At least viewers in the Green Bay area were spared the ugly final few minutes of this one.
When television screens went blank, the Packers led 13-7 late in the third quarter. By the time Fox came back on the air, the Packers had blown two leads and lost 20-16.
The Packers (5-9), officially eliminated from the playoffs and guaranteed their second losing season since 1992, dropped their fourth consecutive game and sixth in their last seven by following a familiar theme. Green Bay's offense couldn't come up with a key play and the defense blew a pair of second-half leads, including 16-14 after a short field goal by Mason Crosby with 5:35 remaining in the game.
The game turned not long after Fox went dark. Ryan Grant was stopped on second- and third-and-1 from the Jaguars' 44-yard line on the final plays of the third quarter. On fourth-and-1 to start the fourth quarter, coach Mike McCarthy called a run to fullback John Kuhn, and he was stuffed by Paul Spicer.
"My focus was trying to get the score to a two-score game and give our defense the ability to play a little more downhill," McCarthy said. "Second-and-1, third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 was a tough go for us in the second half."
Instead, the decision backfired.
"That was the turning point in the game," Jaguars defensive end Spicer said. "The momentum could have gone either way."
The next key sequence came on third-and-18, when Dennis Northcutt picked up 17 yards on a pass from David Garrard. On fourth-and-1, Garrard took a quarterback draw 4 yards for the first down to the Packers' 28-yard line. Five plays later, Garrard threw a short pass to Maurice Jones-Drew, and he shook loose from Nick Collins at about the 5-yard line for a 14-13 lead with 10:45 remaining.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, like he did against Carolina, rallied the Packers back in front. A 34-yard pass to James Jones was the key play, but a drive to a possible touchdown stalled when Reggie Hayward beat Tony Moll and sacked Rodgers. The Packers settled for a 38-yard field goal and a 16-14 lead with 5:04 to go.
As has been the case in every one of the Packers' six four-points-or-less defeats, the defense failed to deliver in the crunch. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Northcutt inexplicably got behind the coverage and hauled in a 41-yard bomb from Garrard to the Packers' 39. Jones-Drew followed with a 15-yard run. On third-and-4, Garrard took a quarterback draw for 16 yards to the 2. Will Blackmon stripped the ball, but it bounced right back to Garrard. Jones-Drew hauled Brandon Chillar into the end zone on the next play to give Jacksonville (5-9) a 20-16 lead on the first play after the two-minute warning.
"Luckily, some angels kept the ball close enough and I was able to corral it and not give up a terrible play," Garrard said.
"I'm disappointed. It's the way our season has gone," McCarthy said. "We had some opportunities but didn't take advantage of them."
Until the defensive meltdown, the Packers had stopped the Jaguars on five consecutive possessions for just 97 yards. That allowed the Packers to turn an early 7-0 deficit into a 13-7 lead at halftime.
The Packers answered the Jaguars' opening score with an 11-play drive to cut the margin to 7-3, then Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for a 4-yard touchdown on the next drive to cap a 10-play march to take a 10-7 lead. A field goal on the next drive, a nine-play excursion, made it a six-point game. Both of the drives to field goals stalled inside the Jaguars' 10-yard line.
As has been the case for much of the season, the Packers' offense mixed periods of efficiency with periods of incompetence. Green Bay managed just three first downs and 39 yards on their two third-quarter possessions.
"We shouldn't be having this miscommunication in Week 15 of the season," Rodgers said. "Disappointing. You get an opportunity to win the game down the stretch and can't do it."
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com.
Unwatchable: Packers lose to Jaguars 20-16
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