It was far from a perfect game by Green Bay, but the Packers did just enough to emerge with a 27-23 victory over the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars to open the 2016 season.
Green Bay was clinging to just a four-point lead as the Jaguars marched deep into Packer territory. The defense nearly ended the game twice with turnovers, but a Ha Ha Clinton-Dix interception was negated by a penalty and Allen Robinson was able to recover his own fumble. But on a 4th and 1 play from the 15-yard line, Damarious Randall tackled Allen Hurns behind the line of scrimmage to seal the victory for Green Bay.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 199 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns (two passing and one rushing), Eddie Lacy looked good rushing for 61 yards on 14 carries, and Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams each caught a touchdown in the Week 1 win.
The game started about as well as it could have for Green Bay. The defense forced an interception by Blake Bortles on Jacksonville’s first possession, and just six plays later Rodgers scrambled for a six-yard touchdown run for the Packers’ first points of the new year.
But the Green Bay offense got into a bit of a funk after that. Pinned deep by a pair of excellent punts by Jaguars’ punter Brad Nortman, the Packers put together three consecutive three-and-out drives. Over that stretch, the Jaguars were able to find a rhythm and take the lead over Green Bay.
Jacksonville got on the board late in the first quarter after the Green Bay defense got burned on a 37-yard screen play to tight end Marcedes Lewis. Two plays later, running back T.J. Yeldon (21 carries, 39 yards) ran it in for a touchdown. A 26-yard field goal two drives later gave the Jaguars a 10-7 lead.
Then the Packers offense started to click. A nine-play, 75-yard drive resulted in a Green Bay touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, his first score since tearing his ACL in the 2015 preseason. After Jacksonville responded with a 75-yard drive of their own, capped off by a 22-yard strike from Bortles to Julius Thomas, Rodgers was able to lead the two-minute offense down the field again.
The two-time MVP lofted a perfect pass to Davante Adams while being dragged to the ground under heavy pressure for a 29-yard touchdown and a 21-17 halftime lead. The offense remained efficient to start the second half, but was unable to finish drives. Rodgers led drives of 13 and 16 plays in the third quarter, but both ended in short field goals by Mason Crosby.
The Jaguars’ high-powered offense was also limited to just two field goals in the second half before the Packers’ defense came up with the huge fourth down stop to end the game.
It was Green Bay’s pass defense that was the cause for concern against Jacksonville. Quinten Rollins was burned badly a couple times in the game, and it seemed like the Packers just could not make the plays to get off the field. All three of the Jaguars’ second-half drives were at least 10 plays, and Jacksonville converted was 3/4 on fourth down conversions on the day.
The Packers offense, while effective and efficient at times, was also very inconsistent. Green Bay came away with points on five of its 10 drives, but also had four separate three-and-outs.
But despite some issues, Green Bay emerged with a Week 1 victory for the second straight year. The Packers should adapt, and there were a number of positives to take away from the game as well.
The team converted 7 of 14 third downs and was successful on its only fourth down attempt. Green Bay’s pass rush sacked Bortles three times—one each from Clay Matthews, Morgan Burnett and Nick Perry—while the Packers’ line only gave up a single sack in the game. The Packers also limited the Jaguars to a mere 1.8 yards per carry, and played a turnover-free football game.
While the game went down to the wire, it still showed the potential that the Packers have this season. The team played a relatively clean game and can improve with only a few adjustments. Either way, the most important thing is that Green Bay is 1-0 and is on to Minnesota for the inaugural game at the Vikings’ new stadium.——————
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 .