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Monday, Oct. 14, 2013

Packers Defense, Run Game Come Up Big

Looking Pack: Week Six

green bay packers baltimore ravens 2013
Jim Biever / Packers.com
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Despite losing defensive greats Ray Lewis and Ed Reed this offseason, having already lost two games, and Joe Flacco rewarding the team’s six-year/$120M contract with eight interceptions through the first five contests, the Baltimore Ravens are still the reigning Super Bowl champions. Factor in that the team who most recently hoisted the Lombardi Trophy was hosting the Packers Sunday, and the tough week five test was rendered all the more difficult for a Green Bay team without a road win and sans Clay Matthews. Fittingly, the battle in Baltimore came down to “the wire”—with Green Bay’s defensive, special teams and rushing attack proving vital factors in helping the Packers escape the Raven’s nest 19-17 winners.

Similar to the quiet first half of last week’s Packers and Lions game, the first two quarters featured 13 combined punts. Aside from Eddie Lacy racking up 65 yards (of his 120 total rushing yards) early on, the Packers offense struggled—and wasn’t helped when James Jones and Randall Cobb each exited with alarming second quarter injuries. But Green Bay had the better of the two lackluster opening halves, thanks to a defense that managed to hold Baltimore to just 122 yards of offense in the span—including an astonishingly scant 21 rushing yards. The unit also blocked a kick… then bailed John Kuhn out after he’d fumbled the live ball that was the result of said blocked kick with a goal line stand. Best yet, Nick Perry sacked Flacco late in the half, forcing a fumble that was recovered and advanced by Datone Jones which allowed Mason Crosby to extend the Packers lead to 6-0 with his second field goal (in three attempts) in the waning moments of the second quarter.

The defensive heroics spilled into the third quarter, as a Micah Hyde sack forced the eighth Ravens punt. However, Aaron Rodgers (now lacking two of his favorite targets) forced a ball to Jordy Nelson that was easily intercepted the subsequent possession. After the teams traded field goals, Rodgers made good on a 64-yard touchdown strike to Nelson, the Pack’s only touchdown on the afternoon, to widen Green Bay’s lead to 16-3 as the third drew to a close.

The fourth quarter found Flacco turning around a putrid showing to that point and leading Baltimore dangerously close to a comeback win with a pair of touchdown passes to Jacoby Jones and Dallas Clark, respectively. Crosby had managed to sneak his fourth instance of upright splitting between the Ravens TDs, preserving Green Bay’s lead. With Baltimore threatening, the Packers received a kickoff with 2:04—and three Ravens timeouts—remaining. Facing a third and three on Green Bay’s own 21 yard line, Rodgers found the otherwise subdued Jermichael Finley for a 52-yard pass play that put the quarterback over the 300-yard mark and set the game definitively out of reach of the tardy Ravens offense.

It wasn’t a pretty game by any means, but the Packers will take a road win against the defending Super Bowl winner no matter how sloppy it looks. Hopefully the victory wasn’t at the cost of losing Jones or Cobb for any significant amount of time. If so, it’s good to know the running game can be leaned on and the team’s defense should keep things competitive.

 
Player Of The Game (Offense) – Eddie Lacy

Nelson’s four receptions for 113 yards and Green Bay’s lone touchdown deserves mention, if not the honor itself. However, most of his production came on that 64-yard score. Lacy kept the chains moving throughout the game, even when the passing game scuffled. The rookie rusher amassed 120 rushing yards (125 total).
 

Player Of The Game (Defense/Special Teams) – A.J. Hawk
With Brad Jones out, Clay Matthews to miss a month and Robert Francois recently placed on injured reserve, the Packers needed a linebacker to step up Sunday. A.J. Hawk answered the call with a team-leading 10 tackles and three sacks. Nick Perry, who tallied five tackles and a sack, warrants credit too. 


Up next: Hosting the Cleveland Browns at 3:25 on Sunday, Oct. 20.