BALTIMORE—Finally, the Packers have achieved unpredictability.
Once, on an all-out blitz, Eddie Lacy ran by the Ravens for a 17-yard gain. Then, on a third-and-one when the Ravens were expecting a straight-ahead dose of Lacy, they got an Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson pass completion.
New-found balance in the Packers offense is starting to pay dividends. They can run and pass with equal aplomb, and the effects of that balance were evident with the game on the line on a third-and-three play with 1:53 left and the Packers nursing a two-point lead.
Would they give the ball to Lacy, who had pounded out a third-and-two conversion in the Packers’ previous possession? Or would the Packers entrust their quarterback, Rodgers, to make the game-clinching play?
Rodgers capitalized on that indecision to pitch a pass over the middle to Jermichael Finley. Fifty-two yards later, after Finley had safely tucked the ball and the game away at the Ravens 21-yard line, the Packers took a deep breath and began to savor the smell of victory.
This one had a particularly sweet smell to it, as evidenced by the loud celebration coming through the door that separated the Packers locker room from the media interview room. The Packers were proud of themselves for coming into the Ravens’ house and beating the Super Bowl champions at their own game: rock ’em, sock ’em football.
“The feeling we had in the locker room, those are the moments 20 years from now,” Rodgers said, his voice trailing off to avoid attaching too much significance to a regular-season win.
Green Bay has, yet, another 100-yard rusher. Lacy made it three for this season; James Starks and Johnathan Franklin are the other two. The irony is that through 15-1 and 11-5 seasons the previous two years, the Packers hadn’t produced a single 100-yard rusher. Their offense lived by the pass and seldom died by it, but their defense did.
The Packers outrushed the Ravens. Yeah, they outrushed the Ravens, long the epitome of physical football. On this day, and in the Ravens’ house, the Packers were the more physical team. They averaged 4.7 a carry. They won time of possession. They won the sack battle.
If you’d like to know just how different this Packers team is from its recent predecessors, consider this: The Packers lost the passer rating battle on Sunday by nearly 28 points, but never trailed in the game.
It was Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers who gave us a new tell-all stat back in the 2010 postseason, when Rodgers was the game’s hottest passer and outpointing every quarterback he faced. Capers said the team whose quarterback produced the higher passer rating would be the team that would win the game.
He was right. It almost always held true, but that was for a different Packers team. That was for a Packers team that wasn’t as well rounded as this Packers team is, and that’s why this Packers team offers more promise for December and January than the previous two did. This team has upside it has yet to tap.
“We knew this would be a clash between two heavyweights,” Coach Mike McCarthy said. “Clearly, one of the best regular-season games I’ve been a part of.”
Those words came from the mouth of a man known for offense. When has 19-17 ever been his kind of game? It is now.
It’s his kind of game, it’s his team’s kind of game and it’s slowly but surely becoming his quarterback’s kind of game because he’s back to making big plays. The deep ball is back and that’s Rodgers’ kind of game.
McCarthy was borderline giddy in his postgame assessment of the game. He loved everything about it.
“It was a great sideline all day. When I hear good chatter behind me, I know good things are ahead,” he said.
“This is a great team character-building win,” Rodgers said.
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