the NFC North by defeating the Oakland Raiders 30-20 to move to 10-4 on the season.
Green Bay had already secured its playoff berth thanks to the Panthers’ victory over the Giants earlier in the day, but the team made sure it also kept its slight edge over the Vikings in the division.
The offense turned in yet another less-than-stellar performance in both the passing and running games. At the end of the game, the Packers had managed just 293 total yards and only 190 net yards through the air. A week after totaling 230 yards on the ground, the team’s highest total in over a decade, Green Bay ran for just 103 against the Raiders.
But despite the inefficiencies, numerous drops from the receiving corps, and a few late miscues, the Packers did enough to come away with their fourth victory in their last five games.
The Green Bay defense got off to a blistering start that looked to bury the Raiders early. On Oakland’s second possession, quarterback Derek Carr was picked off by Micah Hyde who returned the interception to the Raiders’ two yard line. An unsportsmanlike penalty moved Green Bay back fifteen yards, but fullback John Kuhn bulldozed his way into the endzone four plays later to give the Packers a 7-0 lead.
On the very first play of Oakland’s next drive, Carr was intercepted again. This time it was rookie cornerback Damarious Randall who came away with the ball, who returned it 43 yards for another Packers’ touchdown.
The defense allowed Green Bay to jump out to a quick 14-0 advantage, but the offense was unable to extend the lead and the defense let Oakland slowly chip away at the Packers’ lead. Following Carr’s second interception, he led the Raiders on two 10-play drives that both ended in Sebastian Janikowski field goals, cutting their deficit to 14-6.
After Packers running back James Starks fumbled late in the second quarter, the Raiders offense traveled 79 yards in just over a minute, capped off by a 19-yard touchdown reception by Amari Cooper. Heading into halftime, the Packers were now clinging to a 14-13 lead.
Mason Crosby connected on a short field goal on Green Bay’s first possession of the second half, but Oakland responded on its ensuing drive after Carr found Cooper again for a 26-yard score to give the Raiders a 20-17 lead.
Despite the Packers’ struggles offensively, they took advantage of an Oakland miscue to ensure that the Raiders’ time in front was short-lived. Using just three plays to go 53 yards, Aaron Rodgers connected with James Jones for a 30-yard score after the Raiders’ secondary left Jones uncovered.
Green Bay added two more field goals to extend its lead to 30-20, one of which came on the Packers’ longest drive of the season in both yards (92) and plays (19). A sloppy end of the game for both teams, including three turnovers on downs for the Raiders and a red zone interception and blocked field goal for the Packers, finally concluded with the Packers improving to 10-4 and the Raiders falling to 6-8.
Rodgers finished the game completing 22/39 passes for 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception. James Jones led the receivers with six catches and 82 yards, while James Starks rushed for a team-high 51 yards on nine carries. The Packers’ offense was just 4/13 on third down and was scored just one touchdown in five red zone trips.
Yet again it was largely the defense that allowed the Packers to come away with a victory. The two first quarter interceptions gave the team an early lead, Carr completed just 49 percent of his passes, and running back Latavius Murray averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. Julius Peppers had his best game of the season, bringing down Carr 2.5 times to extend his team lead in sacks.
The biggest issue for the Green Bay defense was containing Cooper, who ended the game with six receptions, 120 receiving yards, and two scores.
The game was far from perfect on either side of the ball for the Packers, but the team did just enough to win once again. There were moments where the team looked sharp, such as the 19-play, 92-yard scoring drive, and others when decision making seemed poor, like passing the ball with a ten-point lead and just two minutes left.
Either way, the Packers can rest a little easier knowing they have secured a berth in the postseason. Their 10-4 record keeps them atop the division, where they control their own destiny in regards to whether they retain the NFC North crown. Next week will be a serious litmus test to see if the Packers have what it takes to make a run in the playoffs, as Green Bay travels to Arizona to face the Cardinals, the number two seed in the NFC.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .