Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 24, Jaguars 15
It was ugly but the Green Bay Packers will take it.
The Packers offense was not firing on all cylinders Sunday without their top two receivers in Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, but thankfully the defense was up to the task against a relatively impotent offense as the Packers hung on in an ugly 24-15 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Aaron Rodgers was good but not stellar as he missed his two favorite targets and Alex Green had a fair if not unimpressive performance against the Jaguars.Â Â The defense, despite a third quarter touchdown, played solid in the red zone and kept the Jaguars out of the end zone for the rest of the game.
It would be unfair to say the Packers offense suddenly regressed thanks to injuries at wide receiver, but the running game needs to get going.Â The defense also has been hobbled by injuries, but some bad habits seem to be resurfacing despite the unitâ€™s overall solid play in the win.
Hereâ€™s who stood out and who didnâ€™t in the win over the Jaguars.
S Morgan Burnett
People were watching to see how the secondary would do with the loss of Charles Woodson and Burnett came up big.Â He had an interception, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and led the team with nine tackles.
When he wasnâ€™t forcing turnovers, Burnett was constantly around the ball.Â He showed solid tackling technique and took care of business in the defensive backfield. Itâ€™s not enough to help people forget about a special talent like Woodson, but itâ€™s a reminder of how much young talent the Packers have in their secondary that will continue to improve with experience.
LB Brad Jones
Not to be outdone by Burnett, Jones played well in place of both the injured DJ Smith and Desmond Bishop.Â Jones was touted at one time as the heir apparent to Aaron Kampman but thanks to the Packersâ€™ commitment to the 3-4 scheme and the emergence of Clay Matthews, Jones became a forgotten man on the linebacker depth chart.
Thanks to Bishop and Smith landing on season ending injured reserved, Jones finally gets another chance and made the most of his chances against the Jaguars.Â Jones also had one sack and a forced fumble plus he finished behind Burnett with seven tackles.
Itâ€™s a tall order to go more than half of the season with a player who is not used to being an inside linebacker but if Jones can build off his performance against the Jaguars, he should more than be able to hold his own in the critical games in December.
WR Donald Driver (sentimental game ball)
He only had two catches for 10 yards, but he did catch a touchdown.Â Itâ€™s not the stat line Driver put up earlier in his career, but today Driver added his name to one more chapter in the Packersâ€™ record book.
Driver today became only the second player in Packers history to appear in 200 regular season games for the team (Brett Favre being the other).Â With Jennings and Nelson both out, this very well could be the most time Driver spends on the field for the remainder of the season.
In what very well could be his final season before retirement, Driver got to a Lambeau Leap which is fitting for one of the most popular players in franchise history.
RB Alex Green
In another game where coach Mike McCarthy made a solid commitment to run the ball, Green finished with 22 carries for 54 yards which gave him an average of around 2.5 yards per carry.
The Packers were hopeful Green would finally show the ability to be an every down back against the Jaguars, but it was by all means a disappointing performance for the second year back out of Hawaii. Â If the Packers didnâ€™t miss Cedric Benson last week, they certainly do after Greenâ€™s play against the Jaguars.
With the passing game struggling to get going thanks again to injuries to Jennings and Nelson, the running game needs to pick up the slack.Â With Benson out, many hoped Green would realize the potential he has flashed in training camp the past two years.
Instead, fans may be soon be calling for James Starks and thatâ€™s something not many fans thought theyâ€™d be doing.Â In all honesty, Starks probably couldnâ€™t do any worse.
K Mason Crosby
Itâ€™s been a rough season so far for Crosby.
He missed the game tying field goal against the Colts and couldnâ€™t even get a 59-yard kick even close to the goal posts last week against the Rams.Â Crosby followed that up by doinking a 32 yard attempt off the goalpost against the Jaguars.
The Packers were unable to put the Jaguars away and those three points would have come in handy as the Packers tried to expand their lead.Â Crosby canâ€™t continue to struggle if the Packers find themselves in the close games as they fight for a playoff spot.
The NFC North is going to be an uphill climb for Green Bay and they will need their kicker in top form with their divisional games usually close late into the fourth quarter.
The â€œbend but donâ€™t breakâ€ defense
Once again the Packers couldnâ€™t put away an inferior opponent and once again the defense made a bad quarterback look decent.
Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert entered the game with a shoulder injury but thanks to occasionally pillow soft coverage in the middle of the field by the Packers, he finished with 303 yards passing with one touchdown pass.Â Itâ€™s been maddening to watch the Packers get burned by something that should be very correctable yet Capers seems either unable or unwilling to make the adjustment.
Until the Packers can deliver the knockout blow to an opponent, doubts will remain about the defense being an asset versus a liability.Â While it seems like an improved unit from a year ago, the stubbornness of the coaches to go for the kill shot could cost the Packers a shot at the Super Bowl.â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke