Key to the game
Losing Charles Woodson the defensive back was one thing. Losing his leadership was another.
On Sunday, at least, the Green Bay Packers' defense showed some encouraging signs in a 24-15 victory over Jacksonville. With the team struggling to a 14-12 halftime lead, it was the defense that put the game upon its shoulders.
"We went out and did exactly what we had to do," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "I don't think it was a question that we were going to go out and play well the second half when the guys came out of this locker room. I felt that we needed the energy out there. The energy was flat out there in the first half. Any time you're going like that, the game's probably not going that well for you. We wanted to get out there and get the crowd into the game. It was quiet out there. We just needed to get the energy pumping in the stadium. We know how we can play and I think we showed flashes of that."
The difference was night and day.
Entering Sunday, Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert's career day in passing was 260 yards. In 21 career games, Gabbert had topped 200 yards just four times.
On Sunday, Gabbert threw for 303 yards. Of those, 195 came by halftime. The Packers would have been in deep trouble if not for Brad Jones poking the ball away from running back Rashad Jennings for the defense's first fumble recovery of the season and a red-zone stop after the Jaguars had first-and-goal at the 10.
Green Bay held Jacksonville to 108 yards and 1-of-7 on third down. After averaging 13.9 yards per completion in the first half, the Packers limited him to 8.3 yards in the second half.
It's just what the Packers needed, and it was another step forward for a defense that's trying to find its way after last year's debacle and this year's key injuries.
"As a defense, we want them to be able to count on us, for sure," linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "For whatever reason, when things aren't going their way as an offense, we want them to put it on our shoulders. We like it. We look at it as an opportunity where we want to help win the game as a defense."
12: Plays of 15-plus yards by Jacksonville's offense.
4: Plays of 15-plus yards by Green Bay's offense.
2.4: Alex Green's rushing average in his three starts in place of Benson.
3.7: Yards per play by Green Bay's offense. The Packers entered the day ranked 15th with 5.5 yards per play.
4: Series without a first down by Jacksonville out of six second-half possessions.
4: Missed field goals by Mason Crosby this season, matching last year's total.
5.31: Average yards per attempt by Rodgers. That's the third-lowest figure as a starter (4.18 in injury-shortened game at Detroit in 2010, 5.00 in 2010 win at Jets and 5.25 in 2009 win over Dallas).
8: Preferred Packers starters out with injuries: receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, running back Cedric Benson, fullback John Kuhn, outside linebacker Nick Perry, inside linebacker Desmond Bishop/D.J. Williams, defensive back Charles Woodson and cornerback Sam Shields.
33: Consecutive home games with a touchdown pass by Rodgers, the NFL's longest streak since Dan Marino's 39 from 1983 through 1988.
62: Playing in his 200th career game, Donald Driver scored his 62nd career touchdown. That's tied with Paul Hornung for fifth in franchise history.
238: Yards by the Packers. That's their fewest since posting 237 at the Jets in a 9-0 win on Oct. 31, 2010.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.