The fourth time was the charm for the Green Bay Packers.
The Jacksonville Jaguars converted their first three fourth-down attempts but not their fourth. On fourth-and-1 from the Packers’ 14-yard line with 23 seconds to go, Damarious Randall disrupted a quick-hitting pass to Allen Hurns and got help from his friends – Micah Hyde, Morgan Burnett and Joe Thomas – to preserve the Packers’ 27-23, season-opening win at Jacksonville.
“I would classify this as a very good adversity win,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said in his opening postgame remarks.
The Packers were fortunate to get out of Jacksonville with the victory. In the first half, they had three consecutive three-and-out punts. In the second half, they failed to score touchdowns on two possessions that got inside the Jaguars’ 10-yard line. By the end of the game, their defense was exhausted and top cornerback Sam Shields was in the locker room due to a possible concussion.
But the Packers made the one play they desperately needed with the game on the line, a play that defined the “pursuit and finish” that is McCarthy’s focal point for this season, to beat a team that seems destined to make some noise in the AFC following five consecutive seasons of 11-plus losses.
Leading 21-17 at halftime, the Packers resorted to playing keepaway in the second half. The Packers took the second-half kickoff and kept the ball for 13 plays, 68 yards and 4:48. But the drive died at the 7 and Mason Crosby booted a 25-yard field goal for a 24-17 lead.
Green Bay’s second drive went 16 plays for 73 yards and 9:14. That drive also died near the goal line, with a third-and-goal run from the 2 going nowhere as the offensive line pass blocked rather than run blocked.
One more long drive would have won the game. Instead, the Packers went three-and-out, giving the Jaguars 3:17 to win the game. And they almost did, but the defense swarmed Hurns on the critical play.
"They were gassed, for sure," Rodgers said.
The Packers led 21-17 at halftime, with the go-ahead score coming on a remarkable 29-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers. With blitzing Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey grabbing Rodgers by the back of the jersey and defensive tackle Jared Odrick storming up the middle and into Rodgers’ face, Rodgers threw a bullet to Davante Adams, who made a diving catch in the end zone despite interference from cornerback Davon House.
The Packers struck first, a short scoring drive set up by Joe Thomas’ interception of a contested pass in which Jaguars receiver Marquise Lee and cornerback Quinten Rollins each got their hands on the ball. On fourth-and-1, Lacy rumbled for 9 on blocks by left guard Lane Taylor and left tackle David Bakhtiari. The touchdown came when Rodgers scrambled to his right and beat House to the pylon for a 6-yard run.
Jacksonville controlled most of the play in between those scores. A 37-yard screen to tight end Marcedes Lewis, in which Rollins missed a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, set up running back T.J. Yeldon’s 5-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7. It was Alabama-on-Alabama crime, with Yeldon running over his former college teammate, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, near the goal line. Yeldon got the score; Clinton-Dix lost his helmet.
Green Bay took a 14-10 lead on Rodgers’ 6-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson. Rodgers had all day and Nelson, playing for the first time since tearing his ACL 12 1/2 months earlier, got lost in the back of the end zone. The key play, though, was a 17-yard screen to Lacy in which he broke two tackles.
Jacksonville answered with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Bortles to tight end Julius Thomas over Rollins. The only problem is that left Rodgers and Co. 1:09 to take the lead just before halftime. A 30-yard gain for interference on a pass to Jared Cook got things going, and the score came on third-and-10.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.