GREEN BAY, Wis. — It wasn’t just an ugly win for the Packers. No, this was something far more concerning for a team with seemingly legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
Green Bay’s 24-15 victory over the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars in front of 70,000 cheeseheads at Lambeau Field was an unimpressive performance against an inferior opponent. And the Packers knew it, too.
“It’s not ugly, it’s nasty,” tight end Jermichael Finley said. “It’s a real nasty win. We need to come out and put teams like this away. Of course it’s disappointing. With the ability we got and with the guys we got on this team, it kills us. If the defense is looking at us, that’s why they’re mad at us if we go three-and-out, because they know what we can do.
“And we’re pissed off at them when teams like Jacksonville drive the ball down the field.”
The Jaguars outgained Green Bay in yards, 341-238. Jacksonville’s second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert even outperformed reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers in several areas. Gabbert set a new career-high with 303 yards while Rodgers had a season-low 186 yards passing.
“I thought they were excited to play us,” Finley said. “That’s why they came out shooting every bullet they had. We’ve got to put teams like this away early.”
But the Packers let them hang around all game. Gabbert even had a chance to lead Jacksonville on a potential game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter, down by only six.
Rodgers was chased out of the pocket often by a Jaguars defense that had only five sacks all season leading into this game. Rodgers was sacked twice, but he looked far more rattled and uncomfortable than he usually does, even when facing immense pressure.
“You get a guy like (Rodgers) on his back several times, it distracts him,” Finley said of his quarterback. “He’s looking behind his back, in front of him, beside him. It can throw us off in the passing game, too.
“I’m not blaming a soul on the team, but we have to keep ’12’ (Rodgers) off his back.”
Finley complimented Rodgers extensively for continually getting up, even as the hits kept coming.
“I don’t see how he do it, I don’t know how he do it, but he’s a soldier,” Finley said. “He’s a warrior, I’ll tell ya that.”
The only team this season to allow more sacks than Green Bay is the Arizona Cardinals, a group that has gotten both of its quarterbacks — John Skelton and Kevin Kolb — injured in the first eight games.
The Packers were playing without both of their top receivers, Greg Jennings (groin) and Jordy Nelson (hamstring). But no player in the locker room allowed that to be an excuse for the offense’s lackluster outing.
“It ain’t nothing to do with the wideouts,” Finley said. “If you keep ’12’ upright, it doesn’t matter who we got out there. If Nelson’s gone, if Jennings is gone, whoever’s gone, we got athletes where we can make plays all over the field.
“We got guys on the shelf right now that can play ball. But whoever is on the field, I think we can still get the W’s and get this thing going. Because we’re slow right now.
“We just played to (Jacksonville’s) level. When we do that, it’s not a good turnout.”
Last year, as Green Bay went 15-1 in the regular season, games against lesser opponents weren’t typically this close. The Packers won by 26 against the pre-Tim-Tebow-led Broncos, easily knocked off the Rams by 21 and dominated the Vikings in a 38-point rout.
But, with Green Bay improving to 5-3 and winning its third consecutive game, Rodgers wasn’t overly discouraged by Sunday’s mediocre victory.
“I don’t see it as a setback at all,” Rodgers said. “It’s good to be on this side of an ugly win. It’s tough to win in this league. I think the expectations that we set around here, and the way we played on offense, especially the last couple weeks, the expectations were we were going to come out and maybe blow them out.
“But we didn’t start fast, we didn’t have enough juice early on and didn’t play well enough on offense to get that done. Offensively we’re going to be very critical as we watch the film tomorrow and move forward.”
Coach Mike McCarthy also tried to spin it into a positive.
“It was definitely a grind-it-out type victory today,” he said. “We’re pleased to be at 5-3. I felt the victory was obviously important, but there was a little bit of a roller-coaster throughout our play. These games are always hard-fought. Today was a tough contest.”
Though the Packers’ offense struggled, their special teams made up for it, blocking a punt that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Without that play, Green Bay’s nasty win may have been a much nastier loss.
“It’s important when you don’t play your best you can still come out with W’s,” Rodgers said.