Quarterback Aaron Rodgers posted strong numbers for a third straight game — 20-of-32 for 278 yards and a touchdown — but critical mistakes in the passing game at key junctures played into the Packers' again being on the short end of a close outcome. Jacksonville's late comeback victory was cemented when Rodgers overthrew tight end Donald Lee down the seam, allowing safety Reggie Nelson to swoop in for an interception in the closing seconds. It was the only turnover of the game on both sides.
Right tackle Tony Moll, the starting replacement for an injured Mark Tauscher, was beaten for two of the three sacks of Rodgers, including a forced fumble by defensive end Reggie Hayward. Moll recovered the football, but the play deep in Jaguars territory foiled a potential touchdown drive, and the Packers had to settle for a field goal to briefly regain the lead at 16-14 late in the fourth quarter. Green Bay also was resigned to take three points before halftime when a misalignment by rookie tight end Jermichael Finley on a third-and-goal pass call from the Jaguars' 5-yard line caused confusion just before the play clock expired and resulted in a bail-out checkdown pass from Rodgers to Lee that went nowhere.
Wideout James Jones had a performance like none other in his injury-plagued season, making four catches for a career-high 132 yards. Jones had big-time plays along the sideline for 46, 40 and 34 yards — the first two for third-down conversions and the latter to move the Packers safely into Jacksonville territory in the fourth-quarter series that ended with the go-ahead field goal. Top receiver Greg Jennings was held to three catches for a season-low 22 yards, though he had a 4-yard touchdown in the first half.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D
The tenor of the game shifted in favor of the Jaguars when the Packers couldn't gain a measly yard on three straight running plays from the Jacksonville 44 and turned the ball over on downs early in the fourth quarter. Ryan Grant, who had just run for 9 yards (his longest of the game) on first down, was stopped up the middle for no gain on the next two plays. Then, on a fourth-and-inches call, short-yardage fullback John Kuhn was stuffed at the line on an inside handoff, resuscitating a Jacksonville team that had been going through the motions down 13-7.
Grant also was dropped for a 1-yard loss on a second-and-1 call in the third quarter. His 21 carries were the most in four games, but Grant averaged only 2.7 yards and finished with 56 on a day he eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau for the season. Brandon Jackson was nonexistent in the run game for the second straight week, getting but one carry that he turned into 6 yards. The rest of Green Bay's rushing output of 84 yards (3.0 per-carry average) came from a combination of five scrambles and sneaks by Rodgers that amounted to 22 yards.
PASS DEFENSE: D-minus
A week after allowing a hobbled Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans pile up a franchise-record 414 passing yards, the Packers made Jacksonville's sorely short-handed passing game look like world beaters. Jaguars quarterback David Garrard routinely found the soft spots in Green Bay's erratic coverage schemes and finished 21-of-33 for 238 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
Dennis Northcutt, a supposed veteran retread, played like an All-Pro with five receptions for 127 yards. He capped a 12-play, 73-yard drive orchestrated by Garrard to start the game by beating nickel back Will Blackmon on a double move for a 30-yard touchdown. In the second half, cornerback Tramon Williams surrendered a 35-yard completion to Northcutt, and Northcutt had a key 17-yard reception on third-and-18. That set up a manageable fourth-and-1 for the Jaguars to convert in Packers territory, which set up a 14-yard catch-and-run touchdown by running back Maurice Jones-Drew to go up 14-13 in the fourth quarter.
The biggest play through the air for Jacksonville also involved Northcutt, who was given a free release off the line of scrimmage by cornerback Al Harris. When free safety Nick Collins failed to pick up Northcutt down field in zone coverage, Garrard unloaded for a 41-yard completion to get the Jaguars moving toward their game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Checkdowns and screens to Jones-Drew and three tight ends, who combined for 12 catches, weren't a problem for Garrard, who rarely was pressured. Green Bay's two sacks — one by safety Charles Woodson and the other by linebacker A.J. Hawk — came on blitz calls.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus
Since the passing dimension was so effective for the Jaguars, they didn't have to rely on the running exploits of Jones-Drew, who was the primary focus of Green Bay's defense. Jones-Drew had just 12 carries, totaling 48 yards. The only big run he had was a 15-yarder on the play after the 41-yard pass to Northcutt late in the game. The Jaguars amassed 94 yards on the ground, only the third time in the last seven games that the Packers weren't run over for at least 100 yards. A good chunk of Jacksonville's output came on designed draws as well as scrambles by the elusive Garrard, who had 31 yards in five runs, none bigger than a 14-yard gain up a vacant middle on third-and-4 to inside the Packers' 5 on the late game-winning touchdown drive.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
The Packers had strong kicking performances from punter Jeremy Kapinos and kicker Mason Crosby. The Jaguars didn't have any return yards on the two punts by Kapinos, who averaged 43.5 yards with a long of 48 and placed one inside the Jacksonville 20. Crosby connected on all three of his field-goal attempts — two from chip-shot range of 22 and 23 yards and the other from 38 yards that briefly put Green Bay on top at 16-14 in the fourth quarter. He also blasted one of his kickoffs deep into the end zone for a touchback.
The Packers' kickoff-return coverage unit limited Brian Witherspoon to a meager average of 21 yards in four runbacks, and a first-quarter tackle by Desmond Bishop prevented a potentially big return. A holding call by Aaron Rouse wiped out most of a 28-yard kickoff return by Blackmon in the opening period, and the Packers' return ace averaged only 17.7 yards on kickoff returns and had one punt return for only 5 yards.
While coach Mike McCarthy was successful with both of his replay challenges, his play-calling and decision-making for the offense raised questions. The bungled third-and-goal pass play late in the first half when Finley was tardy in lining up where he needed to be in the formation could have been averted had a timeout been called on the sideline. Then, McCarthy's insistence on three straight runs between the tackles when the Packers needed to gain that fateful yard on second to fourth downs in the second-half series in Jaguars territory set Green Bay up for another painful close loss.
On-field arguments among players on both defense and offense, stemming from miscommunication regarding assignments and formations, were an indictment on a coaching staff that didn't have its players sufficiently prepared. There seems to be no hope for the pass defense coordinated by Bob Sanders, which can't generate pressure on the quarterback without only a few exotic blitzes sprinkled in and is vulnerable in coverage against even the meekest of receiving corps.