NFC North: 2013 Week 6 GNB at BAL

Defense may have to carry Packers

October, 13, 2013
PackersDoug Kapustin/Getty ImagesThe Packers' defense clamped down on Ray Rice and the Ravens' running game on Sunday.
BALTIMORE -- With 12 seconds left in the first half of Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry sacked quarterback Joe Flacco and knocked the ball loose.

Rookie defensive end Datone Jones scooped up the fumble and returned it 20 yards to the Ravens' 13-yard line to set up Mason Crosby's 31-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.

It was exactly the kind of play that, according to Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk, great defenses make.

"We're definitely not a great defense yet," Hawk said after the Packers' 19-17 victory over the defending Super Bowl champs. "But we're trying to get there."

The Packers defense might have to get there -- and fast.

If the Packers (3-2) are going to be without receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones, both of whom left Sunday's game with injuries in the first half, then they're going to need their defense to pick up where it left off on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Among its noteworthy accomplishments in helping secure Green Bay's first road win of the season, the defense came through with:

  • A stop on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the second quarter after a special teams gaffe by John Kuhn, who touched a blocked punt that the Ravens recovered to keep a drive alive.
  • A stop on third-and-goal from the 5 in the third quarter that forced the Ravens to settle for a field goal.
  • Five sacks, including three by Hawk (who had that many all of last season).
  • A near complete shutdown of the Ravens' once-prolific running game.

"Today was good, I think, with those goal-line stands," Hawk said. "But you can't call yourself great until you're holding teams consistently under 13, 14 points, I think. We played pretty well, but it's a long season, that's for sure. We're only 3-2."

Perhaps most encouraging for the Packers was that they did it all without their best defensive player, outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who six days earlier underwent surgery to repair his broken right thumb, and without their defensive signal-caller, inside linebacker Brad Jones, who sustained a hamstring injury a week earlier against the Detroit Lions.

It all began with the goal-line stand.

On fourth-down from the Packers' 1-yard line, the Ravens called running back Bernard Pierce's number. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels and cornerback Micah Hyde were credited for stopping Pierce, but in reality it was a group effort that included Hawk and defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels.

"We pride ourselves on not giving up any rushing touchdowns," Raji said. "We stood up that play, and hopefully we can continue to do that."

[+] EnlargeRodgers
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsAaron Rodgers threw for 315 yards, but he also lost two receivers to injuries.
Just as important was the stop on third-and-goal from the 5 in the third quarter, when the Packers forced an incompletion by Flacco to receiver Marlon Brown. Linebacker Jamari Lattimore, the replacement for Jones, had tight coverage on the play. The Ravens settled for a field goal, cutting the Packers' lead to 9-3 with 4:34 left in the third quarter, and then on the next possession quarterback Aaron Rodgers finally hit on a big play -- a deep shot to receiver Jordy Nelson for a 64-yard touchdown.

"Like I tell Dom after a game like this on Monday, if you give up 17 points, we're going to win most of those games," said Rodgers, who was pressured often but still managed to throw for 315 yards on 17-of-32 passing with one touchdown and one interception.

To be sure, the Packers weren't facing an offensive juggernaut. The Ravens came into the game ranked 21st in total offense, and they haven't been able to protect Flacco. Even their usually reliable ground game with running back Ray Rice was just 27th in the league in yards per game coming in.

The Packers shut down Rice, who rushed 14 times for 34 yards, 11 of which came on one carry. They will almost certainly climb from their No. 5 ranking last week in rushing defense.

"The defense, I felt, carried us pretty much most of the game," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

That's not to say the Packers were perfect on that side of the ball. They had a major breakdown when the Ravens went for it on fourth-and-21 from their own 19-yard line with 2:40 left in the game. Safety Jerron McMillian fell down in coverage, which allowed Flacco to hit receiver Tandon Doss for a 63-yard completion. That set up an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Clark over McMillian on the next play, when McMillian said he did not hear the defensive call.

With the Ravens within two, the Packers needed their offense to burn off the final 2 minutes, 4 seconds. The combination of Eddie Lacy (who rushed for a career-high 120 yards on 23 carries) and a key third-down conversion to tight end Jermichael Finley (who should have stayed in bounds to keep the clock running after his 52-yard catch and run) did just that.

But with Cobb on crutches after the game and Jones having trouble walking, the fate of the Packers might rest on the defense.

"We're going to need them big," Finley said of the defense. "But at the same time, if Randall and James are out, it's called the next man up."


Locker Room Buzz: Green Bay Packers

October, 13, 2013
BALTIMORE -- Observed in the locker room after the Green Bay Packers' 19-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens:

Last man standing: Jordy Nelson was the only one of the Packers’ top three receivers left in the game after Randall Cobb and James Jones both were knocked by injuries in the first half, and he was the last player to leave the locker room after the game. “Unfortunately we lost some guys,” said Nelson, who caught four passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. “Hopefully it’s not as bad as what some of it looked, and they’ll be back quick.”

Running back fuel: Running back Eddie Lacy, whose 120 yards on 23 carries gave him his first 100-yard rushing game in the NFL, had three empty bottles of Gatorade and one empty bottle of water in his locker. Without Cobb and Jones, Lacy knew he would get a lot of carries. “I had to stay hydrated,” Lacy said.

Happy quarterback: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the last Packers player to enter the locker room after the game, but before he did, he stopped outside the door where his position coach, Ben McAdoo, was waiting to give him a hug.

Team victory: Tight end Ryan Taylor was seated in front of his locker when reporters entered. To no one in particular, Taylor said: “That’s a team win right there.”

Rapid Reaction: Green Bay Packers

October, 13, 2013

BALTIMORE -- A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers19-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens:

What it means: The Packers got their first road win of the season and moved over .500 at 3-2, but it may have come at a tremendous cost. The Packers lost two of their top three receivers -- Randall Cobb and James Jones -- to injuries in the first half. Cobb sustained a right knee injury in the second quarter, after Jones had dropped out with a left leg injury in the first quarter. It left the Packers with only two healthy receivers, Jordy Nelson and backup Jarrett Boykin.

Stock watch: The Packers' defense came up with two critical stops to the keep Green Bay in front. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels and cornerback Micah Hyde combined to stuff Ravens running back Bernard Pierce on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the second quarter. In the third quarter, they held the Ravens on third-and-goal from the 5 and forced a field goal.

Lacy again: After missing his first 100-yard rushing game by just 1 yard a week earlier against Detroit, Eddie Lacy got there against a stout Ravens defense, which came in ranked sixth in the league against the run. Lacy rushed for 123 yards on 20 carries.

Shot play: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers struggled most of the day, facing heavy pressure from the Ravens’ pass-rushers, but he still managed to hit on a shot play down the field to Nelson in the third quarter. On a play-action rollout to the right, Nelson beat cornerback Lardarius Webb for a 64-yard touchdown catch. Nelson and tight end Jermichael Finley were the only receivers out in routes on the play. Rodgers threw it 61 yards in the air, from his own 27 to the Ravens’ 12, where Nelson caught it in stride.

What’s next: The Packers play another AFC North team, the Cleveland Browns, on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Packers are 1-1 against that division, having lost in Week 3 at Cincinnati.