The Green Bay Packers kept two streaks alive by beating the Oakland Raiders 30-20 on Sunday.
First, the NFC North-leading Packers (10-4) are headed to the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. Second, the Packers have won three in a row headed into critical games at Arizona and at home vs. Minnesota to end the regular season. Those games will determine whether th Packers have a home playoff game or have to take the long road to a potential championshp game.
With two early interceptions, including Damarious Randall's pick-six, Green Bay scored the game’s first 14 points but fell behind 20-17. The Packers, however, scored the final 13 points and showed why they’re the established power and the Raiders (6-8) are a year away from being a legit playoff threat.
After Oakland took its first lead of the game at 20-17, Jeff Janis redeemed himself for a costly dropped pass with a 47-yard kickoff return. Aaron Rodgers hit Jared Abbrederis for 15 and James Jones for 8 before finding Jones streaking up the right sideline for a 30-yard touchdown. Jones beat the Raiders’ top defensive backs, with cornerback David Amerson passing off coverage to safety Charles Woodson, with Woodson far too late to prevent the score. That made it 24-20 with 5:46 left in the third quarter.
"We were just going quick ther and they were mixed up," Rodgers said. "Nobody was on Abbrederis, the corner to JJ’s side was playing Cover-2 and Wood was in the middle of the field. So, they obviously had some communication issues with the speed that we were going at, and actually the corner on the backside, as we looked at the tablet, was playing Cover-2, as well. So (I) kind of had three guys open for a touchdown and found James."
Backed up on their 5 for their next drive, the Packers mounted their best possession of the game, though it netted only Mason Crosby’s 21-yard field goal. Jones did the work early in the drive, with catches of 9, 14 and 14, plus 10 yards on pass interference. Then it was Randall Cobb’s turn. On second-and-17, Cobb ducked under Woodson’s tackle attempt, broke another tackle and gained 19. On third-and-6, Cobb got behind cornerback D.J. Hayden and was tackled in the end zone, setting up first-and-goal at the 1. The Packers’ short-yardage struggles continued, though, with Rodgers throwing incomplete to Richard Rodgers on first down, Eddie Lacy losing 2 on second down and Cobb and Jones colliding on a pick on third-and-goal.
The Packers, however, got a stop, punctuated by Julius Peppers fighting through a holding penalty to get his second of his 2.5 sacks. Green Bay took possession at the Raiders’ 36 with 6:54 to play and tacked on a field goal for a 30-20 lead. The big plays were a 25-yard screen to James Starks and a touchdown pass to Jones that was wiped away by the second offensive pass-interference call of the day on Jones. Still, it was a two-score game and the Packers had earned their trip to the postseason rather than backing in with a loss.
"It’s goal No. 1," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Everybody sets their goal of winning the world championship and that’s our goal, obviously, but you have different levels of success that you need to attain along way. This is the first step. We’re in the tournament. That’s step No. 1. Step No. 2 is to win the division. More importantly, we have to go beat Arizona.
The Packers’ defense ran hot and cold and the offense was just cold in the first half, with Green Bay leading 14-13 despite being outgained 225-97.
On Oakland’s second possession, Hyde ran under a pass to tight end Clive Walford for an interception, which he returned to the 2-yard line. An unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on the celebration moved the ball to the 17 but the Packers scored, anyway, when fullback John Kuhn ran over Carrie at the 2 for a 5-yard touchdown.
On the first play of the ensuing possession, Carr threw too high to Seth Roberts, with Randall intercepting that pass and running it back 43 yards for a touchdown. With two touchdowns in 15 seconds, the Packers led 14-0 with 4:53 left in the first quarter.
Oakland, however, slowly turned the tide with back-to-back long drives resulting in short field goals. A huge sequence — and a potential 10- or 14- point swing — came late in the first half. Green Bay finally mounted a strong drive, with pass interference on Carrie, a 27-yard catch-and-run by Cobb and a 6-yard catch by backup tight end Justin Perillo converting a trio of third downs. However, Starks fumbled for the third time in three weeks when he was drilled by Woodson and stripped by defensive end Benson Mayowa.
Oakland took over at its 21 with 1:22 left but stormed down the field for a too-easy touchdown. A screen to fullback Marcel Reece gained 29 (with two missed tackles) and a short pass to Walford gained 12 (with another missed tackle) before quarterback Derek Carr scrambled to his left for 17 to the 19. Carr then rolled to his right and found Amari Cooper wide open for the touchdown as Randall appeared to take the wrong receiver. That made it 14-13 with 20 seconds left in the half.
Set up by Hyde’s 14-yard punt return to midfield, the Packers extended their lead to 17-13 on their first possession of the second half. On fourth-and-2, Rodgers could have hit Cobb quickly for the first down but didn’t pull the trigger. Cobb, however, got behind T.J. Carrie and Carrie tackled Cobb for a 29-yard interference penalty. Green Bay should have moved the chains third-and-2 from the 6, but Janis dropped a slant and it had to settle for Crosby’s chip-shot field goal.
Oakland countered with the go-ahead touchdown as Carr and Cooper beat Randall for 41 early in the drive and 26 for the touchdown. On both instances, Randall lined up directly over Cooper but never laid a glove on his man as Cooper produced big gains in the matchup of first-round picks.
Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.