The Big Plays
It was no surprise that Mike McCarthy chose to defer to the second half after winning the coin toss. The Packers opened with the nickel defense on the field. The Jaguars picked up one first down on straight ahead runs by T.J. Yeldon before meeting disaster three plays later.
On 3rd and 8 from the JAX 31, the Packers went with their dime, making Joe Thomas the only linebacker on the field for the defense. Julius Peppers got his first snap and ran a stunt on the right side of the line with Clay Matthews. Peppers broke free and charged Blake Bortles, forcing Bortles to throw around the 6’6″ defender. The pass was a half step behind Allen Hurns, who bobbled it. Quentin Rollins knocked it away and right to the belly of Thomas. Thomas turned up the far numbers, carrying the football ala Walter Payton. The Packer caravan was clearing the way in front of him, but no one blocked the offensive lineman who dove to strip Thomas from behind. Micah Hyde then did the most Micah Hyde thing in the world and alertly jumped on the loose ball.
The Packers’ offense got to start their first drive of the season from the JAX 29. Facing a 4th and 1 from the 20, MM dialed up Eddie Lacy over the left side as if Josh Sitton had never left. He of the now heavy pockets, David Bakhtiari, and Lane Taylor collapsed the right side of the defensive line while Randall Cobb successfully cut down the defensive end. Lacy easily went for 9 yards, unfortunately allowing the last man back to trip him and save a touchdown. The Packers scored three plays later anyway on a short scramble by Aaron Rodgers. That doesn’t help the QBR, ARod.
The best friend for the Jaguars in the first quarter was the sun. Twice, Hyde lost the ball in it and allowed bouncing punts to push the Packers within yards of their own goal line. The Jaguars capitalized on the first. A Green Bay three and out from their own 3 gave the Jaguars the ball at the Packers’ 48-yard line. On the first play of that possession, the Jaguars faked the end around in one direction and screened to the opposite to their “blocking” tight end Mercedes Lewis. Rollins was the only defender with a chance to stop it. He whiffed. Lewis went down the sideline for 37 yards. The Jaguars punched it in two plays later to tie the game at 7.
After an exchange of three and outs, the Jaguars took advantage of another lost punt in the sun, forced a three and out from the Packers deep within their own territory, and got to start again near midfield. On that possession, the Jaguars were all too content to take the lead with a field goal, settling for a dump pass on 3rd and long. That would temporarily put the Jaguars out in front at 10-7.
The Packers would take that next kickoff and use the no huddle offense to go 75 yards in nine plays. Jordy Nelson would get three catches in the drive, including the touchdown on a brilliant play by Rodgers. The highlight of the drive would be a screen to Lacy where he broke free of a tackle attempt in the backfield and then raced up the sideline for 17 yards before getting somersaulted.
It would take less than two minutes for the Jaguars to respond. The 75-yard touchdown drive would be mostly the work of two passes against Quentin Rollins. On the first, Allen Hurns used a stutter and go to run right by Rollins and up the sideline for 3o yards. On the following 3rd and 10, Bortles would hit Julius Thomas with a perfect pass on the go route, good enough for a 22-yard TD.
With only 1:09 left in the half, the Packers would sprint down the field again to take the lead into the locker room. A hope to get a field goal turned into a realistic chance for a touchdown when a questionable pass interference call on the first play gave the Packers 30 quick yards. Four plays later, Rodgers launched one for the end zone while being pulled down from behind by the blitzing Jalen Ramsey. Amazingly, Davante Adams came up with the catch. It would be a 29-yard touchdown and hopefully not the best play we’ll see all season.
Considering the Packers and Jaguars would both score six points in the second half, one could easily say the score before half, and the improbable Rodgers-Adams hookup was the difference in the game.
The Packers got 10 points out of the consecutive possessions before and after halftime when they drove 67 yards on their first possession of the second half. Thirty two of those yards were gained on a scramble by Rodgers where he found a wide open Randall Cobb. Only the fact that he bobbled the pass stopped Cobb from jogging in for an easy touchdown. The resulting field goal would stretch the Packers lead to 24-17.
The Packers replaced Rollins with LaDarius Gunter to start the second half. On 3rd and 7 from the JAX 28, Hurns burned Gunter from the slot with an out and up that was good for 38 yards. The Jaguars would follow with a field goal of their own.
The Packers would respond to that with a 17-play drive to the Jaguars’ 2. The highlight of the drive was a 28-yard run by Lacy where the Packers offensive line and an over-pursuing Jaguars defense opened a huge running lane. Lacy set the safety up with an early move and ran right by him for 28 yards. The short field goal by Crosby made the score 27-20.
The Jaguars’ following 13-play drive would get them closer at 27-23, but it would also run the clock down to five minutes remaining. With a chance to run the clock out, the Packers offense got nowhere close and embarrassed themselves in going three and out. The Jaguars would have their shot to win the game, but this time they would have to get into the end zone.
That was a real possibility until the Jags ran into 4th and 1 from the Packers’ 14. Blake Bortles had a run-pass option. He switched to the quick pass when he saw the Packers blitzing seven. There were no safeties behind Micah Hyde or Damarious Randall split out wide to the right. If the play got behind them, the Jaguars win. Randall reacted so quickly to the quick pass that the play was doomed. If Randall waited for Hurns to get to him, Hurns gets a first down easy. Instead, Randall ran up into the backfield and hit Hurns behind the line of scrimmage. Even though Hurns was able to spin away from Randall, it was too late. Morgan Burnett and Joe Thomas came in to mop up.
Ironically, after converting three fourth downs in the game, it was a 4th and 1 that would end it for the Jaguars.
STARS of the GAME
- A — Damarious Randall
- A — Joe Thomas
- A — David Bakhtiari
- B+ — Aaron Rodgers
- B — Datone Jones/Nick Perry
- B — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
- D- — Quentin Rollins