5 things: Packers battle uphill in gritty win over Ravens
OCT 13, 2013 5:54p ET
1. Winning with adversity
Entering the game already without star outside linebacker Clay Matthews (thumb), the Packers also lost wide receivers James Jones (leg) and Randall Cobb (knee) before halftime. Add all of that to a road game against the defending Super Bowl champions, and Green Bay clearly overcame a lot to beat the Ravens.
The Packers' offense wasn't clicking early on, even before the injuries to Jones and Cobb. Aaron Rodgers wasn't close to being at his best, fumbling twice and mistiming several throws. But Rodgers also wasn't getting much help from his receivers. Nelson had a drop that stalled the opening drive, tight end Jermichael Finley dropped one that hit his hands on a dive and Jarrett Boykin dropped two passes after he came in for Jones and Cobb. The offensive line's pass protection wasn't very good, either. Rodgers was sacked three times and was under pressure in the pocket often.
Despite all of that, Green Bay scored first, led the entire way and was able to come up with a seven-play, 71-yard drive in the closing minutes to run out the clock. Rodgers said at his post-game press conference that "days like today remind you why you love this game so much. It's a battle." It certainly was a battle for the Packers, and though parts of it weren't pretty, it was an important win for them.
2. Depth at wide receiver now a major concern
Green Bay opened the regular season with five wide receivers on the active roster: Cobb, Jones, Nelson, Boykin and Jeremy Ross. On the practice squad, Charles Johnson and Myles White were waiting for an opportunity. However, after the Packers released Ross three weeks ago and now injuries to both Cobb and Jones (the severity and specifics of which are unknown as of early Sunday night), along with Johnson signing with the Cleveland Browns a day earlier, Green Bay is really short at receiver.
Boykin had an impressive 43-yard gain on a quick pass left from Rodgers, but that was the second-year receiver's only catch on six targets. With Boykin being pressed into what could become an every-down type of role, he'll have to be much more consistent.
Finley is able to factor into the receiving game too, but he was a non-factor until his breakaway 52-yard play on the final drive. Like Boykin, Finley will be needed more than ever to show consistency.
3. Packers are legitimately a very good running team
At the start of this season, Green Bay was viewed as one of the league's bottom-tier rushing teams. Not having a 1,000-yard rusher since 2009 and finishing the past three seasons ranked no better than 20th in NFL rankings wasn't helping the Packers' case.
The past four games have significantly shifted Green Bay's reputation as a running team. It turns out that their 139-yard rushing game against Washington wasn't a fluke, as the Packers have followed that up with 182 rushing yards against Cincinnati, 180 rushing yards against Detroit and now 140 rushing yards against Baltimore. While the Lions' group upfront is talented, the Ravens and Bengals are two of the best run defenses in the league, making Green Bay's success against them even more of a head-turner.
Eddie Lacy joined James Starks and Johnathan Franklin in the 100-yard-game club, rushing for 120 yards on 23 carries (5.2 average).
4. Packers' run defense becoming one of the best in the NFL
On the flip side of the run game, Green Bay's defense once again dominated the battle at the line of scrimmage. Though the Ravens have Ray Rice -- who is recognized as an elite runner for his past work but has played as anything but elite this season -- and Baltimore was ranked 27th in the NFL as a rushing offense, the Packers controlled everything upfront.
Rice had 14 carries for 34 yards (2.4 average) and Bernard Pierce had six rushing attempts for nine yards (1.5 average). If it wasn't for one rush from quarterback Joe Flacco for six yards, the Packers would have held the Ravens to less than a 2.0 yards per carry average.
A.J. Hawk and Mike Daniels both had tackles for loss on Rice, and B.J. Raji and Jamari Lattimore had tackles for loss on Pierce. There were also several rushes by Rice and Pierce that resulted in no gain.
5. Hawk comes through with great performance at the perfect time
Hawk is one of those players who rarely seems to be on the good side of many Packers fans. That has a lot to do with Hawk not living up to his status as a fifth overall pick in 2006, but Green Bay's players and coaches have continued to consider him as one of their key players.
This was Hawk's 115th regular-season game in a Packers uniform, and it was probably his best. With Brad Jones sidelined with a hamstring injury, Hawk needed to play a bigger role on defense and he delivered in a major way.
Hawk finished with three sacks and 10 total tackles (five of which were tackles for loss). Those statistics kept Hawk as the team leader in tackles this season and elevated him to the team lead in tackles for loss and tied him for the team lead in sacks.
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