The storyIf there was any doubt about the Green Bay Packers' ability to not only challenge for a playoff berth but earn a spot in the postseason, they answered it with a gut-check fourth-quarter performance.
Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes and Tramon Williams and A.J. Hawk had fourth-quarter interceptions as the Packers beat the Baltimore Ravens 27-14 on a typically cold Monday night in December at Lambeau Field. With the win, Green Bay has won four straight, improved to 8-4 and remained in control of an NFC wild-card spot.
Green Bay blew most of a 17-0 lead but appeared to regain control with a huge touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter. Rodgers hit Korey Hall for 13 yards, Donald Driver for 14 yards and Jermichael Finley for 19 yards and the touchdown on consecutive plays as the Packers took a 24-14 lead with 10:31 remaining in the game.
The Packers, as they do every week it seems, promptly gave up a 68-yard kickoff return by Lardarius Webb, and the ninth pass interference penalty of the game – the second in the end zone by Tramon Williams -- put the Ravens in position to make it a three-point game. But on second-and-goal, Joe Flacco floated a bad ball over the middle while being chased out of the pocket, and Williams grabbed the interception in the end zone.
The Packers dominated the final 9:48 of the first half to turn a 3-0 lead into a 17-0 edge at halftime. Rodgers capped an 83-yard touchdown drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Finley – set up by a 14-yard Rodgers-to-Finley connection on third-and-7 -- then hit Driver for an 8-yard touchdown in a two-minute drill late in the half.
The Packers went into the locker room with a 195-72 edge in yards and a seven-minute advantage in time of possession.
Moments after the Packers took a 24-14 lead, the Ravens got to the doorstep of getting back into the game. First, was a 68-yard kickoff return. Next was a pass interference penalty in the end zone by Tramon Williams. On first-and-goal, Charles Woodson sliced into the backfield to stop Willis McGahee for a 2-yard loss. On second down, Joe Flacco was flushed from the pocket by defensive end Johnny Jolly. Flacco dodged Jolly, then tried to lob a pass across the field to Demetrius Williams, but Tramon Williams picked off the ball in the end zone.
It's scary how good tight end Jermichael Finley is becoming. The second-year pro was the target of eight passes. He caught seven for 79 yards and two touchdowns, as the Packers took advantage of the absence of Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed.
27.2: The passer rating for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who completed 15-of-36 passes for 137 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
"We control our own destiny, so that's always kind of what you want," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "I think we've done a nice job winning the last three home games, knowing what we've had to do."
The other things you need to know
-- Before the game, the Packers placed outside linebacker Aaron Kampman on season-ending injured reserve. He suffered a season-ending knee injury 15 days ago against San Francisco. To take his place on the roster, the Packers promoted fellow outside linebacker Cyril Obiozor from the practice squad. Obiozor played on special teams and was flagged for holding.
-- The teams amassed 310 penalty yards (175 for Green Bay, 135 for Baltimore), breaking the Packers record of 309 yards in a 1945 game between the Packers (184 yards) and Boston Yanks (125).
"Some of those penalties put them in good field position and put them right on the goal line, but when you have a physical game like that, guys are out there just battling, just putting everything out there," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "You hate to say, ‘Hey, be safe, don't grab them, don't do this and that.' We're fighting and they're fighting, everyone's fighting, everyone's trying to win this game. We're scratching and clawing, and sometimes when you get that type of stuff, you get penalties like that."
-- By allowing merely 185 yards, the Packers maintained their No. 1 defensive ranking. The Packers allowed only 72 yards in the first half, the fifth time they held an opponent to less than 100 yards in the first half.
-- Rookie Clay Matthews had two of the Packers' three sacks, making him tied for the NFL rookie lead with seven for the season. Fellow rookie linebacker Brad Jones had his first career sack, making Matthews, Jones and B.J. Raji the Packers' first rookie trio to record sacks in a season since 1987.
-- McCarthy listed only three injuries: tight end Spencer Havner (wind), tight end Jermichael Finley (knee) and Ryan Pickett (hamstring). Only Pickett did not return, and he was unsure of whether he'd be able to play next week at Chicago.
-- Donald Driver's second-quarter touchdown was the 50th of his career, including 49 receiving.
-- Aaron Rodgers improved his career record as the starter to 14-14.
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.