Packers make big comeback for win over Jets
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — In the middle of the chaotic and victorious Green Bay Packers locker room, Randall Cobb yelled out a new nickname for Jordy Nelson.
"Mr. 200!" Cobb exclaimed.
More like a career-high 209 yards receiving for Green Bay’s top receiver, including one long touchdown catch in crunch time.
Aaron Rodgers threw for three scores, including an 80-yard strike to Nelson in the third quarter, and the Packers roared back from an 18-point deficit to win their home opener 31-24 on Sunday over the New York Jets.
"Well, pretty impressive. Take it for granted sometimes. He’s not a big ‘me’ guy . . . so he kind of gets overlooked sometimes," Rodgers said about Nelson. "We know the kind of player he is."
So do the Jets after blowing a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter.
Still, coach Rex Ryan’s team had a chance to tie late. It looked as though that had happened with 5 minutes left on a 37-yard touchdown catch by Jeremy Kerley on fourth down — but it was negated because the Jets (1-1) called a timeout from the sideline just before the snap.
Ryan said he didn’t call time. He suspected it could have been offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg or quarterback Geno Smith. Defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson said he was to blame because he leaned over to tell the referee when he saw Mornhinweg calling for time.
"I just know for a fact I did not call the timeout," Ryan said.
"We can’t take those things back," Smith said. "That happened. As a player, as a quarterback, you still want to go down there and score a touchdown and we failed to get that done."
Smith’s last-ditch pass on fourth-and-8 with 3:31 left to a double-covered Kerley was tipped away. The 78,000-plus fans at Lambeau Field breathed a collective sigh of relief, and the Packers held the ball from there.
"It is my responsibility," Ryan said when asked about the Jets’ meltdown. "I have to do a better job."
Green Bay (1-1) avoided its first 0-2 start since 2006. It took a little while to get going, though.
Rodgers fumbled away the snap on the first play of the opening series. The Jets scored on their first three drives.
Slowly, but surely, the offense started chipping away. Then, the defense came up with some big stops late.
Eric Decker departed with a hamstring injury early in the fourth, depriving Smith of his top receiving target.
The Jets tried backup Michael Vick at quarterback on one play, but he was taken down from behind in the open by Clay Matthews for a sack. That drive ended with the pass breakup on Kerley in the end zone.
"It’s a game of adversity. It’s a game of momentum swings. It’s a game of big plays," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We were in a spot, but our players stayed the course."
Rodgers finished 25 of 42 with 346 yards, Nelson had nine catches and Cobb finished with five catches for 39 yards.
Cobb caught two short scoring strikes and a 2-point conversation that gave the Packers a 24-21 lead in the third quarter.
Green Bay went up 31-24 late in the third quarter when Nelson worked a double move on Dee Milliner for the 80-yard score.
Nelson ran and out-and-up route. With the safety coming over late to help, Nelson beat out Jets defenders in a footrace to the end zone.
"We just messed up at the end," Milliner said.
Just a couple of hours earlier, it looked as if the home crowd was going to witness a surprising loss.
Chris Ivory barreled up the middle for a 4-yard score at 10:38 of the second quarter that left the fans in stunned silence with the Packers down 21-3.
"The momentum came when we stopped them and started making plays and got off the field and got off on the third down," Packers linebacker Jamari Lattimore said.
Smith finished 16 of 32 for 176 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Decker had four catches for 63 yards, while Ivory led the Jets on the ground with 13 carries and 43 yards.
The Packers’ comeback started with a 13-point flurry in the final 5:43 of the first half, including field goals from 20 and 55 yards by Mason Crosby. The latter kick set a Packers record at home.
Then, the Packers got the defensive break they desperately needed when Tramon Williams stepped in front of tight end Zach Sudfeld for an interception at the Packers 3.
"You never want to come out that flat, you never expect to come out that flat, but we did and we found a way to get through it," Williams said.
Rodgers followed with 10-play, 97-yard drive in 1:44 that ended with a 6-yard score to Cobb to get the Packers within five at the half.
Until then, it was second-year quarterback Smith who was having success. He connected with Decker for a 29-yard touchdown on pretty touch pass over cornerback Shields for an early 14-0 lead. That score was set up by a 37-yard run by Kerley on a read-option pitch from Smith.