The Green Bay Packers had eight starters sitting and about a dozen others going through the motions on Sunday while plodding their way to a nine-point win at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
12:48, 1st quarter — The Jaguars go four plays and punt on their opening possession. No Packers opponent this season has gotten even two 1st downs to start the game.
The Packers start the game in their nickel, which now features Davon House and Tramon Williams on the outside while Casey Hayward is in the slot. Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji are the two defensive linemen on the field and when Morgan Burnett slides down on the tight end, the Packers essentially have nine men in the box.
The Jaguars run a keep pass to the right with Justin Blackmon coming across the formation instead of a tight end. This works as it is designed against man-to-man coverage. House gets caught up in traffic and never lays a hand on Blackmon. Hayward reacts quickly in coming off the slot and forcing Blackmon out of bounds after 15 yards.
The Jaguars shortly face a 3rd-and-4 after Burnett immediately tackles Cecil Shorts for a 2-yard gain on 2nd down. The Packers have the same nickel on the field, except pass-rush specialists Jerel Worthy and Mike Neal are in. A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones both come on the blitz. Jones times his rush well and gets a free shot at Blaine Gabbert for an 8-yard sack to force the punt.
12:05, 1st quarter — The Packers have barely been better than their opponents on their first drive and they go three and out again to start this one.
The Packers line up in the offset I with D.J. Williams as the fullback. The Packers try the lead play over left guard. Everything looks well-blocked. In fact, Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton are collapsing the right side. If Alex Green goes right, he might have a big run. Instead, he tries to squeeze through between T.J. Lang and Marshall Newhouse and gets tackled by the linebacker Williams was trying to block.
On 2nd down, Rodgers tries the quick out to Jermichael Finley. Aaron Ross has tight coverage and pulls on Finley’s right arm as he tries to collect it. He drops it. On 3rd down, Rodgers might have James Jones on a square in but tries to dump it to Green and misses.
8:27, 1st quarter — The Jaguars go 46 yards in seven plays to kick a field goal and take a brief 3-0 lead.
The drive essentially is one play. On 3rd-and-4 from the Jaguars’ 40, the Packers are in their dime with a normal rush package. They send five, while the Jags leave in seven to block. That means Gabbert only has three targets, but fortunately for him, his best target is only single covered.
While in the dime, Jerron McMillian is the guy coming down to cover the slot, while M.D. Jennings and Burnett are the deep safeties. McMillian is not only singled on Blackmon, but he also has to fake the blitz as well. This puts him in trail coverage from the beginning.
Erik Walden does well to get some pressure on Gabbert, but there is enough time for the quarterback to throw to Blackmon on the deep cross. He throws it in front of Blackmon, making McMillian no factor. Brad Jones is the lone linebacker in the dime and might have affected the play by getting better depth, but as it is, Blackmon makes the catch and gets 36 yards.
The Jaguars would have to settle for the field goal shortly thereafter.
3:02, 1st quarter — The Packers go 69 yards in nine plays to go up 7-3.
The drive starts out well, as Randall Cobb returns the ball to the 31. On the first play, Rodgers finds James Jones on a comeback route for 12 yards.
From there, a series of well-blocked Green runs and a screen to Green for 12 yards moved the ball to the Jaguars’ 25. On 2nd-and-3 from the 25, Rodgers goes play-action and hits Finley on a deep cross for 20 yards. Perhaps guessing run here, the Jaguars were covering Finley with only a zone defense and he did well in finding a large gap in the zone, where his size made it fairly easy for Rodgers to find him.
On 1st-and-goal, the Packers line up in the shotgun with both James Starks and Williams in the backfield. The primary route appears to be Cobb faking the out and then slanting to the middle of the end zone. Rodgers doesn’t like what he sees and rolls to his left. Cobb does a great job of spinning around to head back in Rodgers’ direction while not stepping out of bounds. Rodgers finds Cobb at the last second for a 5-yard TD pass.
13:03, 2nd quarter — The Jaguars have to start their next drive from their 11, which presents a prime opportunity for the Packers defense to keep the momentum going with a quick stop.
Instead, on the very first play, the Jaguars take the unusual approach of running at Clay Matthews. He gets hooked after getting himself into a bad position and Rashad Jennings gets 21 yards around the left end. Without this run, Jennings’ day would be about the same as Green’s — averaging just over 2 yards per carry on his other 16 runs.
The Packers appear to have the drive stopped near midfield when the Jaguars face a 3rd-and-12. The Packers rush three and drop eight. Gabbert makes a nice play to burn the defense when he fakes the run up the middle and then throws it over M.D. Jennings, who left his zone to close with Gabbert. Shorts catches it for a 15-yard gain.
A couple plays later, the Packers blitz and play zone behind it again. The Jaguars keep seven in to block and Shorts runs an out for 17 yards.The Jaguars would reach the Green Bay 22 before a hit by Jones causes Jennings to fumble, which Burnett recovers. That is the first fumble recovery of the year for the Packers defense.
10:35, 2nd quarter — The Packers pick up one 1st down before having to punt it back to the Jaguars.
On 3rd-and-5 from the Green Bay 35, the Jaguars sit in their nickel and only rush four. Rodgers has good protection, but makes the wrong read. Finley is running the short post on the right, while Green runs into the flat. The linebacker on the right uncovers Finley by chasing Green out to the flat. Rodgers throws Green the ball anyway and he gets hit as the ball arrives and drops it. Punt.
8:58, 2nd quarter — Dezman Moses recovers a blocked punt in the end zone to make it 14-3 Packers.
On the Jaguars’ first play after the Packers’ punt, Gabbert appears to hit Cecil Shorts deep against Burnett. However, the Packers challenge and replay shows Shorts lost control of the ball and it hit the ground. Apparently, it was convincing enough for the Packers to finally get an incompletion replay to go their way.
The Jaguars would go four and out from there and punt from their 37. At that point, a college game would break out. Even though the Packers only have 10 guys on the field, no one blocks Davon House, who performs a punt block instructional video. Jamari Lattimore chases the ball down first and has visions of Lambeau Leaps dancing in his head. Unfortunately for him, the odd-shaped ball bounces away from him, deflects off some other oncoming Packers and takes a big bounce to the end zone where Moses smothers it for the TD.
1:07, 2nd quarter — After the two teams trade punts, the Jaguars manage to go 65 yards in seven plays to kick a short field goal to make the score 14-6.
The drive is made up of basically two plays. The first play of the drive is a short dump to Jennings that should only get a couple yards, but Jerron McMillian not only doesn’t tackle Jennings, but he doesn’t even slow him down. Jennings burns upfield for a 24-yard gain before being gang tackled.
A couple plays later, Tramon Williams plays zone while Casey Hayward plays man and Shorts is wide open on the post. Gabbert is, of course, looking that way and finds Shorts for a 35-yard gain to the Green Bay 10.
The Packers have played good defense in the red zone most of this season and do so again here to force the field goal.
1:03, 2nd quarter — A rare Rodgers’ fumble on the very next play makes this a close game. The Jaguars only rushed four and Rodgers initially has time. He steps up in the pocket and looks for Donald Driver on the cross. He pump fakes, but chooses to hang onto the ball. Bryan Bulaga is in good position until he trips over Jeremy Mincey. Andre Branch pushes Bulaga down and sacks Rodgers just after he pulls the ball back down.
It appears that Rodgers had secured the ball after his pump fake, which makes this a very surprising play. For a guy who hangs onto the ball and gets sacked a lot, Rodgers very rarely fumbles.
0:20, 2nd quarter — The Jaguars punch it in on 2nd-and-goal from the 1. They run the infamous tackle-eligible play and it works… barely.
Very foolishly, they decide to go for two, but I guess, when you are the Jaguars, does it really matter?
Instead of running the ball, which seems a sure conversion against the Packers, the Jaguars run the same keep-pass play they started the game with. Blackmon is open again, coming across the formation, but Burnett gets in Gabbert’s face, forcing the errant throw. This makes the halftime score 14-12.
12:50, 3rd quarter — Unlike the last two weeks, when the Packers turned their possession after the half into points, they get one 1st down, thanks to penalty, before punting.
Facing 3rd-and-2, Rodgers has Finley open on a simple turnaround just past the 1st down marker. Instead of throwing it, Rodgers runs up the middle for the 1st down. He goes a little too far and gets hit by both Jaguars middle linebackers. He fumbles the ball and the Jaguars recover at the Packers’ 38. Fortunately, an illegal hands to the face penalty wipes it all away.
The short drive ends when Rodgers throws the ball away twice in a row, though he wasn’t pressured either time.
12:35, 3rd quarter — Looking very much like Charles Woodson, Morgan Burnett comes off the edge and sacks Gabbert for a 15-yard loss. Gabbert is lucky to bat the ball back to himself after he fumbles. The Jaguars punt two plays later.
8:35, 3rd quarter — The Packers move the ball to the Jaguars’ 37, but come away with nothing.
The Packers started at their 40 and moved into Jaguars’ territory with a 14-yard pass to Randall Cobb on an out. On the very next play, Rodgers would find D.J. Williams inside the 30, but Williams dropped the ball. The Packers would fail to recover.
On 4th-and-6 from the Jacksonville 37, the Packers try some more special teams chicanery. Tim Masthay is expecting man-to-man coverage and gets zone instead. Fortunately, nothing disastrous happens.
1:20, 3rd quarter — After another Jaguars’ three and out, the Packers drive into Jaguars’ territory again and get nothing.
The drive is jump started when an 11-yard pass to Jones turns into a 26-yard gain thanks to an unnecessary roughness/idiocy penalty. The Packers would then get a 9-yard pass to James Starks, followed by an 8-yard run by Starks that moves the ball to the Jaguars’ 23.
After a pass to Jones gets 9 yards, a quick pass to Cobb gets zero when Cobb tries to juke Aaron Ross and fails. On 3rd-and-1, the Packers try Green behind Sitton and Bulaga, only to have Green trip in the backfield and lose yardage.
To complete the debacle, Mason Crosby comes in to bang another kick off the upright.
“Gambling is illegal at Bushwood, sir, and I NEVER slice.”
12:40, 4th quarter — Reminiscent of 2010, the Packers score quickly in the 4th quarter after sleepwalking through the 3rd.
Three plays into the quarter, the Packers do a play fake to Starks in the shotgun. The Jaguars are finally fooled and only playing zone on the back end. James Jones finds the middle of the field wide open and Rodgers slings him the ball for a 31-yard gain, down to the Jaguars’ 11.
The Packers score a couple plays later with the old faithful out to Driver from the slot. This finally gives the Packers some breathing room at 21-12.
6:55, 4th quarter — The Jaguars drive 66 yards for a field goal to give themselves a chance.
On 3rd-and-6, Gabbert managed to escape the pocket to his left and find Jalen Parmelee for a 16-yard gain. Shortly after, a 17-yard deep out to Shorts against the zone put the Jaguars into field goal range.
They would have to take the three after McMillian stuffed Jennings for a 2-yard loss on 3rd-and-5.
2:59, 4th quarter — After a Packers three and out, the Jaguars drive to midfield only to turn it over on downs.
The Jaguars got to midfield thanks to two dump offs to Jennings. On the first, Jennings gets by Brad Jones and up the sideline for 15 yards. On the second, Jennings bounces off a tackle attempt by A.J. Hawk and goes for 18 yards.
From there, Gabbert would throw four straight times to Blackmon and only get 6 yards out of it.
On 4th-and-4, the Jaguars are running a tight cross. For the play to pick or rub off the defender, Blackmon needs to be the underneath receiver. He tries to go over the top of the crossing Mercedes Lewis instead and runs into him. Gabbert actually hits Tramon Williams right in the hands with his pass, but as seems the case this season, the ball goes right through Williams’ hands.
2:44, 4th quarter — The game essentially ends at this mark when Rodgers tries the deep ball to Jones on 3rd-and-7 and the play is rewarded with a pass interference call that gives the Packers the ball at the Jaguars’ 15.
The Jaguars cornerback on the play, William Middleton, became entangled with Jones before turning to look for the ball, drawing two flags. It appears that Jones is the one who actually caused the contact, but no big surprise that a flag was thrown here.
The Packers would run down the clock and kick a field goal to seal the game at 24-15.
Obviously, the Packers offense felt the loss of Jordy Nelson. Nelson’s injury on Wednesday not only meant that the Packers only had two practices without him, but one of those two practices was done in shorts because of the Packers’ injury situation.
Strangely, the Packers didn’t feature a game plan that heavily utilized Cobb or Finley in an attempt to replace Nelson. In fact, Cobb was never given the ball out of the backfield, nor was he thrown the ball after lining up in the backfield.
Instead, the Packers seemed intent on running the football and playing it straight on 3rd down. The failure of the running game was about 40 percent on the line and 60 percent on Alex Green, who was neither patient nor broke many tackles. The Packers only ran Green a couple times out of the shotgun, which would certainly be his best formation. He looked like a rookie when following a blocker and that should not be a big surprise.
The loss of Nelson doesn’t just affect the receivers, it affects Aaron Rodgers, who was clearly more unsure of his reads pre-snap and also showed hesitation on pulling the trigger when he did have the opportunity to do so.
The Packers defense stuffed the running game all day, which is a positive sign with Charles Woodson gone. In fact, the plan to replace Woodson seems to obviously involve a heavy dose of Morgan Burnett, who led the team in tackles, got a sack and a fumble recovery.
Their plan against the pass was to blitz and play zone behind it, likely hoping for some Gabbert mistakes. Unfortunately, the Jaguars plan was to max protect and allow just three or four receivers to work against the zone. We already know the Packers don’t play the greatest zone defense in the world and that certainly wasn’t improved with Woodson gone. However, though the Jaguars were able to accumulate more yardage than they are usually capable of, the only time they got into the end zone was after the fumble put them at the Packers’ 13-yard line.
The fumble by Jennings and the blocked punt basically vindicated the defensive strategy and allowed the Packers to get a win.
Unless the injury situation improves for the Packers, I would expect a similar style game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The Packers need that win to put themselves into good position going into the bye.