GREEN BAY, Wis. — The standings
say the Green Bay Packers are in good shape for the playoffs. But
Monday night’s victory over the Baltimore Ravens showed they still have
some work to do to be taken seriously once they get there.
Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown
passes, including two to tight end Jermichael Finley, and the Packers
beat the Ravens 27-14 in a penalty-filled game Monday night.
It was the fourth straight win for
the Packers (8-4), solidifying their spot in the NFC wild-card race.
But it certainly wasn’t pretty.
The teams committed 23 penalties for 310 yards, tying for the second-highest yardage total in an NFL game.
The Ravens (6-6) struggled in coverage without star safety Ed Reed, who sat out with hip and ankle injuries.
Baltimore was called for five pass
interference penalties, the most by a team in a single game since the
New York Giants in 2001. The Packers were flagged four times for pass
Rodgers was 26-of-40 for 263 yards with two interceptions, only his sixth and seventh of the season.
While Reed’s replacement, Tom Zbikowski, came up with one of the interceptions, the Ravens struggled in coverage.
Baltimore’s Joe Flacco was 15-of-36 for 137 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. The Packers sacked him three times.
The win is a continuation of a
significant momentum swing for the Packers, who were 4-4 after looking
bad in back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Tampa Bay in early November
but haven’t lost since.
They’ve worked out some of their
pass protection problems — Rodgers was sacked only once Monday night —
and their defense appears to be getting more comfortable in the 3-4
scheme installed by defensive coordinator Dom Capers in the offseason.
Leading 17-0 at halftime and
seemingly cruising, the Packers suddenly found themselves scrambling
after a pair of turnovers, both involving Donald Driver, allowed
Baltimore to get back in the game.
The Packers were driving on their
first possession of the second half when Driver caught a pass in Ravens
territory and fumbled as he turned to run upfield. Former Packers
defensive back Frank Walker recovered, giving the ball back to the
Ravens at their own 29.
Flacco drove the Ravens to the Green
Bay 12, where he faced third-and-seven. Given a free play after defensive
lineman Johnny Jolly jumped offside, Flacco found Kelley Washington in
the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Washington tried to do a
“Lambeau leap,” but fans pushed him out of the stands.
The play was upheld on a replay review, cutting the Packers’ lead to 17-7.
After the Packers nearly fumbled the
ensuing kickoff, Rodgers watched as his first pass of the next
possession bounced off Driver’s leg and into the arms of linebacker
Jarret Johnson, giving the ball back to Baltimore at the Green Bay 42.
Flacco went deep, drawing pass
interference on Packers cornerback Tramon Williams. Willis McGahee
scored on a 1-yard touchdown run two plays later, cutting the lead to
17-14 in the third quarter.
The Packers drove to the Baltimore
17 thanks in large part to a 15-yard face mask penalty by Ray Lewis on
Greg Jennings, but the Packers were pushed back by a holding penalty on
right tackle Mark Tauscher and the Packers had to settle for a field
goal — but Mason Crosby missed from 38 yards.
Flacco then threw deep downfield to
Derrick Mason, who caught the ball but was called for offensive pass
interference against Charles Woodson. Mason compounded the problem by
drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty afterward, and the Ravens
had to punt from their own 9-yard line.
The Packers got the ball back at the
Baltimore 49, and Rodgers threw to Korey Hall and Driver for first
downs before finding Finley for a 19-yard touchdown pass and a 24-14
lead with 10:31 remaining.
But Lardarius Webb ran the ensuing
kickoff 68 yards — another special-teams meltdown for a Packers team
prone to giving up big returns — and Tramon Williams was called for
But Williams recovered two plays
later, picking off Flacco in the end zone to give the ball back to the
Packers and preserve the lead.
A.J. Hawk then picked off another Flacco pass, and the Packers drove for a 32-yard field goal by Crosby to seal the victory.
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